|FEATURE: World Team member Joe Warren trains to dominate at the World Championships in China|
By Erin Phipps USA Wrestling
The 2005 year was good for Greco-Roman wrestler Joe Warren (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC). He was the champion at the U.S. World Team Trials and U.S. Nationals. In international tournaments, he brought home gold in the Poland Open and the Dave Schultz Memorial. He topped the year with a ninth-place finish at the World Championships.
This year, however, he plans to build on an already promising wrestling career and dominate in the upcoming national events and then at the World Championships.
Warren joined the sport at a young age when his family moved to Kentwood, Michigan.
"I moved to a new town in the third grade and my best friend's dad was a wrestler, so I started wrestling with him in the fourth grade," Warren said.
Warren wrestled under coach Kevin Smith from his earliest days in the fourth grade until his senior year at East Kentwood High School. Even then, Warren's competitiveness on the mat was evident, when he scored 487 takedowns in a single season, achieving a national high school record.
Warren attributes his early inspiration for wrestling to legends such as Dan Gable and the Brands brothers, in addition to his coach, who initially taught him the sport and took him to competitions all over the country.
"I always wanted to win for him," Warren said.
Warren continued in the sport at the Univ. of Michigan. While there, he placed third at the 2000 NCAA Championships.
After college, Warren moved to the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC) in Colorado Springs, Colo. to compete in Greco-Roman where he met the man that would become his mentor in wrestling-Jim Gruenwald, who became a two-time Olympian.
"When I moved to the training center, I had only done Greco-Roman once or twice," said Warren. "[Gruenwald] took me under his wing and tried to explain things to me. I learned a lot from him and I hope he learned a lot from me. We were partners in practice every day for four years. He helped me a lot in the developmental years. Coaches Momir [Petkovic], Anatoly [Petrosyan] and [Steve] Fraser took it to the next level."
Warren also found himself in the 60 kg/132 lbs. weight class with Dennis Hall, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist and 1995 World champion. From competing against them, Warren was able to transform his style of wrestling from college folkstyle into Greco-Roman.
"Joe is very aggressive, very fast and constantly attacking his opponent," said National Greco-Roman Coach Steve Fraser. "Jim Gruenwald was a very aggressive athlete. Their competing against each other helped Joe improve because it set the mark for him. Jim was very intense and solid in his positions-all of that helped Joe. In their personal relationships, Jim was very apt to help Joe in any way that he could."
During his first few years at the OTC, Warren had to focus on his aggressiveness on the mat, a factor that earned points in the college folkstyle of wrestling, but didn't help with Greco-Roman. The frustration got to Warren when he knew he was the better wrestler on the mat, and still was losing.
"The aggression is more rewarded in college, but not in Greco-Roman. It was hard to deal with losing and I used to get mad," Warren said. "I've really matured a lot in the last few years. I'm still very aggressive and in your face, but a little more mature than I was a few years ago on the mat."
Now that Warren has risen to become a No. 1 ranked Greco-Roman wrestler, he plans to stay there. He's already proven his capabilities last year during the U.S. National Championships where he tore through his opponents without having a point scored against him during the competition. At the critical U.S. World Team Trials, Warren defeated No. 2 ranked James Johnson (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) in a best-of-three championships series.
For Warren, that means his training and dedication are finally paying off as he looks forward to the tournaments he has yet to medal in.
"I plan to win World and Olympic medals at this weight," said Warren.
Warren had to miss out on the Greco-Roman winter tour of Turkey, Poland and Bulgaria due to an injury at the Dave Schultz Memorial. Warren won the gold medal at the Poland Open last year and would have liked to compete overseas again this winter.
"Momir and Fraser wanted to keep me back to make sure I'm 100% for the Nationals and I am. I'm all healed up and ready to go," said Warren.
"I plan on doing my training, winning Nationals and winning the Team Trials, and going to the World Championships in China and winning," Warren said. "I didn't medal last year and it was hard on me. I'm more focused this year and feel I have a better chance."
At the 2005 World Championships, Warren placed ninth. In the preliminaries, Warren pinned Eric Buisson of France 42 seconds into the second period, and then defeated Luis Liendo of Venezuela, 9-5, 7-0. However in the quarterfinals, Warren suffered a disappointing loss to Ali Ashkani of Iran, 1-2, 0-7. Vahan Juharyan of Armenia then defeated him in the repechage round one, 0-2, 1-1.
Looking to this year's World Championships in Guangzhou, China, Warren has been working on his technique and preparing to go into the competition to be victorious.
"I plan on going into any tournament to win," Warren said. "You put tournaments behind you. I made a few mistakes and lost. This year, I hope have a mistake-free tournament and win."
With that goal in mind, Warren attends every practice with the mindset to make improvements in his strengths and weaknesses.
"He's come a long way, and he's got to keep improving," said Fraser.
Fraser notes that for Warren to be a champion at the Worlds and Nationals, he must continue to improve in all aspects of his wrestling, notably wrestling on his feet, as well as his par terre defense and offense.
"I have to stay focused and keep my eye on the goal at hand-to win. And not let anything else distract me," Warren said.
With the upcoming tournaments this year and in the future, Warren will have every opportunity to show the wrestling community and the world that his drive and intensity on the mat will eventually bring him what he has trained so diligently for-World and Olympic gold.