Baltimore’s Pat Downey has faced and conquered plenty of competition in his life as a wrestler, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrinkle into his Olympic dream. The Summer Games in Tokyo were postponed until the summer of 2021, placing another year of preparation in front of the athletes.
“It was almost like a sense of relief. … Now that we know the Olympics are pushed back a year, you almost kind of think everything else is pushed back a year, and you just kind of regroup,” Downey said on Glenn Clark Radio March 31, adding that “it’s definitely something that needed to happen.”
Downey is the United States’ top wrestler in his weight class (189 pounds), a former All-American at Iowa State and three-time Maryland state champion at North County High School in Glen Burnie, Md. He was also a 2019 Senior World Team member at the 2019 World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, last September.
This change could affect Olympic hopefuls the same way it’s affecting college seniors in spring sports being offered another year of eligibility. Should they stay at the same level for another year or move on to the next step?
“I’ve wrestled for damn near my entire life, over 20 years now,” Downey said. “Whatever my body allows me to do, I’m going to take it to the limit.”
Following the announcement of the delay and social distancing guidelines, Downey has allowed himself to gain some weight in the time off, but he still plans to train and compete in the postponed games next year after his long journey here.
“It’s been a wild ride since before high school,” Downey said, “coming up through high school in the Baltimore area, local kids, the Olympics — and that’s when it’s like the pinnacle, right?”
Downey, now 27 years old, doesn’t fear that his age will be much of a problem, citing numerous professional fighters like Daniel Cormier (41) continuing their careers into their late 30s and early 40s.
“I’m 27 now … but at the same time there’s guys that are an entire cycle, four years older than me,” Downey said.
He is, of course, referring to the Olympic cycle, something that became five years this time around due to the pandemic. The last time the Olympics weren’t held on time was due to World War II when three separate games (1940, 1942 and 1944) were canceled entirely.
During his extra year, Downey has plenty more opportunities to interact with followers on social media. Something he loves to do is respond to fans and haters alike; he sees the good and bad interactions only as a good way to expand his outreach and following, but Downey insists anything he will say to you online he’ll say to your face, too.
“I’m not here to prove these people wrong, you know? You can like what I say and follow it and be a fan and love me, or you can like it and follow it and hate me. But regardless it’s good for me, it’s in my favor,” Downey said. “You love me, hate me — both I use as fuel.”
After the Olympics happen in a year’s time, Downey plans to learn mixed martial arts. With the same management as superstar UFC fighter Conor McGregor in tow, Downey seems to be well on his way toward a professional fighting career.
“There’s a lot of good company in the MMA-UFC world that are previously wrestlers,” Downey said. “It just seems natural for me to take that next step after these Olympics.”
For more from Downey, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pat Downey
See Also: Glenn Clark: Amateur Wrestler Pat Downey Might Be A Villain Worth Rooting For (June 19, 2017)