Wrestling has provided Austin Almaguer with plenty of life lessons and adventures, but this week, he is off on the trip of a lifetime.
An incoming junior at Kamiakin High School, Almaguer left Tuesday to compete in tournaments in Croatia and Serbia.
“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “I’ve never been out of the country. This will be a new experience.”
Almaguer is one of 13 cadet wrestlers from around the country to be chosen to participate in the trip, which is championed by the Go Greco USA Developmental Program and led by U.S. Cadet World Team coach Lucas Steldt.
“It is hand-chosen,” Almaguer said of the team. “You have to have a coach nominate you. I was nominated by Andy Cook of Grays Harbor (College). He is one of our national coaches.”
Almaguer, who will wrestle at 58 kilograms (127 pounds), will compete Friday and Saturday at the Croatia Open in Zagreb. The competition moves to Subotica, Serbia, for a tournament June 23-25.
“I kind of want to embrace it with excitement rather than have it be nerve wracking,” Almaguer said. “If I stay positive, the better I will wrestle. It’s good to get my feet wet in international wrestling, especially since I want to wrestle in college and at the next level.”
Almaguer is excited the tournament is Greco style, rather than freestyle or folk style (high school wrestling).
“I don’t like high school style as much, I find it boring,” Almaguer said. “Greco and freestyle are more intense and I like intense matches.”
Almaguer placed third at the 3A state tournament at 120 pounds in February. He took a few days off, and has been going nonstop ever since.
“It’s sill in-season for me,” he said. “I was in the room the week after state. It’s all about my sacrifices for the sport. It’s about the training. I still do fun stuff.”
Almaguer earned his invitation to the team in early April, did his fundraising and got his passport.
“I’d heard stories about European trips from guys at Fargo (N.D.),” Almaguer said of the annual Cadet and Junior National Tournament. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Almaguer’s Kamiakin teammate Jake Olson also was picked for team, but he broke his hand about a month ago and had to have surgery, ending his trip abroad.
“He has been really unlucky with his injuries lately,” Almaguer said of Olson, who broke his other hand during the regular season. “You get these great opportunities and he doesn’t get to go.”
But Almaguer won’t be the lone Washington kid on the trip. Nathan Hale’s Dominic Damon (sixth at 3A state at 138 pounds) is along for the ride.
“I’ve been on the national team with him before, so we know each pretty well,” Almaguer said. “That is a good thing. I don’t know the other guys, but I’m sure after this trip I will. Two weeks in a foreign country, you will get to know each other pretty well.”