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Sheffield hopes to stay focused, wrestle smart in Olympic Trials
Rick Scoppe, The Daily News, Jacksonville, NC

It also helped get him where he is today, which is headed to the Olympic Trials on Saturday in Iowa City, Iowa.

Sheffield, a lance corporal who wrestles at 120 kilograms in Greco-Roman, is one of six members of the Marine Corps wrestling team to earn a spot in the two-day trials, with the winner from each weight class advancing to the Olympics.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Sheffield, who qualified for the trials by finishing eighth in the nationals. “I’ve definitely been in situations like this before, not for the Olympics but the world team trials during non-Olympic years.

“It’s a good feeling. But it’s just going to be another wrestling match just like any other is how I’m taking it.”

Sheffield is a newcomer to the Marines, having joined in February 2011 after graduating from UNC-Greensboro, where he wrestled for five years as a heavyweight and was an academic All-American along with being All-Southern Conference as a senior.

After that, he spent about two years wrestling Greco-Roman with his college coach before deciding to join the Marines.

“I felt it would be a good opportunity to serve my country and also a chance to get on the wrestling team,” Sheffield said during a recent interview. “Major Hicks saw some potential in me. So he decided to give me an opportunity.

Hicks is coach Dan Hicks, who indeed liked what he saw from Sheffield.

“College kid, hard worker; still adjusting to Greco,” Hicks said, adding Sheffield is still adjusting to the more upper-body oriented Greco-Roman style of wrestling. “But the potential’s there. He’s just got to learn the sport. He’s got some technical issues to work out. … He’s not a 2012 (Olympian). He’s a 2016 guy.”

Which isn’t to say Sheffield couldn’t win, only that it will tough, although he said he’s “ready to go.”

“I think I’m ready. We’ve been training for quite a while,” he said.

Sheffield, who played football as well as threw the discus and shot put in high school, said he likes wrestling because of the training.

“It keeps you in shape really well,” he said. “I just like it. It’s fun to go out there and try some new moves and get a medal or the experience of it all.”

There’s also the wrestling mentality, which he said differs from team sports like, say, football.

“I think there’s a big difference. Football players, you don’t have to really use your brain too much I don’t think,” Sheffield said. “But in wrestling you’ve got to kind of think what you’re doing out there. You just can’t go out there and grunt and push around.”

That’s not all; however, that Sheffield said will be key for him in the Olympic Trials.

“I’ve just got to stay focused, wrestle smart,” he said, “and don’t make any bad decisions and stay healthy.”