Sports News

It's always forward' for USMC wrestler Donald Simmons
Rick Scoppe, The Daily News, Jacksonville, NC

There’s guys out there that I’ve beaten that are way better than me,” Simmons said. “This year I beat three junior national champs. I never even wrestled in junior national championships. They have better technique than me. But I have a couple of moves that I do, and I just beat them on sheer want-to.”
That want-to has landed him in the Olympic Trials, one of six wrestlers from the USMC team based out of Camp Lejeune to earn a spot in the two-day event that begins Saturday in Iowa City, Iowa.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Simmons, who wrestles at 84 kilograms and qualified for the trials at the nationals. “It’s a big opportunity.”
Coach Dan Hicks calls Simmons “our young stud.”
“He just came into this room less than two years ago, and he was third in Pennsylvania (high school state championships). His resume coming in here was, ‘Third in Pennsylvania and I thought I’d never wrestle again,’” Hicks said.
“But he’s super tough. He’s a super hard working kid. He’s picked it up. He’s really learned how to win. He’s the future of this team. Hopefully, he’ll stick around. He’s probably a 2016 (Olympic) guy, but actually he way he wrestles and as tough as he is, he could beat anybody. So he’s got a decent shot.”
Simmons said he’s a bit nervous, anxious and excited as the trials near.
“All of the above, but good nerves,” he said. “It’s good to have a little bit of nerves. It kind of drives you, but more anxious and excited to go out there and see what happens. I’m feeling good. I just feel like right now I’m reaching my full potential. So I’m real anxious to see how it goes.”
Simmons started wrestling when he was 5 years old and joined the Marine Corps out of Halifax (Pa.) Area High School, where as a senior he said he was undefeated — his closest match, as he recalled, was “like 8-2” — until he made a mistake.
“It’s the wrestling story, you know? Cut too much weight. Got mono. Got sick. I wrestled through it. Didn’t turn out the way that I could have. I beat a couple state champs that year at like 52 and 60 and a couple third-place guys,” he recalled.
But it wasn’t enough to win the state title.
After graduating, he joined the Marines, which was something he said he’d wanted to do since he was 9 years old.
“I always loved the idea of being a Marine. That’s what I did. I thought I was done wrestling after high school,” he said.
Then, however, he “got lucky.”
“We used to do some ground fighting stuff in the fleet and our CO was like, ‘You’re pretty good. You ever wrestle?’” Simmons said. “He actually got me hooked up over here, got a tryout and came over and worked hard and they kept me around.”
Simmons said the reason he likes wrestling is the same reason why he likes the Marine.
“It’s a small sport really,” he said. “There is no professional wrestling. We are professional wrestlers, but no one knows that. It’s you and the other guy out there. There’s nobody else. You have nobody to blame.
“Whatever you do shows on the mat. You have nowhere to hide. It’s just the most physical sport there is, and it’s the hardest sport there is. It’s the hardest six minutes of any sport.”
And, for Simmons, the most gratifying.
“When you can beat that guy, or you can feel him quit, that’s the gratification in itself,” he said. “A lot of tournaments, me and my dad, he would take me everywhere wrestling when I was a kid, a lot of times I wouldn’t even stay to get my trophy.
“I’d be, ‘Let’s go home dad.’ It wasn’t about that for me. It’s just knowing that you made that other guy quit or all the work that you put in shows. That’s what it’s about.”