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Wrestling: Shungnak’s Spencer Woods moves up weight class to chase his Olympic dream, wins U.S. Senior Nationals

by | Dec 20, 2023 | Cover Story, Wrestling

Spencer Woods

Shungnak wrestler Spencer Woods is jumping up a weight class in order to pursue a spot in the 2024 Summer Olympics, but he hasn’t lost his edge while gaining weight.

Woods claimed the 87-kilogram Greco-Roman title last weekend at the U.S. Senior Nationals in Fort Worth, Texas, showing quickness and energy in a weight class 11 pounds heavier than what he’s used to.

Woods, 25, enjoyed many successes during two seasons at 82 kg, but the Olympics has fewer weight classes than other international competitions and 82 kg is not one of them.

The extra weight didn’t hamper Woods in an 11-3 championship-bout win Saturday over 2016 Olympian Mahmoud Sebie, an Egyptian-turned-American. Woods was active the entire six minutes to wear down Sebie, who headbutted Woods a couple of times in the chippy match.

Woods absorbed the punishment with panache.

“I’ve run into many things,” Woods told reporters after the match. “I’m from Alaska, I’ve killed grizzly bears. A guy like that doesn’t scare me at all.

“… You’ve gotta kill me to beat me. You can’t beat me. You can’t throw me. You can’t do anything. You’re gonna have to do a lot to take me out, and I’m not giving up.”

It was the second Senior National title for Woods, who survived a bruising two days in Fort Worth. In a 4-2 semifinal win, he sported a bloody forehead after taking a head knock.

The title will send Woods to the 2024 Pan Am Games in Acapulco, Mexico, in February. He’s the defending champion at 82 kg but will stay at 87 kg as he continues his pursuit of an Olympic berth.

Woods, who won two Alaska high school championships at Kotzebue High School, is a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. It’s a good place to hone Olympic-caliber skills – four of the six Greco-Roman titles at stake at the Senior Nationals were claimed by WCAP wrestlers.

Woods said daily battles with tough teammates prepare him well for big competitions.

“We do this every single day,” he said. “This is nothing new to us, this is just a glorified medal ceremony.”

WCAP wrestlers train in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Woods has been pursuing a biology degree at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. He finished his last three classes in early December, mom Stephanie Woods said on Facebook.

Though school is behind him, big tests are not. Woods faces a huge test in April — the U.S. Olympic Trials at Penn State. Winners will represent the United States at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris next August.

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