Someday when James Green reflects on his wrestling career, he hopes to recall the last weekend of May 2013 as something of a turning point.
That's when Green, who will be a junior at Nebraska this fall, won his weight class at the University Freestyle Nationals in Akron, Ohio. The victory qualified Green for the World University Games, which are taking place in Kazan, Russia.
The wrestling portion of the event begins Thursday and ends next Tuesday. Green competes Thursday in the 66-kilogram division.
“That's kind of the first big tournament I've really won. I want to continue to build off that,” Green said of his Akron victory.
Green is a two-time All-American for the Huskers, finishing seventh at the NCAA championships each of the past two seasons. He expected more at nationals this year, but he was upset in the first round and had to come through the wrestlebacks.
“I was up there with (Northwestern's) Jason Welch and (Iowa's Derek) St. John and those guys, but I couldn't finish it off. I took seventh where I should have been at least in the top three,” said Green, who defeated St. John and Welch — the NCAA champion and runner-up respectively — earlier in the season.
“I learned from it and put it in the past and focused on my future. I want to start finishing at the top where I should be.”
So Green turned his attention to the University Freestyle Nationals.
Once in Akron, Green rattled off eight wins, including a semifinal pin of Ohio State All-American Hunter Stieber and then winning two of three finals matches against Jason Chamberlain, a member of last year's World University team.
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That earned Green, who had never traveled overseas before, his spot in the event in Russia.
“James has been pretty inspired since the NCAA tournament,” said Nebraska coach Mark Manning, who has wrestled for and coached the United States in international competition.
“Making the World University team is really going to help him. It's going to push him, take him to another level because he's going to wrestle guys who are going to be a different style. It will be a great experience for him to wrestle in an international competition.”
Green has had to adjust to a different weight class and, more importantly, a different style to qualify for the University Games.
Green is competing in the 66-kilogram class, which equates to 145.5 pounds. He wrestled at 157 during his first two seasons at Nebraska, but he said the drop in weight divisions hasn't been difficult.
Said Green: “145 wasn't that bad at all. I'm lean. I had the body for it. I felt comfortable and felt good wrestling, so I think it was a smart move on my part.”
A bigger adjustment has been getting used to freestyle wrestling. Folkstyle is used in high school and collegiate competitions, but in freestyle, wrestlers can't score points with their legs.
Up until two years ago, Green hadn't wrestled freestyle.
“It's pretty much the same — good stance, good position and good motion are the key. Other than that, it's just little technical stuff, like where you keep your elbows,” Green said. “... It's definitely good experience for folkstyle.”
Manning said Green's transition to freestyle has gone well.
“He's definitely not a finished product. He's got to continue to work on his top and bottom, but he's really good on his feet,” Manning said. “That's where he's going to make his hay.”
Green hopes to wrestle freestyle after college. In the Olympics, most specifically.
“Having those Olympic dreams, I have to commit more to (freestyle),” Green said. “That's the ultimate goal, 2016. You could say I'm prepping for that, too.”
The Olympic dream will wait. In the meantime, Green knows competing for Team USA in the World University Games will only make him better on the collegiate level.
“It keeps me busy, it keeps me focused on wrestling,” Green said. “Since I've been wrestling all summer, it kind of takes me into the college season. I'll be one step ahead of everyone else.”