By JASON ELMQUIST
STILLWATER — Alex Dieringer and Austin Marsden are in familiar territory — sort of.
The pair of Oklahoma State sophomore wrestlers will represent Team USA for the second straight year at the Junior World Championships this weekend, though this time it will be in Sofia, Bulgaria.
“I don’t know how Bulgaria is. I remember last year in Thailand I was pretty excited because I saw a lot of movies and saw a lot of stuff,” Marsden said before the duo left for training in Cleveland, Ohio, at the beginning of August. “But I don’t know anything about Bulgaria. Can’t wait to see what’s out there and just go on an adventure.”
Dieringer and Marsden arrived in Bulgaria earlier this week for a few last days of training before they compete in the world championships. Draws for the tournament will be announced later this week.
Dieringer, who split a pair of bouts during last year’s Junior World Championships in Thailand, said in June that he would begin training earlier for the world event this time around. And he was true to his word.
“I started my hard training like three weeks before last year, and I started about five weeks this time,” said Dieringer, who earned the spot on the team during the World Team Trials in Gallagher-Iba Arena over the summer. “I’m trying to get in a little better shape for this and prepare more and just focus on the little things. I’ve definitely gotten better since last year.”
After a successful freshman season that saw him place third at 157 pounds at the NCAA Championships, Dieringer breezed through his bracket to take home the 74 kilogram title, including two convincing wins over Dylan Palacio in a best-of-three championship series. Dieringer will be the first Cowboy to compete, taking to the mat on Saturday with competition set to begin at 1 a.m. CT.
“Last year was a good experience, so I think it’s going to be cool to go to a different country and see how that goes,” Dieringer said. “So I’m excited.”
Marsden, who took a redshirt for the most recent NCAA season, showed off with a five-point throw in his opening match and finished the tournament with two bonus-point wins over Adam Coon in the 120 kg finals. The sophomore heavyweight is just hopping to improve from last year’s world championship, where he lost his only match of the tournament.
“I really just want to perform better than I did last year,” said Marsden, who will wrestle on Sunday. “... Going overseas we focus on trying to win a world title, but hopefully competing it in will help me win an NCAA title.”
Fortunately for the Crystal Lake, Ill., native, he will have a friend to lean on in Dieringer.
“It’s definitely a plus to have a teammate with you on this trip,” Marsden said. “Last year it was great to have Alex there. Even though we made new friends last year, and hopefully will do the same this time, but having him there is a comfort thing.”
Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater NewsPress.