UVU junior Taylor LaMont has accomplished a lot in his wrestling career, including winning four state titles when he wrestled for Maple Mountain in high school and winning the prestigious Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in 2017.

But it had been awhile since he got to enjoy winning.

That was one of the biggest rewards for LaMont when he won the 2020 U23 Greco-Roman national championship at 60 kilos last Friday at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Neb.

“It was awesome,” LaMont said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I’ve had a lot of success growing up in the sport of wrestling, but now that I’m on a higher level, competing against other high-level athletes every time, it’s been a while since I’ve actually stood atop the podium and been first place my bracket. It felt good to get that national title, bring home that award, avenge one of my past losses and kind of get the monkey off my back. It felt good to be back where I always envisioned myself being.”

He explained that winning this particular event (in which he competed as a member of the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club) usually would result in an automatic qualification to go represent Team USA at the World Championships, but those championships have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That meant LaMont and the other wrestlers had a lot less pressure to deal with.

“It wasn’t quite as stressful,” LaMont said. “There wasn’t much on the line. It was really just about getting out there and going back to the truest form of wrestling, just having fun doing what you love. That’s what I grew up with and what I fell in love with. When you take out the pressure, it makes it a lot more fun.”

LaMont said the numbers were down because of the circumstances but there were still a lot of elite wrestlers who were as anxious to compete as he was.

“It’s hard because everything gets canceled or pushed back,” LaMont said. “You have to keep training like they’re going to happen. This tournament actually happened but there’s so many other tournaments that haven’t happened, so it’s hard mentally to stay focused. It has just helped me just to really be grateful for the opportunities I do have to wrestle.”

It did have a downside, however, since after winning the Greco-Roman national title in his weight class, LaMont moved on the the freestyle bracket. After two wins, however, he had to pull out because he got injured.

“My knee popped halfway through my second match,” LaMont said.” I actually finished the match and won it, but after that I was pretty convinced that it was pretty serious so I pull out of the tournament. But I went to the doctor yesterday and so far it’s looking like it won’t be that serious.”

Being able to stay healthy is definitely key for the Wolverine junior since he has big dreams about what he wants to do in the next year.

“I’ve qualified for the Olympic Trials, so assuming those happen I expect to make the Olympic team next April,” LaMont said. “I want to be the best in the world, nothing less. That’s what I train every day to be.”

The postponements because of COVID-19 will force LaMont to tackle another challenge, since he graduated with his psychology degree this year and has started his master’s program in marriage and family therapy.

“It’s a lot more demanding and I’m taking it a lot more seriously,” LaMont said. “This has always been my plan but the Olympic Trials were supposed to be last summer and now I’m going to be in grad school next summer, when Olympic Trials and the Olympics are supposed to be, It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how all this is going to pan out. I just control what I can control and do my best.”

He said his efforts to be the best in his sport during much of his life has helped him developed a refined sense of gratitude.

“I just have an attitude of being thankful,” LaMont said. “I’m so blessed in so many ways. I grew up in an amazing family with great support for my athletics and I’ve been blessed to have some of the best coaches and partners. Even through my failures I’ve learned a lot and been given a lot. I have so much to be grateful for.”

Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

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