James Green works to take down Wyatt Sheets at the U.S. Open (Photo/Tony Rotundo WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
James Green doesn't know exactly when his next wrestling match will be, but he's preparing for his return to the mat.
Like most wrestlers, Green has been away from competition for several months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 27-year-old Green is training again after spending time being quarantined at his home in Lincoln, Nebraska.
It has been a summer of transition for Green, who recently announced he will be leaving Nebraska for the regional training center at Virginia Tech.
"It's been a crazy time obviously with everything going on," he said. "My wife and I are both from New Jersey, and we wanted to be closer to family. Being at Virginia Tech, we will be within driving distance of our family. Our daughter is 13 months old now and we really like the idea of her being close to family. Moving out to Virginia, it was the best option for me to be able to do that."
Green accomplished plenty during his time at the University of Nebraska. He was a four-time All-American for the Huskers under coaches Mark Manning and Bryan Snyder. He captured a world bronze medal for the United States in 2015 before winning a world silver medal in 2017. He made the U.S. World Team the past five years while training in Lincoln.
"I've been in Nebraska for almost 10 years and it has been a really good experience for me," Green said. "Snyder and Manning are great coaches -- I have a lot of respect for them. They've done a lot for me. I hated to break the news to them that I was leaving because they have done so much for me. We did a lot together and accomplished a great deal. I appreciate them and we are still good friends."
Green trained alongside Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion Jordan Burroughs during his time in Lincoln.
"I will probably still train some with Jordan when I can," Green said. "I still have a great relationship with him and with the guys I've trained with at Nebraska."
During the pandemic, Green has been home taking care of his daughter, Glory, while being unable to compete.
"It's been great to be able to spend so much time with my daughter," he said. "My wife has been working during the day and I have been at home taking care of our baby. My daughter was 9 months old when the quarantine started. I didn't have as much one-on-one time before because I was training and I was on the road. I was able to spend a lot of time with her. I saw her go from crawling to walking, which was awesome. So that definitely was one good part for us to have all of that time together. I was a stay-at-home dad for a while. It was great -- I loved it. I enjoyed spending more time with my family. It was the most time I had spent at home."
Green said he is looking forward to training in the Virginia Tech wrestling room.
"Virginia Tech has a good program, and they are doing really well with recruiting," he said. "I really liked the location. Ty Walz is there training. I am with Titan Mercury and there are other clubs that are within driving distance -- North Carolina State and North Carolina. There are a lot of people close to here that I can wrestle with. I also see an opportunity to coach here when I'm doing competing."
Green also will be able to train with Virginia Tech's Mekhi Lewis, an NCAA champion and Junior world champion. Lewis still has three years of college eligibility left.
"Mekhi Lewis is here and it's a good opportunity for me to be able to work with him," Green said. "He's obviously a good young wrestler. I'm sure he will be a great training partner. We can definitely help each other get better."
Green said he plans to keep wrestling after the Tokyo Olympics.
"I will wrestle through 2024 -- that's the plan," he said. "I am going to wrestle another cycle. As long as my body holds up and I'm having fun."
James Green after winning silver at the 2017 World Championships (Photo/Tony Rotundo WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Green actually won both of his world medals while not being 100 percent physically.
"I had hip surgery after the World Championships in 2017," he said. "I was wrestling with the injury from 2014 to 2017. I definitely feel a lot better now. I used to wake up and my back was killing me because of my injury. But that stopped after I had surgery."
Green, who competes in the non-Olympic weight class of 70 kilograms, plans to move up a weight class for the Olympic Trials next year.
"74 kilos, that's the plan right now," he said. "I will go back down to 70 after that. I actually lost a little bit of weight during the quarantine, so I will see how it goes when I get back into training full-time again."
Green said he plans to stay involved with the sport after he finishes competing.
"Coaching is definitely in my future," he said. "I am on the fence right now as far as what I'm going to do with it. I have thought about opening my own club and working with some young kids. Or I may help coach with a college team. I do know I want to coach and give back to the sport. I enjoy working with kids and teaching them. I think I can make a positive impact as a coach."
Before he does that, Green has other goals he is pursuing.
"I know I still have a lot to give as a wrestler," he said. "I know I'm capable of getting it done at the World Championships. I just have to string those matches together. I need to be mentally dialed in for four or five matches. I expect a lot out of myself. I think it can all come together. I am still learning and still trying to improve."
Green said he appreciates his wife, Chandell, his high school sweetheart, for everything she does when he is away from home for weeks at a time.
"My wife is really supportive of what I'm doing -- you need to have that to be able to do this," he said. "It's obviously bigger than just me. I go on the road, and I'm gone for weeks at a time. She's been great and she understands the commitment it takes for me to be an athlete at this level. I appreciate everything she does for our family."
James Green celebrates after beating Jason Chamberlain at Final X (Photo/Tony Rotundo WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Green has been working out in Lincoln and spent time training in Blacksburg, Virginia, this week. He hasn't competed since wrestling in a tournament in Italy in January.
"I don't have a timetable yet for when my next tournament is," he said. "I have been talking to (U.S. National Coach) Bill Zadick, but we are waiting to see what is going to happen with the pandemic going on. They are talking about having a World Championships in December, but I'm not sure if that's going to happen or not. If they do have the World Championships, I will definitely do my best to prepare for that. I will be ready."
Craig Sesker has written about wrestling for more than three decades. He's covered three Olympic Games, written 10 books and is a two-time national wrestling writer of the year.