If Saint Michael-Albertville (Albertville, Minn.) senior wrestler Tommy Thorn had quit the sport after first grade, as he wanted, surely his travel itinerary would have been much blander.
Thorn said in elementary school he nearly dropped the sport because he wasn’t keen on competing. But, he stuck with it as a social outlet, and two years into it his attitude completely shifted as he fell for the sport. Now, his athletic trajectory included a trip to Azerbaijan for the2012 FILA Cadet World Championships as wrestling has become the focus in his life.
He’s headed to compete at Minnesota next fall, and he’ll bring with him three individual state titles from three weight classes (103 as a freshman, 113 as a sophomore and 120 as a junior). And perhaps a fourth if Thorn proves as successful during his final prep season, for which he’ll move up to either the 126 or 132 weight class.
“You can never settle with how good you are,” Thorn said. “You always have to be working to get better.”
Beyond the high school mat, his victors include two national titles (2012 Junior Nationals and 2011 Cadet Nationals). Thorn has also competed in the FILA Cadet World Championships.
Thorn’s unstoppable nature caught our attention for the USA TODAY High School Sports’ Ultimate Athlete spotlight — an ongoing, interactive discussion about what sport supersedes the rest, a series featuring athlete profiles, smack talk, training videos and more.
We caught up with Thorn to debrief about what’s responsible behind all of those wins, his role models and what it’s like to compete at an elite level.
You hail from a bloodline of wrestlers. Your two older brothers were All-Americans at Minnesota, and you’re on the path to hopefully follow suit. What do you think separates your talents from theirs?
Thorn:We each have our own wrestling styles. My brother Mike is aggressive and physical; my brother David is more technical and slick. I’m a combination of the two — technical and physical.
What advice have your brothers shared that helped shaped your athletic development?
Thorn: By watching them wrestle in big tournaments growing up, I’ve learned how to handle big matches and how to keep my composure.
How might your approach shift as you’re preparing for a match on the high school, national and world circuits?
Thorn: I treat them all the same. For every match I try to focus on getting into my position and wrestling my match. Every time I lose, I feel like I let the other guy wrestle his type of match. I just try to wrestle in my positions, and if I do that I should win.
Tell us about competing at the 2012 World Championships in Azerbaijan.
Thorn: It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. The arena was awesome. The crowd was nuts, cheering and blaring horns. What was most surprising about the experience was how fast it went. I trained for a month, wrestled one match and it was over.
I was excited to wrestle, and though I didn’t put together my best match, it was fun being a part of Team USA, and the coaches and training were awesome. The experience definitely makes me want to make another world team in the future.
What did you learn about foreign wrestling that then influenced your approach on the mat?
Thorn: Foreigners are more focused on getting to control ties, and they have a more explosive style instead of constant aggression. I don’t think I’ve changed my style because of it, but if I ever wrestle a foreigner again, I’ll take that into account.
You’ve said you like to keep the pressure on your opponent. How so?
Thorn: I get into my tie-up and work into my shots, and I always like to be on the offense. I don’t like sitting around outside of tie-ups. I like to stay aggressive.
Who in the sport do you most look up to?
Thorn: I look up to my coaches from Pinnacle Wrestling — Jared Lawrence and Brandon Paulson. They are some of the best and toughest guys I know. I look up to my brothers, too. They’re always working hard and were great wrestlers. And Jordan Burroughs is amazing.
Where do your see your future in the sport?
Thorn:I want to wrestle through college and have as much success as possible, and then I’ll see where I want to go from there. I’d like to think about going to the Olympics, that’d be really cool. If I’m at that level, I’d love to pursue that.