Nico Megaludis confident he has the stuff to take over 57 kg

BY TAYLOR MILLER, USA WRESTLING | APRIL 12, 2017, 6:13 P.M. (ET)

Megaludis at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City, Iowa. Photo by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com

Nico Megaludis looks to end the United States’ medal drought in freestyle’s lightest weight class, 57 kg/125 lbs. But first, he’ll need to make the World Team, something he’s confident he can do. “No one has really proven themselves,” Megaludis said. “No one has gotten a World or Olympic medal since (Henry) Cejudo and that was nine years ago. No one has really stepped up since then. I know (Tony) Ramos has made a few World Teams, and that’s good for him. But on an international level, no one has really separated themselves and that really needs to happen at 57.”

In just two weeks at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas, he’ll get a taste of what’s to come of the wide-open weight class for the World Team Trials in June.

The Open will serve as freestyle’s biggest qualifier for the World Team Trials, with the top-seven finishers earning a chance to compete for the World Team spot in Lincoln, Neb., in June.

By winning the 2016 Bill Farrell International in November in New York City, Megaludis, an NCAA champion for Penn State, has already punched his ticket to the Trials. But there is still incentive in going to the Open as the winner of the 57 kg bracket will earn a bye to the finals of the Trials.

“The nice thing about it is that I’m already qualified for World Team Trials,” he said. “Even if I wasn’t, I would still go there to win. The main reason I’m going is because I haven’t competed in a while, so I need to get competition, but there’s also that motivation to win and get a bid to the finals. That will end up being a little bit of an advantage because someone will have to deal with three or four matches before that. I’m going mainly for the competition part and being able to compete. That’s what I like to do.”

Although Megaludis may not have been on the competition scene in recent months, he has already put together a stellar 2016-17 season.

Along with winning the Bill Farrell International, Megaludis claimed gold at the Paris International in January.

After cruising past France’s Yousopp Deliev with a 10-0 tech fall and Dzimchyk Rynchynau of Belarus with a 9-0 victory, Megludis met up with Italy’s Givi Davidovi in the finals.

Formerly an athlete for Georgia, Davidovi put up a fight in a match that saw some insane scrambles. Megaludis scored first after Davidovi was hit with passivity and was unable to score to take a 1-0 lead into the second period. Halfway through the second, Megaludis was awarded a takedown on the edge to go up 3-0. Davidovi responded with a takedown of his own, but it was not enough as Meglaudis walked away with a 3-2 win.

“Going over to Paris was a pretty cool thing,” Megaludis said. “It makes you realize how fortunate you are to travel across the world and go to these cool places to do what you love. Being able to compete was great. I had a tough guy in the finals from Georgia, but he had just transferred over to Italy. That was a good win. I was happy I got the win, but at the same time, I only won by a point. He was obviously very good, but it made me realize some things I need to work on. That was a very good experience for me.”

Megaludis was also part of history when he and fellow Titan Mercury Wrestling Club members secured the club’s first World championship, defeating Iran’s Bimeh Razi in the World Freestyle Wrestling Clubs Cup finals in Ukraine.

Opening each dual for TMWC, the former Nittany Lion went 3-1 at the tournament. The familiarity of the dual format was a special part of the event for Megaludis.

“It was really cool because I miss college dual meets. At Penn State, I was always starting off the match 90 percent of the time and I loved that,” he said. “Over in Ukraine, I was able to do that. I had a pretty good tournament, so I was able to start us off on the right track for the most part. I really just enjoyed the whole dual-meet format, and obviously, being able to wrestle some of the best guys in the world. The teams that we wrestled were very tough and most of them were their No. 1 guys. It was very similar to the level of the actual World Cup. That was really cool.”

Since taking some time off from competition, Megaludis has been in State College, Pa., training with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club in a room loaded with talent.

On top of Penn State’s five 2017 NCAA champions, the room features Olympic gold medalists Cael Sanderson, Jake Varner and Japan’s Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu, Olympians Frank Molinaro and Franklin Gomez as well as other past NCAA champions like David Taylor.

“It’s kind of crazy just looking around, and I feel like NLWC could almost make up the whole World or Olympic team. We at least have the potential to. It is pretty cool to watch all the talent in the room,” he said.

Megaludis finds himself mostly training with incoming freshman Nick Lee. A talented age-group freestyler, Lee is an Indiana state champion and age-group national champion, who challenges Megaludis on the mat.

“No one really pushes me like him as far as pace,” Megaludis said. “I love wrestling with him because he can go forever and I can go forever. It’s pretty cool to have someone wrestling as hard as they can whether it’s five minutes, 20 minutes or whatever.”

As the U.S. Open creeps closer and closer, Megaludis grows more confident in his wrestling.

“I feel great,” he said. “I think in order to compete at your best, you have to have high confidence. Some people interpret that as arrogance. I try to stay humble, but you have to have that certain confidence in yourself to succeed. It’s pretty much a fact. I have it, and I feel great. I’m just looking forward to it. That’s the main thing. I’m just excited to be able to wrestle these guys and go through a battle. I’m just ready to get back into competition.”

*** This article can originally be found at: http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Wrestling/Features/2017/April/12/Nico-Megaludis-confident-he-has-the-stuff-to-take-over-57-kg

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