TAMPERE, Finland — The wrestling world had already started to find out about the eighth grader from Minnesota by the time he packed his bags and left home to spend a summer at the Olympic Training Center.
For a stretch then, it was the longest two weeks of Mark Hall’s wrestling life. He was wrestling grown men and going days without even scoring a takedown.
“You get your butt kicked a lot,” he said. “But that’s a big part of who I am now. It takes a lot to discourage me and rattle me. I’m not too negative because I know it’s only practice, there’s nothing on the line. All I have to do is give 100 percent throughout the whole thing and what else is there to do? It was really important, not only for wrestling, but also from a personal standpoint.”
Those days in Colorado Springs helped accelerate Hall’s growth as a wrestler and put him on a track to where he stood Tuesday — atop the medal podium for the second straight year at the Junior World Championships, a feat accomplished just once before by the USA Wrestling men’s freestyle program.
The United States had never had a two-time Junior World champ until last year when Spencer Lee won his third World title and second in the Junior division and now Hall has matched those feats after decking Uzbekistan’s Isa Shapiev in 42 seconds Tuesday in the 74-kilogram gold medal match inside the Tampere Exhibition and Sports Centre.