Kyle Haas often finds himself sitting at the dinner table looking around at his family in disbelief of what he has achieved.
“I just made a world team,” said Haas, a junior at Maize High School.
On June 1 in Akron, Ohio, Haas won his third national championship, and a day later, he won his fourth. He said these were the two biggest tournaments of his life.
Haas wrestled at the United World Wrestling Cadet U.S. World Team Trial Tournaments for Greco-Roman and freestyle. The champion of each bracket at each weight class qualified for the national team, which will compete at the world championships from July 29 to August 4 in Bulgaria.
It will be his first international experience, and he gets to wrestle while he goes through it.
“I’ve already started looking things up on my phone and done a bunch of research,” Haas said. “I’ve been looking at their language.”
Haas said he entered the Greco tournament just to stay fresh and to see if he had a shot. Greco isn’t his strong suit, but he said he had practiced a bit over the previous two weeks. He reached the championship bout and beat Genoa, Wisconsin’s Tyler Hannah 10-6 in the first match and 2-1 in the second of three.
Haas said he faced Hannah in the quarterfinals of the same tournament a year ago and lost. In fact, he almost lost by technical fall.
“I knew I had a chance, but I also knew I never really train it,” Haas said. “I just learned a handful of throws and got really good at them.”
He rode that momentum into the freestyle tournament the following day, he said.
Haas said the freestyle tournament was loaded at 95 kilograms. In the quarterfinal round, Haas beat Rocky Elam of Kansas City, Missouri, 8-4. Elam was Missouri’s Class 4 state champion this past season and entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed.
In the semifinals, Haas topped Noah Pettigrew of Georgia’s Blair Academy, regarded as the best high school wrestling team in the country, 10-0. He only needed 1 minute and 55 seconds.
And in the championship match, Haas beat Ohio’s Seth Shumate 16-5 in the second bout. Haas said the styles are so different that he faced Shumate in Greco in just the second round.
Haas is the only cadet representative to reach the U.S. National Team in both tournaments. Last year, he placed fifth in Greco and was off the podium in freestyle.
He said it was exhausting to compete and win two tournaments in two days all while making weight. His adrenaline carried him through.
“Something just clicked the last month,” Haas said. “I’ve been wrestling a lot more calm. I don’t go out and burn all my energy. I just wrestle how I know how to wrestle, and it works. I don’t over-think anything.”
Haas said he is excited for the experience of a lifetime. He has started training and added some different elements to his regimen, including yoga, swimming and extra stretching — things that have already started to make a huge difference where he thought there would be none.
He said he has watched a lot of Russian wrestling to prepare himself for the best in the world and is ready to attack the tournament.
“It’s about your body being the best, your mind being the best and just wrestling,” Haas said.