World veteran Dlagnev shoots for gold and fun in 2014

Updated: June 12, 2014

Editor’s Note: On May 31 and June 1, USA Wrestling hosted Phase I of the World Team Trials in Madison, Wisc., where 12 of the 24 spots on the 2014 World Team were filled in either men’s or women’s freestyle. Six Greco berths will be filled June 13 in Daytona Beach, Fla., while the remaining six spots over the three styles will be determined during the Junior/Cadet Nationals, July 19-24, in Fargo, N.D. In honor of this seven-week period of World Team Trials events, WIN is providing features on those who have qualified to compete in Uzbekistan in September.)

By Mike Finn

No one on the 2014 World Team in men’s freestyle has more experience than Tervel Dlagnev.

At age 28 and five months older than 213-pound World teammate Jake Varner, this heavyweight from Arlington, Texas, has already competed in three World Championships (2009, 2011 and 2013) as well as the 2012 Olympics.

And while his first Worlds appearance in 2009 provided him his first World medal (bronze), the former NCAA Division II champion from Nebraska-Kearney has a good idea what it will take to finally earn a gold medal; becoming the first American heavyweight to win a World championship since Stephen Neal in 1999.

“I just have to keep having fun and getting better,” said Dlagnev, who finished fifth in the 2011 and ’13 Worlds and the London Olympics in 2012. “I have to wake up that day and be the best in the world. I have to keep giving myself opportunities and wake up that day believing I will be the best.”

After blanking Zach Rey, the former NCAA champion from Lehigh, by identical 5-0 scores during Phase I of the World Team Trials in Madison, Wisc., on May 31, there is no question Dlagnev is the best heavyweight in the United States.

And Dlagnev has never felt better about himself than he does now.

“I’m a lot more at peace and having fun. I’m not worried about the results,” he said. “I’m wrestling the positions. This attitude is fun and fresh. As I get older, I learn how to tune up my training and try to gain wisdom.

“There were some things said to me the last World Championships when I came up short in 2013 that I’ve made sensible applications to my physical wrestling and how I will approach it mentally.”