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New Jersey’s Mark Grey has emerged as a top prospect in freestyle wrestling

By Craig Sesker You never know who you might be matched up against when you travel to the U.S. Olympic Training Center for a summer training camp. For Mark Grey, he received a unique opportunity this past summer when he journeyed to Colorado Springs to train for the Junior World Championships. When he stepped on the mat one day, the wrestler standing across from him was 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo.

“I wrestled with Cejudo a couple of times, and training with him helped a lot,” Grey said. “He’s been the best in the World, and training with him was extremely helpful. I went live with him and he beat me up a little bit and showed me what I need to do. Wrestling him, it made me better offensively and defen- sively. I learned I need to work on my leg defense after I wrestled him.”

The gains Grey has made were evident when he turned in a strong fifth-place showing at 55 kg/121 lbs. at the 2011 Junior World Championships in Romania. Grey won his first three matches over wrestlers from Estonia, Armenia and Canada before falling to Georgia’s Vladimer Khinchegashvili, who prevailed 2-0, 4-0. He then dropped a wild 8-7, 5-3 decision to Ukraine’s Vitally Hurskyy in the bronze-medal match.

The Georgian went on to place seventh at the 2011 Senior World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

“I felt like I should’ve won a medal, and felt like I should’ve won the bronze-medal match,” Grey said. “It was rough, being so close to winning a medal. It lets me know I can wrestle with anybody.” Grey, a New Jersey native who has excelled while coming up through the USA Wrestling ranks, said he made sig- nificant gains after making the Junior

30 USA Wrestler

Mark Grey placed fifth at the 2011 Junior Worlds. Robert Preston photo. World Team.

guys.” “It was awesome to have that opportu-

nity,” he said. “It was great. I got to train with a lot of different guys at the Olympic Training Center. I learned a lot of new techniques and it helped me continue to develop as a wrestler. It was a great experience.” Grey’s performance caught the atten- tion of U.S. Assistant National Freestyle Coach Bill Zadick, a 2006 World champi- on in freestyle wrestling. “I really like Mark Grey,” Zadick said. “He is physically gifted and talented. He has a very powerful and potent offense. I love his attitude and passion for the sport. He works his tail off in the room. He is eager to learn and he challenges himself. He is hungry to improve.” Grey started this season by competing

in a pair of Senior-level events at 55 kg/121 lbs. He went 2-2 at the Sunkist Kids International Open in October and went 1-2 at the New York AC International Open in November. “I thought it would be fun, and I wanted to try and qualify for the Olympic Trials,” he said. “I learned a lot in those tourna- ments. You have to keep wrestling in every position. You have to stay tough, and hand fight and battle with those older

Grey has moved up to 132 pounds for the high school season, where he wres- tles for national powerhouse Blair Academy. He signed a national letter of intent with Cornell University. Grey’s older brother, Mike, was an All- American for Cornell. “Mike has taught me a lot, on and off the mat,” Mark said. “He has taught me how to have great character and be a good person. On the mat, he has always trained with me and tried to help me. His support means a lot.” A familiar presence in Mark Grey’s cor- ner is his older brother, John, who has served as one of his coaches. “John is always there for me,” Mark said. “He was a fan of the sport who has learned how to be a great coach. He has really helped me a lot. He is very calm and very positive about everything. Our family is really close, and it’s great to know they are there for me.”

The 18-year-old Grey captured the title at the prestigious Beast of the East tour- nament early during his senior season in high school. He won the tournament for the fourth time.

He came back strong after finishing Continued on page 33

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