NHS grad to wrestle for Team USA

Chad Frey
The Kansan

Recent Newton High School graduate Wyatt Hendrickson, winner of multiple state titles in wrestling, has not had a relaxing summer. Far from it. As a cadet at the Air Force Academy, there has been a lot to do. 

Newton High School graduate Wyatt Hendrickson, who now wrestles for Air Force (in blue) will compete at the Junior World Freestyle Championships as a member of Team USA in Ufa, Russia this month.

"One of the biggest things I have done is soaring, and I have been in gliders flying," Hendrickson said. "... We have a new incoming freshman class and I am helping them train them, teaching them some things I learned last year."

And he's been training — weights and technique workouts all summer that picked up right after the NCAA Wrestling Championships, a tournament he qualified for in March. His training now is for something even bigger, The Junior World Championships in  Ufa, Russia.

The Junior World Championship is a yearly event that brings together wrestlers from each category — Greco-Roman, Freestyle and Women’s — aged between 18 and 20 years old.

"I am excited. This is going to be a fun trip," Hendrickson said.

There will be 30 hours of traveling, starting Aug. 11. He will return stateside Aug. 19. That's after a summer of hour-and-a-half workouts five to six days a week and as many training camps as possible to get ready. 

As a member of Team USA he will compete at 125 Kilgorams (275 pounds). During his first NCAA season he wrestled in the 285 pound weight class — where he is small. In high school he spent much of his career under 200 pounds. 

"I am still on the smaller end, but I am getting there," Hendrickson said. "I will be a heavyweight the rest of my career. ... I am dedicated getting bigger."

Just as he has been dedicated to wrestling. Hendrickson is a Four-time USA Wrestling Junior National Freestyle and Greco Roman All-American. He was as an National High School Coaches Association  Senior National Champion, a Super 32 finalist, and a FloNationals Champion. His senior year at Newton High School he was named the second ranked recruit at his weight class by theopenmat.com, and the third ranked recruit by Flowrestling.

And then came college, which he chose the Air Force for. His freshman year was named to the Amateur Wrestling News 2021 All-Rookie Tea and  he qualified for the NCAA championships. 

He refused time off after the NCAA tournament, instead setting his sights on international competition. Instead of resting and healing, he traveled to Coralville, Iowa, for the Team USA qualifiers. 

There, he bested Oklahoma Sooner and returning Junior Nationals champion Joshua Heindselman in a best-of-three series to qualify for the national team. 

"I lost chance to be on the junior world team two years ago with broken ribs," Hendrickson said. "I came into this with the attitude that I would either get onto this or die trying."

During his NCAA tournament run he met up with an international star — Gable Stevenson from Minnesota. Stevenson won his fourth-consecutive national title at that tournament, and this week bested 2016 Olympic champion Taha Akgul of Turkey in the quarter-finals of the men’s freestyle super heavyweight category  with an 8-0 victory on his way to a gold medal at the 2021 games. 

 "The NCAA, the match tat I lost was Gable Stevenson I lost that, and he is going for gold. I can point to that. .... He is a damn good wrestler," Hendrickson said. 

And a wrestler that while Hendrickson may not see again in college he may still have to figure out how to beat. Hendrickson is headed to an international championship, as the current Olympics unfold. 

He's thinking a 2024 trip to Paris is not out of the question. 

"That is in sight," Hendrickson said. "... 2024, we will see. Some things will have to work out for that."

First up, however, is Ufa, Russia. And some more college seasons. His eyes are on, at least a little, next summer as well. 

."Next year ... I can go at the senior level or U23. I am thinking I will go the senior level and wrestle some of the tougher competition," Hendrickson said.