On Monday afternoon, Matt McDonough defeated Nahshon Garrett in two straight matches to take the 57 kg spot on the University World Championships team.
In the first match, Garrett started strong, taking an early 4-0 lead on a big move about 45 seconds into the bout. He followed with an inside trip to make it 6-0 and led 8-2 after the first period.
The former Iowa standout began his comeback in the second stanza, however, with two takedowns and a turn to knot things up at 8. Garrett fired back with a double leg to make it 10-8 with under a minute left, but McDonough countered with a takedown and a series of leg laces to make the final score 16-10 in the Hawkeye's favor.
In the second contest, McDonough picked up two quick pushouts to jump ahead 2-0 and added a pair of takedowns to go up 6-0. Garrett answered with a takedown with just one second remaining in the opening period to make the deficit 6-2. However, McDonough continued his pressure in the second, coming away with a 15-5 victory and the spot on Team USA.
Garrett, Photo by BV
In March of 2013, Nahshon Garrett and Matt McDonough met in the NCAA tournament with a berth in the semifinals on the line.
Next week, they will square off again in a best-of-three freestyle series, but this time the prize is the 57 kg spot on Team USA for the University World Championships.
“I lost to him the first time we wrestled in my freshman year, but after that match, I knew exactly what I needed to work on to beat him and just get better in general,” Garrett said. “When we wrestled at NCAAs, I felt really confident that I would win.”
He did, defeating McDonough 4-2 in sudden victory on his way to third place in Des Moines. It’s been over a year since that bout, and Garrett is excited for another battle with the two-time national champion from Iowa.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s a chance to wrestle a tough opponent and also to make a statement about how I probably should have gotten a spot at the World Team Trials.”
McDonough took third place at that event in Madison, Wisconsin, and while Garrett didn’t compete at the World Team Trials, he has seen plenty of freestyle action over the past few months.
It began at the Beat the Streets Gala in New York City, where the California native was edged 5-4 on a late pushout by Bulgaria’s George Vangelov.
“Beat the Streets was a great opportunity - very humbling and very exciting,” he said. “Being on the team with so many great wrestlers -- some of the best guys in the world -- was pretty awesome. Also being on that stage in the middle of Times Square was a great experience.”
While a great exprerience, Garrett felt that he wasn't able to showcase his top form.
“I just kind of went in and wrestled,” he said. “I didn’t get to train much because I was focused on studying for finals at school. I still felt like I wrestled as hard as I could but just couldn’t get to my offense the way I wanted to. It gave me a spark; a passion to get back to the grind. It made me realize that it was time to push harder and get better.”
He definitely impressed a few weeks later at the University Nationals in Akron, Ohio, taking the 57 kg title with six wins, all by technical fall or pin. That included the finals series, which Garrett swept by 11-0 and 15-4 scores over American’s David Terao.
Garrett joked that he and Terao might be “getting sick of each other.” That’s because they faced off four times during the 2013-14 college campaign. Garrett came out on top each time, including at the NCAAs where the Big Red star won 11-0 on his path to a second place finish behind Jesse Delgado of Illinois.
In that title bout, Garrett got in deep on Delgado with explosive shots early in the match, but fell by a 3-2 score.
“I definitely have gone back and watched the finals match,” Garrett said. “It was tough and just humbling. But sometimes, guys find a way to beat you and all you can do afterwards is figure out what you can do to get better. That goal of being a national champ is still there and that’s the plan for next year.”
But the NCAA championships are still nine months down the road. Garrett's focus is on international gold first.
Despite his outstanding performance at the University Nationals, he will have to secure his place on the United States team headed to the World University Championships in Hungary in early July with two victories on June 23 over McDonough, who was permitted to challenge Garrett by virtue of his finish at the World Team Trials.
“I figured someone would challenge me for the spot on the team, but it doesn’t bother me. I trained before the University Nationals, but it wasn’t as intense or structured as I’m training now, mostly with [Cornell assistant coach] Mike Grey and [multi-time World Team member] Mark Grey,” he said. “That was a good tournament, but it was practice for where I want to go. I feel like I’m getting close to my peaking point now. I’ve been preparing to win that [wrestle-off] series and then win a world title.”