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Myles Amine Q&A: Back to Michigan after Olympic bronze, pursuit of NCAA title, working with coaches in Ann Arbor

by Joe Wedra, USA Wrestling

Photo of Myles Amine by Tony Rotundo

This year, will interview one collegiate wrestling athlete each Thursday as a part of a new Q&A series for the 2021-22 college wrestling season. Stay tuned each Thursday for a new feature, spotlighting these student-athletes both on and off the mat.

This week, we talk with 2020 Olympic bronze medalist at 86 kg, Myles Amine of the University of Michigan. Amine, who won a bronze medal representing San Marino, is looking to win his first NCAA title and help the Wolverines post a strong showing at the NCAA Championships in Detroit in March.

Below, Amine talks about the return to training folkstyle, the coaches in Ann Arbor and his favorite partners in the room. He also discusses the addition of Kevin Jackson, who is now on staff at Michigan.

Q: What has the start of this year been like for you, getting back into the college schedule and training folkstyle again at Michigan?

A: For me, I obviously had a unique start to the year. I wasn’t enrolled in classes at the start of the year, so I wasn’t eligible to compete until after classes ended. I was registered for the Midlands but they cancelled that, so I decided that I would keep going and head to the Matmen Open. I’m just trying to get myself jumpstarted with more than just one dual meet match. I wanted to get a few tournament matches in a few days, just trying to get myself recalibrated for folkstyle.

There is definitely a difference between folkstyle and freestyle, but I think this fall I was really able to take some time away from competing freestyle, so I at least had a couple of months to recalibrate my mind for freestyle, especially top wrestling and the extra minute.

Q: What is it like for you to jump back into college wrestling? Would you call it difficult, or is it more so just getting back into the routine of wrestling folkstyle?

A: I would say that folkstyle is definitely a grittier style than freestyle. You kind of have to do different things. I wouldn’t say you have to necessarily work harder, but you have to put in more time. With top/bottom, you have to spend time there. Freestyle, if you choose to you could basically spend most of the match on your feet. But putting time into those other areas – not re-learning, but getting muscle memory back with riding on top and escaping on bottom – those little things were really what I was working on.

The biggest thing for me is that last year was a shortened season in folkstyle, so I didn’t really spend a ton of time making top/bottom and mat wrestling a big part of my wrestling. I just thought I could get by with getting out, cutting guys and winning matches on my feet. But this year, one thing I’ve done mentally different is trying to look at the top position as an advantage and putting in a lot of hours growing there. That’s been the biggest transition for me personally, is looking at those positions a little differently.

Q: Obviously the Olympic experience was significant for you. Having an experience like that, how does it help you as you come back into college wrestling? In unique ways, did it almost help you prepare for this year of competing at Michigan?

A: I think the biggest thing is that it really helped my confidence, knowing that I could win matches at the highest level. Just competing at the highest level… a big thing in wrestling is that you train and put in all of these hours, but to actually go out there and compete is a totally different thing. You can be the best practice room wrestler and have all of these skills and techniques that you’ve perfected. But to go out there and actually do it in a live match where there’s winning and losing on the line, it’s really what it boils down to and it makes the difference between someone who is good and someone who is great.

Coming home with a medal, obviously it gives you a confidence boost going into the season. But I think the timing of it was perfect, because I had enough time to soak it all in and smell the roses, but it was enough time to come down from the atmosphere and remember that I still haven’t won a national title. There’s nothing for me to defend here. I have to go out there and take what I believe I deserve. That’s really my mindset and it’s shifted from August to December. Now, we’re back in the process, back to the drawing board. I’m going to do everything I can with my skills and mentality to put myself in a position to win a national title in March.

I also really want to enjoy this while I’m doing it, I don’t think that’s said enough. It’s taking a step back and understanding that this is really fun to work with the best coaches and athletes in the world.

Q: You mention the coaching staff – when you look at the coaches in the room, the accomplishments and knowledge is very impressive. What is it like to work with the coaches there on a daily basis?

A: Simply put, we have all the tools needed to be the best program in the country. We have two Olympic champions (Sergei Beloglazov and Kevin Jackson) and then Sean Bormet, who has won Coach of the Year… and then between David Bolyard and Josh Churella, they both are so dedicated to wrestlers and very technical. Just having the people who have all of these different perspectives is great. I’ve noticed the change over the years in Michigan and how we just keep getting better in that aspect.

Q: What has the addition of Kevin Jackson meant to the program?

A: Getting KJ recently, I’ve now had a few months to spend with him. It’s just been such a shift in energy in the room. I think that’s what I’ve noticed in terms of what he brings to the table. He’s a high-energy and positive person who can really change your attitude in the middle of a practice. If things aren’t going your way, I feel like I’ve really liked his voice in the background. He knows exactly what to say at the right moment and he can really change the atmosphere of an entire room when he walks in.

He’s also very analytical about the sport of wrestling and what fundamentals we need as a team to make sure we’re not just a one-off team that has a great year. We want to build a program that is going to be a powerhouse for years to come. All of the coaches are working in unison right now. There’s something in the air here with the synergy that’s being built… it’s fun to be a part of and I’m grateful that I came back for another year.

Q: There are so many talented wrestlers in the room right now. Who are your favorite partners to roll around with?

A: The person I can name off the top of my head who has been really influential has been Alex Dieringer. He and I have really clicked since he got to Michigan. He’s four years older than me, so he’s been able to give me this “old man wisdom”. He has that perspective that I haven’t gained yet in some of these wrestling positions and mindset things.

I wrestle with [Dieringer] a ton. I brought him to Tokyo with me to be my training partner, and I just got back from a trip to San Marino where I brought him with me for a week. So, he’s someone I’ve been able to learn so much from. We have a really good mutual thing going because I have that young buck energy. We both have made each other a lot better I think. We have some battles in the room, and I think that’s something he can appreciate because every time we wrestle it’s a scrap.

Another guy who came in over the past year is Pat Brucki. He’s another one who I’ve been wrestling with a ton, and he brings a really explosive style and a hard-nosed energy. If he comes to practice it’s going to be a battle… those two guys I’ve really been utilizing and are the guys I’ve made a ton of gains from.

The other one is my younger cousin, Cam Amine. He’s a little bit smaller than me, but he’s a guy who I like to roll around with because he’s very fluid. Kind of like Alex, I can pass down that wisdom to Cameron. He’s my blood, so I love working with him and trying to make him a better wrestler just like he makes me one.