Felix Fights Through
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (June 2, 2009) – In one of the most grueling sports, where the body is constantly pushed to the max and tested in every aspect possible, even the best come out breathless. Nevertheless, WVU assistant wrestling coach Danny Felix knows that to be successful, you have to fight through it all.
Back in mid-April, Felix was wrestling in the U.S. Nationals 55 kg/121 lbs. division to qualify for the U.S. World Team Trials. After earning a 7-0, 6-0 tech fall victory over Tony Covert of East Valley Wrestling, Felix advanced to face Gator Wrestling Club’s Michael Martinez. Despite dropping an extremely close three-set match, Felix moved on to face Penn State’s Brad Pataky to compete for third place. However, Felix never made it beyond that bout after suffering an injury. Nick Simmons, who went on to win the bracket, earned a bye into the finals of the World Team Trials. Obe Blanc took second place and Logan Stieber earned third.
“It was an unfortunate thing that happened at the U.S. Open,” Felix said. “I worked hard and I wanted to be the U.S. Open champion. It wasn't the ultimate goal, but it was definitely some momentum I wanted to have going into the trials. I didn't really want to have to go to a mini-tournament.”
Two years ago, Felix recorded a sixth-place finish at the U.S. Nationals to qualify for a position on the World Team. However, he encountered some bumps along the way. He lost his first match, won his first consolation bout, but then dropped his next match and did not place.
Only five days after the 2009 U.S. Nationals Tournament, USA Wrestling approved the addition of wildcard qualifiers for the men’s freestyle competition at the World Team Trials.
After not taking advantage of the opportunity in 2007, Felix was prepared for what was ahead of him with a clear mind and a second chance. With his years of success on the national level, the Sunkist Kids wrestler earned the wildcard spot – and he made the most of it.
“I was confident that I would get the wild card,” Felix said. “Through three quarters of my training, I did not know if I was going. However, I always stayed positive and kept faith. I knew that I was the best guy and I was just hoping that the people who had to vote on it knew I was the best guy too.
“I felt like I had something to prove. I had a chip on my shoulder. I was upset and I didn't get to prove myself too much earlier. I had to keep my focus and believe in what I was doing because when I got the opportunity, if I did, I was going to make the best of it.”
On May 31, just a few days ago, Felix stepped into the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, ready to showcase his wrestling skills at the World Team Trials. While his opponents seemed ready to lunge at Felix because of his age (35) and the fatigue his body has endured from countless years of competing, he knew that his experience and mental preparation gave him an advantage.
Felix won his first match of the day and moved on to the semifinal to face Blanc, who took second at the U.S. Nationals. Felix won the first period, 1-0, but dropped the next session. Not ready to give in, he pulled out a win in the final period to advance and wrestle in the first-place match. His opponent was the much younger, 18-year old, Stieber.
“It didn't bother me a bit,” Felix said of competing against someone nearly half his age. “I figured if he was here, he was supposed to be there and he was good enough to be there. I didn't approach him any differently than I would anybody else. I was confident that my experience would pay off and that if I just stuck to my goals, what I've talked about with my coaches over and over, I would triumph. Age factor doesn't bother me.”
Right from the start, Felix set the tone. He won the first period 1-0 and then bettered the performance with a 3-0 victory in the second session for the win.
“I read my second book ever before the trials,” Felix said. “The first was one that West Virginia Coach Craig Turnbull gave me. This one was by Dara Torres and it's called Age is Nothing but a Number. She was in five Olympics. She's kind of going through what I'm going through - people having doubts and talking about her age. It's motivating. I think it really sparked me. I read it through my whole training camp in Nebraska the week before I went to compete. It was the best book to have in my hands.”
Unfortunately, his toughest and most important match was on deck in Simmons – Felix’s opportunity of making his first U.S. World Team was on the line. In order to achieve the feat, he had to win a best-of-three-match series.
Round one got off to a difficult start as Felix lost the first period, 1-0. Just as he has done in the past, though, he bounced back with duplicate 2-0 wins in the second and third periods to win the first round.
The second round went in Simmons’ favor. The two tied at one apiece in the first period, but Simmons recorded two points on a scuffle near the edge of the mat for the 2-0 second period victory.
Felix returned to form in round three, though. He notched a 2-1 decision in the first period and then sealed the deal with a 1-0 decision in the second session to earn his first career spot on the U.S. World Team.
“It's unbelievable. I'm on cloud nine,” Felix said proudly. “It's a feeling I don't ever want to go away. I'm going to enjoy it with my family, my friends and then here in the next week, try to get back to being the best in the world. Just to be able to have the opportunity to represent my country is something I have been trying to do for a long time. I just wanted it so badly and it's finally here.”
Felix, who has training with the Mylan Olympic Development Program for four years, will resume his rigorous workout session in the coming weeks as he prepares for the 2009 World Wrestling Championships. The seven-day event will take place in Herning, Denmark, from Sept. 21-27.
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