On Friday, I had the opportunity to meet with Cowboy Regional Training Center coach Derek Fix to discuss the latest with the RTC, his son, Daton, and upcoming tournaments the RTC will be competing in.
We did a small write up on what an RTC is and how they function a few months ago just for reference. Let’s dive into what Fix had to say in our exclusive Q&A.
Seth Duckworth: Where are you guys at right now with the U.S. Open coming up, who is going, etc…?
Derek Fix: It’s pretty unique because we have more guys that are wrestling right now than we have in the last couple years. We have a young group of guys. We’re taking about 10 guys to the U.S. Open. Four of those will be senior level guys. We have a total of around 16 guys that will be wrestling between the U.S. Open and U23 trials.
SD: So who are your guys that will be wrestling at the senior level?
DF: Alex Dieringer, Joe Smith, Dean Heil, and Daton Fix.
SD: So Daton is going senior level?
DF: Yes. He’s in a unique situation as a Junior World Champ. If he finishes in the top 3 of the open he gets exempt to the finals of the Junior World trials, he’s still eligible for Juniors, can still make the U23 team, so we’re going to test the waters at the senior level and see what we can do.
Ed. note from Seth: This is not part of the interview but as a quick aside, the fact that Daton is wrestling up at the senior level is a huge story. To make a football comparison, Daton trying to make the senior level freestyle world team is the equivalent to a college freshman football player trying to make not just an NFL team, but the NFL Pro Bowl team. In an Olympic year the World team is the Olympic team, so that’s the level of guys Daton is going after here and he has a very real shot to make it.
SD: So obviously you already have Daton here and are bringing in some pretty credentialed recruits with Kerkvliet and Wittlake. Looks like you’ll have some talent at the junior level the next few years?
DF: Those guys are the best wrestlers in the country and that’s who we want here. A lot of people feed off that. We want to make sure we provide an opportunity for them to be successful at the next level. Oklahoma State has had more Olympians than some countries and John’s had a focus on developing his own athletes and sending them to the next level. That’s something most people don’t understand about RTC’s. They were meant to be an extension of USA wrestling. We have one of the greatest wrestlers and greatest coaches in history here, so why would we send someone anywhere else to train? People say we don’t have a lot of guys training, yeah we do. Have we went out and bought some training partners? No. That’s not what we’re trying to do here. Everyone asks what kind of training partners does Dieringer have? He has some of the best in the world. He’s got Chris Perry, Tyler Caldwell, Esposito, Rogers, Smith. Those are great training partners. John is out to develop his own guys and make them Olympians, not buy training partners. Will we try and bring a guy in if we feel it will help our guys in the room? For sure, that’s just not something we feel we need to do right now. We’re out to develop our own.
SD: Dieringer has been wrestling really well lately, obviously he’s always been good, but it seems like he’s jumped levels recently. What do you think has happened there?
DF: I think being up a weight he feels more comfortable and that helps. I think he’s decided he wants to go be the guy. He had one of the best careers ever at OSU and he now wants to be that guy at the next level. This U.S. Open is really big for him. Kyle Dake (a four-time NCAA champion at Cornell) has to go so it’s big. It’ll be good.
SD: Could you talk a little bit about the side of the RTC working with high school programs and kids and how that works?
DF: There is a set of rules with RTC’s coordinated with the NCAA, but we can provide training opportunities for local kids outside of the regular high school season. There’s a list of criteria for which kids we can have in the room, but ones that are eligible have that opportunity. Coach Smith has said before, but with the scholarship money in wrestling you really have to have 4-5 local kids that score points for you in the NCAA tournament to have any chance to win an NCAA title. We know it’s very important to develop local wrestlers and the opportunity is here for kids that want to come in and work out. We want to help these local kids where we can. Those practices are Tuesday-Thursday night from 6-7:30. Wrestlers can sign up here.
SD: With fundraising and that sort of thing is there a place where casual fans can contribute?
DF: There will be one in the near future. There’s avenues through the university where anyone can support Cowboy Wrestling, but specific to the RTC we will have something in place very soon with that. We’re working with Lee Roy Smith and through the Hall of Fame currently getting it all set up.