Gruenwald coming back to competition
Jim Gruenwald admits that maybe he has watched one too many Rocky movies.
The 37-year-old hasn?t wrestled a competitive match in 2? years, but his competitive fire is still burning.
And that?s why the two-time U.S. Olympian in Greco-Roman wrestling announced Thursday that he is making a comeback.
Gruenwald, an assistant coach at the U.S. Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan University, has started preparations for making a run at a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team at 60 kg/132 lbs. He said he plans to compete at the Sunkist Kids International Open late next month in Chandler, Ariz.
?I see a need for the U.S. in that weight class,? Gruenwald said Thursday. ?And ever since I retired in 2005, I?ve been struggling with the decision to stop wrestling. When Joe Warren won his medal in 2006 I took that as a sign I had made the right decision.
?But I?ve always stayed in shape since 2005 because I was still torn about whether I wanted to come back and wrestle again. In the back of my mind, I had this fire where I thought I could compete again.?
American Joe Betterman, one of the wrestlers Gruenwald coaches at the USOEC, failed to place in the top eight at the 2007 World Championships earlier this month in Baku, Azerbaijan. The top eight finishers in each weight class qualified their country for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
Betterman was a late replacement for 2006 World champion Joe Warren on the U.S. team at 132 pounds.
The U.S. now has three events left to qualify that weight class for the Olympics. The first qualifier is the Pan American Championships on Feb. 29-March 2 in Colorado Springs, with the other two qualifiers set for May in Tunisia and Serbia.
Gruenwald, who will continue to serve as an assistant coach for the USOEC program, calls his comeback ?a win-win situation for USA Wrestling.?
?If I compete and do well, then we?ve got a seasoned guy coming back at that weight class,? Gruenwald said. ?If the younger generation beats me, then they at least have a young man who has beaten an older, seasoned wrestler who has gotten the job done in the past.?
Ivan Ivanov, the head coach for the USOEC Greco-Roman program, has encouraged Gruenwald to make a comeback.
?Jim?s still very competitive and I?m excited to see him coming back to wrestle,? Ivanov said. ?He?s been tremendous as an assistant coach at the USOEC and that will continue. I think this is a positive situation and we have nothing to lose from this. Now we have more competition at this weight class and that?s definitely a good thing.?
Gruenwald also said his comeback will be a healthy situation in the USOEC room at Northern Michigan.
?We will have a number of top guys in that weight class in our room,? he said. ?We had a similar situation to that when I was at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. It will create a very competitive situation. I?m still their coach and I?m also going to be competitive with them when I wrestle them. I told the guys, ?If you ask me, I will coach you how to beat me.? I'm excited to see what happens.?
Gruenwald placed sixth in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia and finished 10th in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. His last competition was in late January of 2005.
?I don?t have any regrets in my career, but I am a little bit disappointed I didn?t medal at the Olympics,? he said. ?To some degree, I would like some hardware from the Big Show. That?s the one event that separates the good wrestlers from the great wrestlers, and I would like another shot at that.?
Gruenwald also will be adjusting to a different set of rules that were implemented in 2005, shortly after he stopped competing.
?Matches can still be won on your feet as guys like Brad Vering, Harry Lester and Joe Warren have proven,? Gruenwald said. ?Obviously, there?s a huge par terre element down on the mat now. I like the new rules. I?m not much of a reverse lift guy, but I?ve learned a lot about the reverse lift and front headlock in the last 2? years. I can still be aggressive on the feet and I still have a par terre threat where I can turn guys and defend.?
Gruenwald and his wife, Rachel, have a 6-year-old son and three daughters under the age of 3.
?My wife told me, ?As long as you enjoy the journey, I support you 100 percent,?? Gruenwald said. ?I couldn?t do this without her support.?