Updated: August 22, 2018

By Mike Finn

(Note: The following is an excerpt of a story that ran in the current issue of WIN magazine. To view the rest of the story, click here to subscribe to WIN or call 888-305-0606. Use promo code “August.”)


It’s that time of year again when high school students are returning from summer vacation. And one of the first questions most face is: What did you do this summer?

“What I can’t wait to say is that I got to represent USA by wrestling in Croatia and getting to train with Team USA and winning a gold medal,” said Matt Ramos, prior to returning for his senior year at Lockport (Ill.) High School.

While the July 4 moment was indeed an incredible honor for someone who hasn’t even won a state high school title, Ramos downplayed the fact he traveled over 5,000 miles to the Zagreb, Croatia, the site of the 2018 UWW Cadet World Championships … in what was his first international trip.

“A lot of people ask me what Croatia is like,” said Ramos. “We stayed in the city in Croatia so there wasn’t much to see. But the immediate area was nice and the food was good.”

But it wasn’t as memorable as the 17-year-old men’s freestyler — who actually gave up a family trip to the Philippines this summer to even qualify for a chance to compete at the Cadet Worlds — coming from behind to beat similarly-young wrestlers from Greece, Mongolia, Iran and Japan at 112 pounds that provided a moment that Ramos said ranks “as a 10” in his life.

“Just being with my teammates and getting to know Team USA, the coaches and all the wrestlers I got to train with is something I will not forget,” he said. “Even before Croatia, I got to train in the Olympic Training Center. Bonding with that team for two weeks helped me out so much.”

Macey Kilty (left) held off Sweden’s Julia Fridlund to capture the 152-pound Cadet World title in Zagreb, Croatia, in July.

There is no doubt that many of the 30 young Americans, who traveled to Croatia, looked at the Cadet Worlds experience similar to Ramos. That was especially true for 11 medalists in three styles, including fellow World champions Emily Shilson (95 pounds) and Macey Kilty (152) in women’s freestyle.

“I think it boosted my confidence a lot,” said Kilty, 17, a native of Stratford, Wisc., who will be a senior at River Falls High School this fall. “It’s good knowing I can compete with that level of wrestling and do really well against them.”

Of all the wrestlers who are representing the United States in World competition this year, perhaps none have traveled more than Kilty, who had already competed twice in Sweden and once in the country of Georgia the past two years and was preparing to also compete in the 2018 UWW Junior Worlds, Sept. 17-22, in Trnava, Slovakia.

“It makes me feel special,” said Kilty, but admitted, “my family wants to spend more time with me.”

Actually, Kilty’s parents — Pat and Keresa — have welcomed the opportunities their daughter has enjoyed because of her career in the sport of wrestling, a sport she began doing as a kindergartner.

“If you put the proper people around them, you have to trust them and the process,” said Pat, moments after Macey also won a second-straight Junior Nationals championship, July 18, in Fargo, N.D. “You realize as a parent you are doing the right things.”

For the Kiltys, that person is Kevin Black. He is the head coach of the River Falls High School and also started the Victory School of Wrestling in this western Wisconsin community that sits 40 miles east of Minneapolis.

“Sometimes we look at how talented these young people are and we think they are ready for things,” said Black. “Some of those things might break other people, but she takes them as opportunities; sometimes begrudgingly.

“The No. 1 thing is that she is really driven. She wants to compete and get better. She goes to bed every night with a dream and wakes up with a plan. She’s got her ducks in a row and it’s really easy for us to help facilitate this because she’s driving the ship.

“There have been some important things for her in terms of communicating her needs and recognizing where she is in the world, she still has a lot to learn.”


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