2018 World Championships: Budapest, Hungary
As we get ready to depart for the 2018 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary I took the time to reflect on how I am getting another opportunity to represent USA wrestling. I started wrestling when I was 6 years old. I had no idea about the sport and like many of my peers I wanted to play football. As a child, I always imagined myself being the running back at Ohio St. or Penn St. and then taking my talents to the NFL. LaDainian Tomlinson was my favorite running back and I wanted to be just like him. I was small, fast, and very competitive. Football was my first love.
Unfortunately, my team was beat out in the second week of playoffs. I was already looking forward to next year! I couldn’t wait to put my pads back on. Little did I know my dad had other plans. Our junior wrestling program was just getting started and it just so happened one of the parents of the football team was the head coach. Coach Tom Scotton, along with his brothers ran our program and it was quite successful. There motto was “Takedown to Win” and we lived up to the hype. My older cousin and I would be the only two people in our family to wrestle.
With no family history in wrestling not only would we start to learn the ins and outs of wrestling, but my father would as well. Double legs and headlocks were all I knew for a long time. We competed in the Grapevine league and traveled to different towns throughout south jersey every weekend. Winning didn’t come easy at all. My first 2 years or so my dad would always have me paired up with bigger/older kids. I was so confused, how could I get any better wrestling these bigger and more experienced opponents. When would I get my chance to win? I did a lot more crying than getting my hand raised during that time. At the time I didn’t realize how beneficial it was to be wrestling the older kids because I wanted to win every match.
When we would go to tournaments I would wrestle kids the same size and win. Things started picking up we would compete at south jersey states, New Jersey kids states, mawas, jersey duals etc. I loved traveling with my friends and family to these different areas and doing what I enjoyed; wrestling. I ran track for a couple summers as well but it didn’t compare to football or wrestling. When I was 10 all my sports activity almost came to an end. My father was shot and killed in his studio in Brooklyn, NY. My mom, family, and friends did everything to support us through that time in our life. My dad’s friends were determined to keep me busy in sports and treated me as their own son.
Although it was very helpful and I appreciate everything everyone who was there for us, it just wasn't the same. I slowly stopped wanting to go to football practice and I definitely didn’t want to run track. Wrestling was the only sport I stuck with. I’m still not really sure why but that’s what I wanted to do. My mom enjoyed it too. She’d be on NJ.com looking at the forums trying to figure out what tournaments we needed to be at. We had a family friend Bob Acosta who would go out of his way to pick me up and bring me to some of the best practices in New Jersey.
By the time I got to high school I was only 100lbs. I was sure I’d wrestle 103 my freshman year but I ended up having a grow spurt and wrestling 125. I had a great year, set a district 26 record, but didn’t place in states. Being a fan of wrestling I knew it wasn’t good enough. I wanted to go to college to wrestle, but my performance said otherwise. I stuck with it gave up my summers to work for Bob and go to wrestling practices afterwards. The next year of high school I fell short and placed 4th at states. My junior year was the turning point. I entered the East Stroudsburg open and placed 3rd/4th! My confidence was growing, there was some hope that I could make it on the college level. The high school season begins and I fall short again! I lose in the state finals to Hank Stinson 7-5. Being my toughest critic I remember thinking no school would want a kid who can’t even win their high school state title. I was wrong.
Before I won my state title my senior year Nebraska coaches saw the potential I had and reached out to me. I had other offers but Coach Manning/Snyder were the first to give me a call. Even when I didn’t think I was good enough they told me I had the potential to win a national title and I could go on and win World and Olympic titles. At the time I wasn’t even thinking about an international career. I only wrestled at Fargo once....and we all know how that ended. I never did win a NCAA title but I was a 4x all-American and a big ten champ. I won a couple big tournaments and made some university teams along the way.
After my senior year I would make my first senior world team and take bronze in Las Vegas. In 2016, even though I couldn’t compete at the Olympics I still had the opportunity to compete at non Olympics championships and came up empty handed. Last year in Paris I was able to make it to the finals. Even though I finished 2nd I was happy to be a part of the first world championship team in 22 years. It’s 2018 the world championships are upon us once again. This time we come back as a team returning word champions. We have 10 of the top wrestlers in the world looking to bring home gold. I have a bronze and silver medal. It is time for me to bring home that gold medal. No one is going to hand it to me. I will do everything I can to earn it! At the end of the day I know my coaches and fellow world team members are confident in the preparation we have been doing. Budapest we’ll be seeing you very soon!
-James M. Green