Cadet wrestling goes international, with cultural trip to Mongolia this June

This June, a handful of Norwich University wrestlers will head to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia as part of the “Norwich Wrestling Mongolian Cultural Exchange” to train and compete in freestyle wrestling.

“Throughout my time as a coach at Norwich, we have had wrestlers go to foreign countries to help grow themselves as wrestlers, I am excited to say that this summer we will be doing so once again,” said Alex Whitney, head wresting coach at Norwich University.

“The wrestlers will have the chance to train and compete among 300-400 other wrestlers from all around the world, as well as have the chance to experience a culture far from what they are used to,” Whitney said.

On June 3, five Norwich wrestlers and three coaches, as well as a handful of other coaches and athletes, will embark on what the Norwich Wrestling page describes as “an amazing experience for our student-athletes,” to train and compete at the Mongolian Olympic Training Center. They will be training and competing there until their return to America on June 17.

“For the first few days of the trip we will be traveling and acclimating to the culture around us,” said Ronnie Lee Haze Caudill, a 24-year-old senior from Huber Heights, Ohio. Caudill will be competing at 86kg.

“Once we settle in, we will be competing in a tournament with over 200 teams and many foreign countries represented,” Caudill said.

Of the hundreds of teams competing in this tournament, there are some top wrestlers from Mongolia, as well as teams from China and Russia.
“After this massive tournament we will be a part of a ten-day camp, where we will be learning from some of the top Mongolian wrestlers and coaches,” said Benjamin Forsman, a 20-year-old junior from Voorhees, N.J. Forsman will be competing at 65 kg.

The Cadet wrestlers in attendance of this camp and tournament will be wrestling in freestyle, as opposed to folkstyle, which is the form of wrestling in NCAA. Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling are the two forms of wrestling in the Olympics and in international competition.

Caudill is graduating from Norwich this year, but that isn’t stopping him from experiencing the sport via this opportunity. Caudill plans to continue competing on the national and international level after graduating this May.

“Freestyle wrestling really changes the entire sport. It is a lot faster and more intense, especially on the international level. It is taken very seriously, especially compared to how it is perceived in America,” said Caudill.

“I am hoping my wrestlers want to go because competing on an international level is so surreal, and beneficial for their development, as wrestlers in any style. Many aspects of freestyle carry over to folkstyle,” Whitney said. “Competing daily with other wrestlers will only make them better. Iron sharpens iron.”

While freshman Dominic Konop is new to freestyle wrestling, he committed to attending this trip and taking as much from it as possible.
“After talking with Coach Clodgo, we agreed that this trip would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that would challenge me, and help me grow immensely as a collegiate wrestler,” said Konop, a 19-year-old from Watertown, NY. Konop will be competing at 74 kg.

Bettering yourself as a wrestler seems to be a common theme among the student-athletes attending this trip, but for John Schultz, it has been a dream of his to compete internationally since he was young.

“I started wrestling when I was a little kid, and I have always wanted to compete on the international stage, amongst the best wrestlers in the world. Through this trip, I will be able to do that. It’s an experience I am incredibly grateful for and I am excited to make the most out of it,” said Schultz, a 21-year-old sophomore from Cedar Grove, N.J. Schultz will be competing at 74 kg.

“I am going on this trip so that I can better understand and develop myself in freestyle, and so that I can take some of the aspects from freestyle and incorporate them into my folkstyle. Overall this trip will make me a far more well-rounded wrestler,” said Forsman. “My goal is just to improve as a wrestler.”

“I have a few goals to attain while on this trip, one of which is to be more exposed to other cultures, and see how other cultures live. I also want to get a broader outlook on how other cultures treat wrestling. I expect to use the techniques I learn on this trip while competing for Norwich over the next three years,” said Konop.

For the Norwich wrestlers to make this trip possible, it will take some considerable fundraising. According to the information on the Norwich wrestling team’s Instagram page, the trip will cost around $2,500.

“As a college student, it is hard to come up with that kind of money, which is why I started saving on my own for the past few months while working at school,” said Forsman.

Most student-athletes attending this trip are saving their money to pay for the opportunity of a lifetime, but that isn’t necessarily enough.
“In the past with these kinds of trips, whether it be Mongolia or Russia in the past, wrestlers had to get money from fundraising as well as their own pocket, or their parent’s help,” said Whitney.

“We have been doing fundraising around the town, doing things like yard work for people around Northfield, or helping people move,” said Forsman.
Donations to help make wrestling team members trip an affordable reality are also very welcome.

“All donations are very welcomed and extremely appreciated. All donations go directly towards funding for the student-athletes who are a part of the Norwich wrestling Mongolian Exchange Program,” explained Whitney.

To find out more information regarding the Mongolian Exchange Program, or to donate to the athletes, you can visit Norwich Wrestling’s Instagram, @cadetwrestling, or by visiting Norwich University Wrestling on Facebook where links to donate are available.

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