George Schmeider had wrestled in the New England AAU King of the Mountain Championships in previous years but had never been as successful as he hoped.
He picked a good time to turn it around.
By capturing the 170-pound title at the Memorial Day weekend event, Schmeider qualified for the 2012 AAU Junior Olympics in Houston, Texas. He’s bound for Houston this week, and he’s ready to seize the special opportunity.
“When I heard that the King of the Mountain was going to be a qualifier for the Junior Olympics, I said I would really like to go,” Schmeider said. “It was a really exciting to win. They gave us a packet and I learned a lot about the Junior Olympics. I think it’s going to be a great experience.”
Schmeider, who will be a senior at Warwick Vets in the fall, will be part of Team New England Gold, a squad that was selected based on the King of the Mountain results. Schmeider is joined by one other Rhode Island wrestler, Lincoln’s Alex D’Aloisio.
When Schmeider qualified, New England AAU officials asked his father, longtime Vets coach George Schmeider, if he would coach Team New England Gold. He agreed, so father and son will head to Houston together.
“It’s exciting,” said the elder Schmeider. “It’s going to be a really cool event to be a part of.”
In Houston, the New England squad will wrestle 12 matches against teams from other regions. Team medals and individual medals will be up for grabs.
And Schmeider has plenty of success to build on. He won a Rhode Island high school state championship in the winter and capped his spring with his performance at King of the Mountain.
That event featured three different wrestling styles – takedown, freestyle and folkstyle. Schmeider, who lost a match on the first day of the tournament, quickly regrouped. He had no trouble switching between styles, and when all was said and done, he was at the top of his weight class with a 9-1 record.
“I lost the first day so I was bummed about that,” Schmeider said. “But I came back the second day and I tore it up. The third day, I tore it up again. When I won, I just thought, ‘This is awesome.’”
The possibility of going to the Junior Olympics was the biggest reason for excitement. This week, it becomes a reality.
Schmeider hasn’t seen a ton of mat time since the King of the Mountain, but he’s confident he can compete.
“My goal is to win a gold medal,” he said. “I set my goals really high. Even though I haven’t been training, I’ve been lifting. It’s like riding a bike. A couple of practices out there in Houston, I think I’ll get the hang of it.”
The event will feature freestyle wrestling, which is Schmeider’s favorite. It’s the style that fits best with his strengths on the mat.
“He has a funky style, and freestyle helps him,” said the elder Schmeider. “He scores a lot of points with that style.”
Wrestlers who go 12-0 in the team matches will receive gold medals. Records of 11-1 or 10-2 will earn silver, while three losses will give a wrestler a bronze medal.
While Schmeider is hoping for success, he’ll also be looking to make an impression. Dozens of college coaches are expected to be on hand.
“I didn’t go to Fargo (for nationals) or any of those big tournaments,” Schmeider said. “This is a good chance to get my name out there.”
Beyond that, the experience will be a special one – and it should be a perfect jumpstart for his senior year.
“I think this is kind of like the starting point for his senior year,” said his father. “He set the goal to be a New England champ, which would be awesome. It’s definitely a realistic goal, but he’s got to do things like this, and go out there and wrestle the best of the best. He needs to push himself so that when he comes back here, he can get to where he wants to be.”