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Paulson vs. Paulson: Twins may battle for first time at U.S. Open

Twins Trent (left) and Travis Paulson both plan on competing in the same weight class in the U.S. Open. Scott Bruhn photo.

Twins Trent and Travis Paulson have wrestled some of the best, and most hard-fought matches, that most people have never seen.

They’ve battled each other thousands of times over the past 20 years in wrestling rooms at Council Bluffs Lewis Central High School, Iowa State University and the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

“We’ve had some wars,” Trent said. “We still do. It always gets heated.”

In a recent practice in the ISU room in Ames, Trent scored the only takedown in a match with Travis.

“Travis was all pissed off about that,” Trent said with a laugh. “Neither one of us wants to give up a point when we wrestle. The match was over and he wanted to keep wrestling because he hadn’t scored a takedown. I’m pretty sure he wanted to fight me.”

The Paulsons are the same size, but they’ve never actually faced each other in a match that’s counted.

That could change next weekend at the U.S. Open in Cleveland, Ohio.

Both wrestlers are entered at 74 kg/163 lbs. in freestyle, and they’ve decided if they do end up meeting in the finals that they will face each other for the first time in competition.

Travis Paulson is expected to be the No. 1 seed and Trent Paulson likely will be the No. 3 seed at the U.S. Open on April 23-24. Mike Poeta will be the No. 2 seed.

“We are identical twins, so we are obviously the same size and should be in the same weight class,” Trent said. “Instead of fighting that, and trying to get bigger or smaller, we are going to both wrestle 74. That’s the best weight class for both of us to succeed on the World level. We are going to train as hard as we possibly can and see what the end result is.”

Trent Paulson cut down to 66 kg/145.5 lbs. last year, and made his first U.S. World Team. Travis Paulson placed second at 74 kg/163 lbs. at the 2009 World Team Trials. The Trials were held in their hometown of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and will be there again this year on June 10-12.

Both wrestlers moved up a weight class to start this season. Trent moved up to 74 kilos and Travis moved up to 84 kg/185 lbs.

“I had some good success up at 84 this season, but the coaches wanted me to move back down to 74,” Travis said. “I was still sold on going 84, but in the back of my mind I knew 74 was still my best weight.”

The twins decided to both go 74 kilos for the U.S. Open after talking during a February trip to Cuba.

“I went out to eat with Trent and we started talking about it,” Travis said. “He knew 74 was my best weight, and he said he couldn’t let me make that sacrifice by having me move up to 84. He knew how close I was to making the World Team last year at 74. He said we should both battle it out at 74 this year.

“The problem is there are only seven weight classes now. And there are 20 pounds between the weight classes above and below 74 kilos. We are twin brothers, and it makes it very hard to wrestle in different weight classes.”

The twins’ decision to compete in the same weight class was not easy for their mother, Mary Ann, to understand at first.

“I think my mom is about ready to have a heart attack about this,” Trent said with a laugh. “She was trying to talk me into cutting back down to 66, but it’s not going to happen. At least not this year.”

The Paulsons have wrestled in the same weight class before, but never actually faced off in a match. When they both reached the finals of Junior Nationals, they were declared co-champions.

Another time, when they were supposed to meet for third place, one brother forfeited to the other. They took turns winning by forfeit when they met up in the same bracket while growing up.

“My mom said it would break her heart if we wrestled,” Travis said. “We’re a pretty tight-knit family.”

Trent Paulson said during the Olympic year in 2012, the twins likely will wrestle in different weight classes to give both of them a shot at their Olympic dreams.

“We want to be teammates on the Olympic Team,” Trent said.

Moving up to 74 kilos has made a significant difference for Trent this year. Travis said his natural weight is now only about five pounds more than what Trent weighs.

“I’m a lot happier now,” Trent said. “I was always worried about my weight, instead of focusing on wrestling. I’m on a good weight program now, and I feel real comfortable at 74. I’m excited to see what I can do this year.”

Said Travis: “Trent’s more enjoyable to be around. He was pretty cranky and moody last year. He was kind of a pain in the butt at times. I didn’t even want to be his roommate. He’s like a different person now that he’s moved up a weight class. He has energy now and his outlook is so much better about everything.”

Travis said he’s eager for a shot to make the World Team after losing to Dustin Schlatter in the finals of the 2009 World Team Trials.

All four periods in their two matches went to the leg clinch after nobody scored during the two-minute periods. Schlatter won all four ball draws and converted in the leg clinch each time to win the best-of-3 match series.

“My goal is to be World and Olympic champion,” Travis said. “It’s pretty bad when I couldn’t get one takedown in those two matches with Schlatter. I obviously knew I needed to work on my offense and score more points. In 18 or 19 matches this year, I’ve only went to the clinch twice. I’m happy with that. I’m trying to push the pace. I was only hitting one move at a time. I need to hit two or three moves at a time.”

The possible Paulson vs. Paulson match has come up frequently in conversations between the twins.

“I tell Trent, ‘You’re not at 66 anymore, you’re with the big boys now,’” Travis said. “We give each other a hard time about it.”

Said Trent: “Oh yeah, we talk a lot of trash with each other. I joke around and tell him he doesn’t have 20 pounds on me anymore and it’s going to be a different story now. When we’re with friends, I ask them whose side they are on and who they think is going to win. It’s nothing too crazy, we just kind of have fun with it.”

So what happens if the twins step on the mat to face each other for the first time in a match in Cleveland?

“It’s going to be tough,” Trent said. “Travis is my best friend. I think we will both wrestle hard, and after the match, I don’t think it will be an issue. No matter who wins, it won’t affect our relationship. Somebody will have the best training partner possible. If he beats me, I will do everything I can to help him win Worlds. I know he will do the same thing for me.”

Said Travis: “We are really even right now " it’s gone back and forth in practice. Trent is one of the guys I have to beat to make the World Team, but if he’s doing something wrong in practice I will tell him and help him out. He will do the same thing for me. It’s going to be a battle. Whoever wins, they just need to make sure and bring home a medal from the World Championships. I know that would make both of us happy.”
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