Olympic gold medalist speaks to wrestlers
By Ben Knoll
Signal Sports Writer
The Olympics. The biggest and most important athletic event in the world. Once every four years, the world sits back and watches as countries from across the globe send their most skilled athletes to compete for glory and homeland pride.
Baldwin City got a taste of this glory Tuesday evening when former Olympic gold medalist Kendall Cross visited town to give young wrestlers some wrestling tips and to give them some insight into what it takes to become a champion.
Flashback to 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia, the year that Cross won his gold metal. The Olympics would be one of domination for the United States. The hometown team finished with 101 total medals, far ahead of Russia, the country with the second highest total of 63.
Cross wasn't even the USA's first choice to represent the country in the games.
Cross had to upset the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class during the Olympic trials to gain a trip to Atlanta.
Once in the Olympics, Cross proved he belonged and did his part in driving the USA team to its dominating finish.
Competing in the freestyle division and the Bantam weight class, Cross cruised through his first three matches. He then won his final match against Canadian Giuvi Sissaouri, the Olympic favorite, 5-3.
Cross, described by a reporter as "an unbelievable competitor," then took the platform and received his gold medal.
This unbelievable competitor walked into Collins gym Tuesday night to talk to a group of young wrestlers from around the Baldwin area.
Cross chose volunteers and performed some of the moves that he used during his Olympic experience and during college. Cross attended Oklahoma State University, where he was an NCAA national champion and a three-time All-American.
Cross has experienced amazing success during his wrestling career, but he maintains that his formula for winning is simple.
"I just outworked everyone," Cross said. "Lots of my opponents were more talented wrestlers, but I was a harder worker."
During the two hours the wrestling seminar lasted, Cross let the wrestlers try some of the moves and techniques themselves, while giving tips and pointers.
His great work ethic was on display Tuesday as he took the time to make sure that each wrestler was performing each move correctly.
Asked why he travels the United States teaching young kids about wrestling, Cross says that he wants to give kids inspiration.
"Obviously, I'm here to teach the kids about wrestling," Cross said. "But I'm also here for a more important reason, and that's to help kids see that they can do things like I did."
Cross ended his wrestling clinic in an inspirational way, telling the story of how he was an underdog during the Olympics but still achieved his goal.
After Cross is done with the clinic, he was asked about the emotions of winning an Olympic gold medal. His eyes immediately lit up.
"It's indescribable. Someone would have to do it to know what it's like," Cross said. "When you finally reach a goal that you have worked for your entire life -- it's impossible to describe the feeling."
Cross signs some autographs for the wrestlers, and talks to some parents.
Then as he is leaving, he is asked what he would say to a young athlete with the same lofty goals that he has achieved.
Cross thinks for a moment, and then answers.
"Believe in yourself. There's nothing more important than that," he said. "Just believe in yourself."