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WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Lindland did it his way By Gary Abbott

When Greco-Roman Olympic medalist and MMA legend Matt Lindland was a kid growing up in Oregon, he wanted to someday compete in the Olympic Games. It just wasn’t in the sport of wrestling.

“I grew up in the country and was an equestrian rider. I dreamt of going to the Olympics. My trainer was on the Olympic team. I’d always thought about the Olympics and knew what the Olympics meant,” said Lindland.

Although he was the best competitor in his age group in Oregon, Lindland learned that it would take a lot of money that his family did not have for him to take his abilities to the next level in equestrian. By the time he was in high school, he could not pursue that sport. That’s when wrestling became part of his life. After trying wrestling during a physical education unit in school, he was recruited to go out for the team. In his freshman year, he competed at 98 pounds and was the top athlete in his district. “I enjoyed doing it. I thought it was a cool sport. I had lots of opportunities thanks to USA Wrestling, with many tour- naments including freestyle and Greco- Roman and cultural exchanges,” said Lindland.

In his first USA Wrestling experience, he was beaten handily. His coach taught him the basics of a gutwrench, and he was thrown out there against athletes from some strong club programs. “I wrestled guys with the Peninsula and the Cobra singlets. I got my butt kicked. I figured I had to head over to that gym. There, I worked with top coaches like Bill Nugent, Pavel Katsen, Anthony Amado and Mark Fuller, a who’s who of wrestling. I got beaten up at the club, but by my junior year in high school, I was placing in the state meet,” said Lindland. When high school was over, Lindland continued to wrestle at Clackamas Community College, one of the top junior college programs in the nation. He felt that he had not been prepared academi- cally for Div. I wrestling out of high school. His career blossomed there, and Lindland won the NJCAA Nationals his second year at Clackamas. Suddenly, he was involved in the big-time recruiting

12 USA Wrestler

Matt Lindland cap- tured Olympic and World silver medals in Greco-Roman wrestling before becoming a stand- out in Mixed Martial Arts.

process, something that passed him by after high school.

“On my first trip to Nebraska, I was expecting the big sell. Coach Tim Neumann told me to take the rest of my recruiting trips, not what I expected. Another one at Ferris State, David Butler was with the program and wanted me as a Greco training partner. I decided that if I was going for collegiate, I’d go for it at Nebraska,” he said.

In his senior year with the

Cornhuskers, Lindland was ranked No. 1 in the nation with a 33-1 record and a Big 8 title going into the NCAA Championships. He was upset in the first round by Earl

Walker of Boston University, and was unable to wrestle back when Walker did not advance. His chance for a college title did not occur, but he was not ready to stop wrestling.

Lindland actually had more early suc- cess in freestyle than Greco-Roman dur- ing his college years, winning two nation- al titles and competing in the Pan American Championships in that style. However, when he entered the U.S. Open in both styles, he decided the results from that event would help him decide which style he would commit to. Greco-Roman won out at that event, and Lindland jumped in completely. “A big key for me was right when they

started the Greco-Roman resident pro- gram in Colorado Springs, I got invited,” said Lindland. “I didn’t go out there until

after my daughter was born. I got a job at the skating rink. I also got a job with the Olympic Job Opportunities Program, which was helpful. I learned how to wres- tle Greco-Roman there,” said Lindland. He was a resident athlete from 1993- 1996, but returned to Nebraska when Neumann offered him a coaching position and other opportunities. It was back in Nebraska where he made some major strides in Greco-Roman.

“That decision allowed me to develop

Brad Vering and Justin Ruiz, both who later won World medals. They were my training partners there. It worked out great for all of us,” said Lindland. Lindland became one of the nation’s dominant Greco-Roman stars. He won the U.S. Open five times and was runner- up three times. He also made U.S. World Teams three straight years from 1997- 1999, placing sixth in the 1998 Worlds. A gold medal at the 1999 Pan American Games showed that he was among the world’s elite stars. “The difference for me was just getting experience. I started so late. A lot of the guys had started in Greco earlier. I still had a lot of desire and passion. It took a while to start having the results,” said Lindland.

Lindland got his chance for Olympic glory at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. He was part of a legal dispute for the spot on the team at 74 kg/163 lbs. with Keith Sieracki, who was

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