Deron Winn has come a long way since his days as a two-time NJCAA champion and NAIA days in college. Since his graduation he has ascended to one of the top wrestlers in his weight classes (more on the plural part in a moment) wrestling as a member of the Cyclone Wrestling Club (CWC) in Ames. A decision which he credits has helped him improve and become one of the top wrestlers in the nation.
“I lived at the Olympic Training Center (in Colorado) and the national team would come and train from time to time. I can’t remember the first time I (drilled) with Travis Paulson, but I just remember that every time he came up he wanted to train with me. He always grabbed me to be a partner.” Winn said.
“After the 2012 Olympics, Travis asked me if I was going to compete for another cycle. I was young so I said of course. He said that CWC was trying to bring in more Senior level athletes in and if I was interested training in Ames. So I came and checked it out and really enjoyed it so decided to make the move.”
When Deron arrived at the CWC, he initially competed at 96 kg (which later became 97 kg in 2014). After finishing fourth at both the U.S. Open and World Team Trials, Winn sat down with his coaches and made the decision to cut to 86 kg, which is about 24 pounds.
“My decision to drop down to 86 kg came for a number of reasons with size being the biggest. There were few times I felt weaker than an opponent, but sometimes just overall size came into play and favored the other man.” Winn said on his decision to drop a weight, “Also 97 kg across the world tends to have monsters so that doesn’t help in my quest to becoming world champion at all.” He added in humor.
When dropping that much weight it can be rough on a wrestler, but Winn has been able to handle it fairly well, “At first the weight drop was rough but over time I have shrank my body. So instead of walking around at 215-220, I now walk around at 205. When competition is around the corner I stay on a strict diet because that really is the key to me making weight.”
And that weight cut has shown some interesting results, as Winn made his debut at the new weight at the Bill Farrell International, taking home second place at the tournament. Later he would go on and take fourth again at the U.S. Open, but this time around we saw a much more active Winn defeating a former Junior World medalist 7-1.
In the end, while fourth place qualified Winn for the World Team Trials, he still isn’t quite where he wants to be, “I would say I wrestled tough at the Open, but not to my fullest potential. I believe I can be the number one guy in the weight class and I obviously wasn’t there.”
“I am in a very good situation because I couldn’t ask for better guys/friends/coaches in Trent, Travis, and Kevin Jackson. Something that helps my success is I trust these guys in all aspects of life so that helps me put my trust in how they tell me to train and compete. There is nothing like having guys you love in your corner in big matches.”
Winn has some work to do to get to that position of being the number one guy in that weight class, and he has already started preparing for his next competition.
“Something we have been working on a lot recently is my cardio shape. Doing things I don’t want to do which will allow me to push even harder in big matches and make me mentally tougher. I also just need to wrestle, and not hold myself back.”
“Moving forward and especially for World Team Trials we will have a game plan for everybody I wrestle. I mean we believe in wrestling your own personal match and getting to the things that you are best at (during a match), but it never hurts to study and game plan against the best guys in the country. That way you can know what to expect when you are out there battling.”
Luckily for Winn he has some fantastic partners and coaches to get him ready, among that group is his head coach Kevin Jackson, who was the former head coach for Team USA and even the recently appointed NCAA champion Kyven Gadson is helping Winn get better.
“I’ve been blessed to have some awesome training partners while I’ve been here. Guys like Kyven Gadson, Trent and Travis, Marcus Harrington and even Jon Reader when he was here when I first came to Ames.”
Winn also was a part of the AGON V event in Cedar Rapids, which was titled “Iowa against the World”. Winn competed for Team World and was one of the few to hand an Iowa wrestler a loss when he defeated Phil Keddy of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, “AGON V was amazing. It was most likely the best professional wrestling event to ever be put together. The card was world class and the matches didn’t disappoint anyone. Keddy is a strong competitor. I know him personally and he’s a great guy as well. We had a game plan for that match and I stuck to it and got the job done! Winning the middleweight belt was a lifelong dream come true!”
Winn has climbed his way into contention for the 86 kg crown this weekend, and he certainly has all his ducks in a row to make the push to the top. Starting Saturday in Madison, he will start by going through the challenge tournament. A win there will give him an opportunity to wrestle former World medalist Jake Herbert in a best of three finals.
It won’t be an easy road, but with all the work Winn has put in over the last year, the discipline to drop an entire weight class, competing in almost every event he can to get some more matches under his belt at this weight, training with World class wrestlers and coaches has Winn more primed to go than ever before.