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said. “I had a chance to take a break from classes and was able to focus full- time on freestyle wrestling while working on areas I definitely needed improvement in. It gave me a chance to sharpen my skills and try to make an Olympic Team. Wrestling freestyle also will help me in folkstyle because you have to stay in such good position when you wrestle freestyle.” Wrestlers like Kilgore benefited from practicing twice a day at the Olympic Training Center while training in the high altitude in Colorado.

They also benefit from training in an environment that features some of the best facilities in the world.

They have access to the wrestling room, weight room, recovery center, train- ing room and cafeteria while living on campus at the OTC.

During his time at the Olympic Training

Center, Kilgore worked closely with U.S. National coaches Zeke Jones, Brandon Slay and Bill Zadick.

“It was an incredible experience for me – it was a tremendous learning situation for me,” Kilgore said. “I had planned to win a national title in college and then take an Olympic redshirt. So after I won the NCAA title, I was ready to focus on freestyle. I have learned a lot of freestyle, and it will help me when I go back to col- lege because of the caliber of guys that I trained with. It will also help me when I go back to freestyle after my last college season.”

Kilgore enjoyed his share of success while competing in freestyle since he last wrestled in college.

Kilgore placed third at the 2011 U.S.

World Team Trials at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. He followed by winning the Sunkist Kids International, the Cerro Pelado International in Cuba and the Pan American Championships. He was second in the New York AC International and Dave Schultz Memorial, and took third in the Olympic Test Event in London. He was fifth in the Olympic Trials. “If NCAA wrestlers truly have dreams of wrestling at the highest professional level after college, and becoming World and Olympic champions, then taking an Olympic redshirt is extremely beneficial and very valuable,” said Slay, a 2000 Olympic champion. “The Olympic redshirt gives wrestlers a year-plus of red carpet international wrestling experience before they complete their NCAA careers. “A guy like Dustin Kilgore took full

advantage of that. He improved dramati- cally in the year he was out here. He wrestled a ton of matches and he had a

14 USA Wrestler

NCAA champion Andrew Howe placed second at the 2012 Olympic Trials while taking an Olympic redshirt during the 2011-12 school year. Tony Rotundo photo.

lot of success.”

Kilgore also won freestyle titles at the University Nationals and University World Team Trials in 2012.

He finished ninth at the University World Championships.

“The Olympic redshirt was definitely an experience I needed,” Kilgore said. “The coaches in Colorado Springs really fine- tuned everything I do from gut-wrenches to leg laces to body locks to front head- locks. I felt like I was doing every freestyle move wrong when I first came out there. I can go from a takedown right to a leg lace now. Those coaches are very knowledgeable.”

Among the wrestlers Kilgore trained with in Colorado Springs was Jake

Varner, who won an Olympic gold medal in 2012.

Kilgore is now back at Kent State for his senior season. He became the first NCAA champion in program history after winning a national title in 2011. He is ranked No. 1 nationally in college wrestling, and plans to drop back down to 197 pounds after wrestling at 211.5 on the international level.

“The Olympic redshirt was huge for me,” Kilgore said. “I’m really glad I took advantage of that opportunity. I’m only 23, and I still have a lot of good years in wrestling left in me.

“My goal is to wrestle in the Olympics and win a medal. I’m excited to see what I can do in the next few years.”

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