On his recent trip to Russia, Max Askren enjoyed taking in the culture and speaking Russian, one of the languages he studied in college at Missouri. But even more, he enjoyed venturing back into international wrestling, including winning a silver medal at the Dmitry Korkin International at 84 kg in early October. (He also went 1-1 at the Ramzan Kadyrov Cup).
Another significant part of the experience was the training he did with some of the Russian wrestlers in the week preceding the tournament.
“It’s amazing over there in Russia,” Askren said. “They’re professional wrestlers, getting paid good money to wrestle a couple times a day. That’s the sole obligation. I realized how different it was from me. I was running an academy, coaching and doing a little training on top of it, mostly with [former Section 1 wrestler and Penn greyshirt] Harrison Cook and some high schoolers in the area. I knew there would an adjustment period to wrestle with some of the top guys in the world, but I honestly felt pretty good. It felt natural and I competed pretty well.”
His performance once again raised a question he had thought about after wrestling competitively at the Olympic Trials, where he went 2-2. Where would he be if he trained full time?
Now, Askren is about to find out.
After spending the past two and a half years in Westchester County, coaching and running the Askren Wrestling Academy, Max Askren will be moving back to Wisconsin to join brother Ben with a strong focus on honing his freestyle skills.
“I’ve always wanted to train as much as possible,” he said. “And I always wanted to be back with my brother. Ben told me in May that he and his wife are expecting a baby and we talked about me coming back home.”
When he makes the move back to Wisconsin, he won’t only be working out with Ben, however. He expects to spend two to three weeks of each month traveling to different locations, including the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as well as training sites at Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and West Point.
“I think I’m in a pretty good place with my wrestling,” he said. “It’s not like I’m way off base and need years and years of work to be competitive. There’s no question I need to work hard and correct a lot of things, but I’m in the mix.”
While the travel and the potential to move up the ladder excite him, deciding to leave Section 1 wasn’t easy. In fact, Askren told his brother he would he coming back home in the early summer and then changed his mind more than once over the past few months before making the final call.
“It was a really difficult decision,” he said. “I met a lot of great people here and the wrestling community is really close. The Realbutos [his host family] are like my family. Dylan [Realbuto] has another year of high school and he’s like a little brother to me. It will be really hard not to be here for him and a lot of the guys.”
Askren has unquestionably made an impact in the time he spent in the Empire State. Numerous wrestlers talked about the strides they made at the Askren Wrestling Academy. And his original mission was no doubt accomplished. He first came to New York for a summer to teach freestyle. A year later, his student, Brian Realbuto, went on to win the Junior National Freestyle title in Fargo and then a third state title while Dylan Realbuto won his first New York championship in 2012.
Askren felt like he gained a lot from the experience as well.
“I knew very little about wrestling in New York when I first got here,” he said. “I know now that it’s a great place with great competition. I think New York is right on par with some of the better states, maybe not at the level of Pennsylvania or California yet but right underneath that. One thing that stands out is that kids here know how to wrestle on top. In some states, like Missouri where I went to college, referees call stalling in a heartbeat on top. Then kids get to college and they don’t have the riding and turning skills that are really important at that level. New York kids do have those skills.”
Askren will work on refining those skills and others one more time with a “send off” clinic on November 9-12 in Somers with 2012 NCAA champion Cam Simaz of Cornell. For more information, see below.
Afterwards, he will continue a busy month with a national team camp in Hoboken, New Jersey in mid November before attending the Henri Deglane International Challenge in France. Besides being another huge measuring stick for Askren on the mat, it’s another opportunity for him to practice another of the languages he studied in college – French.
“I basically majored in Russian, French and Japanese,” he said. “I speak those languages and Spanish. I wouldn’t say I’m fluent but I can converse pretty well. It allows you to travel to a lot of different places and really appreciate things culturally.”
Askren hopes his travels take him to Hungary for the World Championships in 2013 and, a few years down the road, to Brazil.
“I’m looking to make the next World Team and medal there,” he said. “And, the big goal is the 2016 Olympics.”
Those are some of the items on his agenda for the future. But his experience in New York allowed him to address a goal he had held earlier in this life – to run his own wrestling school.
“I’d always wanted to run an academy and coach,” he said. “And it was what I thought it would be. I loved it. It was a great experience and I really couldn’t have asked for more. The only downside was that it wasn’t in Wisconsin where my brother was. There’s a lot I’ll miss when I leave.”
Askren was heartfelt about the people and relationships he developed. And there was one more thing he couldn’t leave out.
“The Italian food,” he added. “I had homemade Italian food all the time and it’s awesome. I’ll definitely miss that.”
For more information on the Askren Wrestling Academy Preseason Clinic on November 9 -12, please see the flyer: AWA Send Off Camp