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The Journey of Turtogtokh Luvsandorj: Mongolian Wrestler Finds Success at The Citadel
Originally from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Turtogtokh Luvsandorj is quietly having an outstanding season. He’s climbed to No. 6 in the nation in the latest WIN rankings – the highest ranking ever for a Citadel wrestler. He grew up in Mongolia, was a New Jersey state champion and now competes at The Citadel, in South Carolina. He shares his story in the interview below.
By Matt Krumrie
WIN Magazine Contributing Writer
After two more wins over the weekend Turtogtokh Luvsandorj of The Citadel improved to 31-6 on the season. Ranked No. 6 by WIN Magazine (Jan. 24 rankings), the native of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is now the highest ranked wrestler in Citadel history. Called Turtog for short by teammates, the sophomore 165-pounder is having a banner year. Luvsandorj, a New Jersey prep state champion out of St. Benedict’s Prep, was also an NHSCA All-American (sixth). A 2010 NCAA qualifier, Luvsandorj’s career record now stands at 57-18.
He recently talked about his wrestling career and background, competing in Mongolia, coming over to the United States and the adjustments he has made throughout his life on and off the mat in an exclusive interview with WIN Magazine. Here is what Turtog had to say below.
WIN MAGAZINE: You’ve had quite the journey…coming from Mongolia to New Jersey to The Citadel, can you talk about:
A. What brought you from Mongolia to New Jersey? Can you tell us about the reasons behind that move?
Turtog Luvsandorj: My coach in Mongolia was in New York coaching the Mongolian team and they needed a place to train so he met up with my high school coach and we started sending some guys from Mongolia to St. Benedict’s to wrestle for him. Minga Batsukh (currently wrestling at St. John’s University in Minnesota) was the first and then I followed suit a few years later. They had better opportunities in America and I was just focused solely on wrestling.
B. What was it like in New Jersey, was it a hard adjustment, on and off the mat?
TL: It was definitely difficult. It was an all-male Catholic school and I spoke very little to no English when I moved to the U.S. There were a lot of rules. School was definitely tough and so was wrestling, it was a different style. The English as Second Language (ESL) classes were very bad at first and so I had a very tough start. Academically, I struggled because there was not a whole lot of support. Eventually it got better and I was able to adjust.
C. You ended up at The Citadel – what was the deciding factor in that? How’s it going at The Citadel on and off the mat?
TL: I was looking for a full scholarship and Coach (Rob) Hjerling was willing to offer me that opportunity. I was looking around for different opportunities after high school to continue wrestling and didn’t find much until a few weeks before classes began in the fall and so it happened rather quickly. It was a tough first year at The Citadel, similar to how it was in New Jersey. Tough to adapt with the military part of things and balancing classes and school, but this second year has gone much better on and off the mat.
WIN: How did you get involved in the sport of wrestling? You have a twin brother who wrestles – did you two compete against or with each other growing up and/or did you two push each other in the sport?
TL: My cousin used to wrestle and he babysat me when I was young and I just watched him and became interested. My dad wrestled also and he loves it. I started wrestling with my twin brother every day when I was about 12 or 13. He has always been better than me, on the mat and academically. But it helped me to get better to go against him all the time. My sophomore year in high school, he won nationals and then went back to Mongolia to train and compete on the national team. I stayed in the U.S. and took seventh my junior year at Nationals.
WIN: How popular is wrestling in Mongolia? What is different about it compared to wrestling at the H.S. and college level in the U.S.?
TL: It is the biggest sports in Mongolia, it is the national sport. There are so many different types of wrestling over there – judo, sumo, freestyle, traditional. It is a lot different in the U.S. There aren’t as many styles, but it is more difficult with the training and conditioning you go through. It is a lot of technique over here. Wrestling in both places is tough, just in different ways.
WIN: Minga Batsukh, of St. John’s in Minnesota went to the same high school as you and is also from Mongolia. Do you keep in touch with him?
TL: Yeah, I do. We have trained in the offseason and talk from time to time. I know there is also a Mongolian wrestler at George Mason and American, that is all that I am aware of.
WIN: What are your goals after your time is up at The Citadel – do you want to still compete in Mongolia? Do you have a desire to possibly compete for Mongolia at the international level?
TL: Yes, the goal is to one day be able to compete for Mongolia on the national level and represent my country in international competition. This summer, I am going to try and go home and compete in the national championships there.
WIN: What are some things about Mongolia people may not know?
TL: It is a small country, small population, fairly poor country overall. Weather is similar to the climate in the northern U.S. like Minnesota or New York. Very cold in winter, mild summers.
WIN: What are some things about the United States that stand out to you – in a good way?
TL: There are a lot of opportunities to do whatever you want here if you work hard in the United State. Those opportunities are hard to come by in Mongolia, it is very tough there.
WIN: What are some things about the United States that have been difficult to understand/adjust to?
TL: Language for sure. I get along with my teammates well and am fitting in, but the language barrier has been very tough on me for the most part since I have been over here.
WIN: What has been the biggest adjustment to DI college wrestling?
TL: Lot of practice, lifting, conditioning. Practicing a lot more in at the D1 level than ever before where wrestler was more secondary or a hobby and afterthought. Now it is front and center all the time.
WIN: What drives you in this sport – what keeps you motivated?
TL: I want to be an Olympic Champion one day so I just constantly try to get better each and every day. Going one step at a time, I would like to leave The Citadel as an All-American and a national champion and keep getting better from there.
WIN: Off the mat, what are your interests? What is your major and what do you hope to one day do for a career?
TL: Eat, Sleep, Relax, Practice. I am currently a business major, but I am thinking of switching to accounting at the end of the year. The financial area in general is interesting to me so something there when and if wrestling is no longer an option.
WIN: What else can you tell us that people may find interesting? Got any unique hobbies, interests, things you like to do?
TL: I love to play sports. Basketball, Soccer, whatever really. Just like to be involved in athletics.
Turtogtokh Luvsandorj Bio
About Matt’s Mat Notes
Matt’s Mat Notes is a new feature on WIN-Magazine.com which consists of feature stories, news, notes and quotes related to developments on and off the mat in college wrestling. Author Matt Krumrie is the former editor of TheWrestlingMall.com and in addition to contributing to WIN Magazine and The Guillotine, is the author of the new book The Ultimate Guide to Wrestling Camps, a comprehensive guide featuring resources, tips and stories for parents and youth to high school-age wrestlers. If you have a story idea or suggestion, news, notes or tidbit, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org