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By Craig Sesker
Braxton Amos is an elite wrestler with sky-high expectations.
And a bright, articulate and personable young man who knows exactly what he wants.
Targeted by the most elite programs in the country, the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 220 pounds was recruited by powerhouse schools Penn State, Oklahoma State and Ohio State.
But he chose Chris Bono’s up-and-coming program at the University of Wisconsin.
“I love everything about Wisconsin,” Amos said. “Just their values and what they stand for — that really impressed me. The coaches and the wrestlers they have are good, hard-working people who love the sport. I was really sold on the wrestling program plus I will have a lot of great workout partners to train with. It’s a great school academically. It’s a really nice campus and Madison is an awesome city — it’s beautiful there.”
Amos, a two-time state champ from Parkersburg South in West Virginia, has already compiled an incredible resume.
He’s a five-time Fargo champion along with earning three Super 32 titles, two Ironman crowns and a pair of Powerade championships.
Amos has been a fixture the past few Julys at USA Wrestling’s prestigious Cadet and Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D. His collection of “stop sign” plaques includes two Cadet freestyle titles, two Cadet Greco-Roman crowns and one Junior freestyle championship.
He was on course to add a Junior Greco title this past summer before spraining ligaments in his knee. He injured his knee early in the tournament.
Amos went on to win his quarterfinal and semifinal bouts, but he was unable to wrestle in the finals after his coaches had him default because of his injury.
Greco-Roman is the style he is leaning toward pursuing at the international level.
Amos attracted plenty of attention from the nation’s top college programs. He also had neighboring Virginia Tech in his top five.
“It was tough to narrow it down to five schools — there were a lot of great schools to consider,” he said. “I felt like Wisconsin would be a place where I could get better academically and in wrestling. They were willing to support everything I value.”
Amos said Wisconsin coaches Chris Bono and Jon Reader won him over with their dynamic and direct approach.
“Bono and Reader bring a lot of enthusiasm and passion to wrestling,” Amos said. “They love the sport and they love the athletes they are coaching. They are demanding coaches who are intense. They push you and try to get the most out of you. That’s exactly what I want in a coach.”
While Amos wrestles virtually year-round, he is playing football this fall as a 5-foot-11, 220-pound nose guard for Parkersburg South. It’s the first time he’s played football since eighth grade.
“We have a new football coach and I decided to come out for the team this year,” he said. “Our team is doing really well. We’re off to a 7-0 start and ranked third in Class AAA. It’s been fun — I’m enjoying it. Our football program hasn’t had this much success in a while so it’s been great to be a part of a team that’s doing well.”
Amos said his weight will drop to around 210 pounds during the high school wrestling season while he competes in the 220-pound division. He plans to wrestle 197 in college.
Wrestling caught Amos at an early age.
“When I was little, I had a lot of energy I needed to expend and I could do that by wrestling,” he said. “Now I just love what you have to do to stay successful in wrestling. I’ve learned to be very disciplined with everything I do and with the lifestyle you have to live.”
Amos has followed numerous wrestlers on the Senior level who he looks up to.
“I love watching Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Snyder,” he said. “I’ve met both of them and had a chance to sit down and talk to them. I love the type of people they are. They are great guys who have a strong faith and good values.”
Once the high school season ends, Amos has another goal he’s focusing on.
“I want to make an age-level World team this season,” he said. “That’s the next big goal I have.”
There are bigger goals he wants to achieve after that.
“I want to win as many national titles as I can in college,” he said, “and hopefully make a Senior World Team before I’m out of college.”
Amos hopes to study engineering or business accounting in college.
He hails from a state not known for producing an abundance of elite wrestlers.
“I love West Virginia — it’s a lot of fun representing such a small state,” he said. “I love the state and I loved growing up there. It’s a great place to live. There are lots of small, rural communities where everybody knows everybody. It’s home for me, and the people are close-knit and nice. I will always consider it home.”
Amos took a recent break from football season to win the prestigious Super 32 event for the third time on Oct. 13.
“I’m happy I won, but I still have a lot to work on,” he said. “I didn’t have much time to train for it because I’ve been playing football. My conditioning wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be for wrestling, but I was able to come out on top.”
Amos credits much of his success on the mat to the mindset and approach he brings to his matches.
“I wrestle an aggressive style,” he said. “I just go out there and try to score a ton of points and keep attacking. I don’t like the boring 2-1 and 3-2 matches — those aren’t for me. I take a lot of shots and just keep working. I like to keep the pressure on my opponents. I’m always looking for my offense.
“That’s how I was taught to wrestle and that’s the way you should wrestle.”