It's been quite a run for former Oak Harbor wrestler J.D. Bergman.
Last month in the U.S. Open in Las Vegas, he won his 96 kilogram weight class, and more recently, he took part in the “The Rumble on the Rails” between the United States, Iran and Russia at Grand Central Station in New York City.
The three countries are uniting to help raise awareness and spread the word regarding wrestling’s standing in the Olympics. After the International Olympic Committee voted in February to remove wrestling as an event from the 2020 Games, there has been a widespread movement amongst the wrestling community and its supporters to pressure the IOC into keeping wrestling in the Olympics.
Bergman, who hopes to compete at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, said. “I was in Bulgaria when that decision was made. We didn't really believe it at first, it was extremely surreal. It didn't make any sense.
“It didn't seem like there was much hope initially,” Bergman continued. “With the U.S. and Russia and Iran, we've done some marketing. The way Iran, Russia and the U.S are uniting for a single cause, I don't think these countries have ever done that.”
Currently, wrestling is one of eight sports fighting to fill one spot in the 2020 Games. The IOC board will meet May 29 in Russia to draw up a shortlist before a final decision is reached in September.
Bergman has made the decision to continue wrestling instead of retiring. Last September, he traveled to Canada to do some soul searching. He stayed with a friend, his wife and their six children and used the opportunity to decide what he wanted to do with his life.
“I was leaning towards retiring,” Bergman said. “I decided to go up there to pray, read the Bible and look for direction of the next step of my life. I was pretty surprised (with my own decision). On paper, it seemed like retiring and going after a few of the other passions I have in life made more sense. Being in less pain and going into the 'real world' (was a possibility). Acting, television, public speaking, youth ministry and having a wife and kids are things that I'm extremely passionate about, most of which I have experience in and want to pursue.
“God wants to give us the desires of our heart when we are living for Him, and one of my desires is to be the best in the world at wrestling. I don't have to stop wrestling, I just have to change the training a little bit to take care of my body.”
As a result, Bergman has decided to adopt a healthier lifestyle, which includes a better nutrition and sleep schedule. He's seeing his chiropractor three times per week and is doing more CrossFit training in an effort to increase his mobility and flexibility and to reduce the wear and tear on his body.
Bergman has also had the unique experience of acting in a movie called Foxcatcher, set to premiere later this year. The movie features stars Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell details the life of John du Pont, a paranoid schizophrenic who killed wrestler Dave Schultz, a 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist who is revered in the sport.
“I got in touch with a wrestler who was working on the story,” Bergman said. “I pulled some strings and made an impromptu video and got a callback. I said in that video that my Uncle Joe (Bergman) made t-shirts honoring Dave's memory (in 1996) and how much of an honor it would be to now be in the feature film about Schultz.”
Bergman is hoping that the movie can help to raise awareness and create some momentum behind wrestling being an Olympic sport in 2020.
“I really hope that it does wrestling justice,” Bergman said. “We've already reached out to Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. (Ruffalo) is an excellent actor and an extremely nice guy.”
Bergman says a documentary called Ithaka is coming out that follows the lives of the wrestlers competing at the Ohio Regional Training Center. A link for the trailer can be found on U-Tube.
If you'd like to keep up with Bergman's progress, you can follow him on Twitter, at JDBergmanUSA and visit his Facebook page “J.D. Bergman's Olympic Dream 2016.”