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J.D. Bergman ready to make big impact at his first World Championships

J.D. Bergman battles Jake Varner at the World Team Trials. Larry Slater photo.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – J.D. Bergman still doesn’t have a ton of stamps on his passport.

But the experience he’s received competing overseas this season has Bergman primed to contend for a medal at next month’s World Championships in Moscow, Russia.

The 25-year-old Bergman broke through this season to make his first World Team in freestyle wrestling at 96 kg/211.5 lbs.

Bergman, a three-time All-American for Ohio State, beat 2009 World Team member Jake Varner in the finals of the U.S. Open and U.S. World Team Trials this year.

Bergman also excelled against foreign opponents. He won the Cerro Pelado International title this season. He also placed second in the Alexander Medved International and was third in the Pan American Championships.

Bergman gained valuable experience last month during a trip to Azerbaijan. 2009 World silver medalist Khetag Gazyumov of Azerbaijan edged Bergman 1-0, 1-3, 1-0 in a dual meet on July 18 in Baku.

Bergman is part of the Ohio Regional Training Center program in Columbus, Ohio. He wrestles for the New York Athletic Club.

Third in the 2009 U.S. World Team Trials, Bergman has taken his level of wrestling up a few notches this season.

Bergman has spent the past week at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for a World Team Camp. He is a past National Team member in Greco-Roman wrestling.

Bergman sat down with USA Wrestling communications manager Craig Sesker for an interview following Monday afternoon’s practice.

How is your training progressing for your first World Championships?

Camp is going pretty well. We have a lot of the top coaches from around the country – guys who have been World and Olympic champions – helping us prepare for the World Championships. Some of the best minds in the sport are out here, and we’ve learned a lot from them.

How much have you progressed since winning the World Team Trials in June?

Quite a bit. I had a chance to wrestle Gazyumov, who is ranked No. 1 in the World. That was a great opportunity for me. I was just seconds away from beating him. That was a confidence-builder for me. I lost the match, but I know I’m right there and I can beat that guy. I was down 1-0 late in the third period and got in deep on a couple of shots. I was real close to scoring late in the match. I definitely know I can beat that guy.

What do you need to do win a World medal?

As long as I’m healthy and focused, I know I can do it. I need to get my neck a little healthier, but I will be fine. I know I can beat anybody in the World. I’ve had some good success overseas, and now I can picture getting my hand raised against anybody that I face.

How important was it for you to follow USA Wrestling’s training and competition plan this season?

Very important. I’ve been successful on the international tours I’ve been on. I’ve gained a ton of experience and confidence.

How good of a fit is the 211.5-pound weight class for you?

It’s a perfect fit for me. My natural weight is between 225 and 230. I lose weight real easily, so I can make 211 pretty comfortably. I gain weight real easily too, so I might be back up around 225 or 230 by the time I compete.

How much does your Greco-Roman background help you in freestyle?

That definitely helps. I’m pretty comfortable wrestling in all positions.

What kind of challenge will it be competing in Russia?

I’ve been there on tours, and that experience definitely helps. We are not going to get many calls our way, with it being in Moscow. We are ready to go in there and show everybody what we can do. We’re excited for the opportunity to compete there.

How well can the U.S. Freestyle Team do at the Worlds?

You need to be ready to wrestle first round. You may have an Olympic champion first round. I think this team has the potential to win a lot of medals. Everyone just has to be ready to go right away.

Has your close friend, Tervel Dlagnev, a 2009 World bronze medalist, given you any advice for your first Worlds?

Not about the World Championships yet, but I’m sure he will. He’s going over there (as a training partner). Tervel has a real good level of wrestling intelligence. He is real good at looking at a match and breaking it down. I know it will help a lot to have Tervel over there with me in Russia.
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