Taking his experiences as an Olympic wrestler and paying it forward, Kevin Bracken is serving as a mentor to the young wrestlers who have recently qualified to represent the U.S. in the summer …
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Taking his experiences as an Olympic wrestler and paying it forward, Kevin Bracken is serving as a mentor to the young wrestlers who have recently qualified to represent the U.S. in the summer Olympics in Japan.
Currently, Bracken is the head coach of the Olympian Wrestling program in Castle Rock. In preparation of the summer Olympics, he will be participating in a brand-new mentoring program aimed at helping qualifying wrestlers be prepared for not only action on the matts but strengthening their mental focus to handle the intense pressure of competing on a world stage.
Bracken is no stranger to the world’s largest sports stage. While many know Bracken as the mayor pro tem on the Castle Rock Town Council, he was a top competitor in wrestling for many years.
Bracken, an American Greco-Roman wrestler, competed in the 2000 Summer Olympics where he finished in sixth place. In 1992, he was a third alternate. In 1996, he worked up to earn the first alternate position.
In college, Bracken wrestled for Illinois State University before the school eliminated its wrestling program during his final year. Bracken holds the record for the most career wins in the school’s history with 127. In 2005, he was inducted into the Illinois State University hall of fame.
Bracken, 49, said he has been wrestling since seventh grade. He not only knows the stress that goes into preparing for competition but understands the distractions everyday life can bring to the matt, which can cause a competitor to have a bad match on an important day.
“Being an elite athlete has a lot that comes with it,” he said. “You still have intense training with our regular daily-life problems. Some competitors grow up without a dad, some struggle with school. We work with them to deal with all aspects and thrive.”
Even after competing, Bracken said his passion for wrestling continued, which is how he found his way from Illinois to Castle Rock. Bracken said the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs has allowed him to pass on his knowledge and experience to other wrestlers.
“The goal really is to empower (these wrestlers) to be their best,” he said. “We are working with the top wrestlers and want to make sure we are fostering their future. Understanding the road to the Olympics is hard. Living that experience is a parallel experience. Being part of the Olympic games is an honor and it is truly exciting.”
With the finalists for the summer Olympics set, Bracken said his job along with other mentors and coaches is to get them ready. Part of that work includes be traveling to Atlanta in May to work with the wrestlers.
“So many of them have never been on an Olympic stage and don’t know what to expect once they get there,” he said. “The priorities are to make sure they are levelheaded and keep emotions in check. At the Olympics, it is all a circus. It is a circus in a good way, but it is draining.”
With many of the finalists in their early 20s, Bracken said they are just reaching adulthood. In the end, Bracken said preparing these young men to represent the U.S. on the world stage is an honor and a way he will give back to the sport he loves.
Bracken is also a football coach at Castle View High School.
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