Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Wrestler Charley Combs sets his sights on the Olympics

Charley Combs, 25, is a former state placer for Hernando High. He’s training to go to Iowa for the U.S. Olympic Preliminary Trials.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Charley Combs, 25, is a former state placer for Hernando High. He’s training to go to Iowa for the U.S. Olympic Preliminary Trials.

BROOKSVILLE — It may be in his blood, but wrestling hasn't exactly been kind to Charley Combs.

Through it all, though, he keeps coming back.

The 25-year-old Hernando High School alumnus is preparing to return to competitive wrestling for the first time in five years to enter the U.S. Olympic Trials, which will take place April 21 and 22 in Iowa City, Iowa.

The dream isn't the long shot that some may think. Combs has the skills. It's only a question of shaking off the rust and dealing with some of the obstacles he has faced in the past.

Combs is the son of National Wrestling Hall of Fame member and longtime Hernando coach Billy Combs. He has been grappling since he was a young boy.

"The thing about having a Hall of Famer as a father is that you have a constant friend and constant coach," Charley said. "He's pretty much a dictionary on the sport."

Just before his high school career was set to begin, however, Charley suffered a crushing blow. He was involved in a serious automobile crash on Thanksgiving 2001 and was ejected from the car, nearly killing him. It left him with permanent nerve damage and a long road back.

"It was pretty difficult being so young," he said. "It was a process. I missed most of that year. But it made me a lot tougher and brought my family closer."

Not only did Combs find the strength to get past the crash, by his sophomore year he was wrestling at the varsity level. He qualified for the state meet every season the rest of his high school career, even placing as the state runner-up as a junior in 2004 at 152 pounds.

Combs doesn't have fond memories of his senior season. Cutting weight to help the team, he struggled at 145 pounds and didn't even place at state. Many of his top collegiate offers dried up, leaving him to sign with William Penn University in Iowa. He never attended a class there.

After missing a year of school, Combs traveled to Marquette, Mich., to train at the U.S. Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan University. He credits that experience with making him more mature as a grappler and in life.

Working with renowned coach and wrestler Ivan Ivanov, Combs made significant strides. Ivanov had placed fifth at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and was also named the National Greco-Roman Coach of the Year in 2009.

All of the hard work led to Combs to sign with King College in Tennessee for the school's inaugural season of wrestling in 2005. He was named team captain, but never was able to compete because of numerous injuries he sustained while at the school.

"It was the little injuries that really held me back." Combs said. "It was hard to stay really focused."

He moved back to Brooksville and stopped competing. He had a brief Mixed Martial Arts career, but after a chance meeting with a wrestling friend, Ray Brinzer, two things happened. Combs rolled around on the matt with Brinzer, who placed third at the NCAA Championships in 1993 and 1995. It piqued his interest in the sport again. But he also broke a rib, forcing him to cancel his first MMA bout.

Most recently, working at Gold's Gym in Brooksville, Combs has been training as much as possible. His biggest struggle has been finding suitable training partners. When you're competing for a spot on the Olympic team, you can't roll around with just anyone and expect to improve.

Regardless of how he does at the trials, Combs is back. He feels a connection to the sport that will never go away. This isn't some last-ditch effort to "make it," he says.

"I am just looking at it as a senior-level tournament to see if I can still compete," he said. "I want to see if I can get in the swing of things. Win or lose, it's something I want to do."

Charley Combs

High School:

Hernando High,

class of 2004

Born:

Brooksville,

Nov. 6, 1986

Accomplishments: Florida high school state runner-up (152 pounds), 2003; three-time high school state qualifier; trained at U.S. Olympic Education Training Center in Michigan, 2004; King College (Tenn.) wrestling captain, 2005-06.

Wrestler Charley Combs sets his sights on the Olympics 03/31/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 31, 2012 12:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. HomeTeam 100: Players 21-30

    Footballpreps

    TAMPA - Jesuit linebacker Anthony Nelson will help lead the Tigers into the 2017 season. Taken 5-17-17 by Scott Purks
  2. For starters: Cobb on the hill against Orioles

    Blogs

     

    Alex Cobb takes the mound, hoping to duplicate his performance from Friday when he was three outs away from pitching a complete game.
  3. Bucs DE Jacquies Smith (ACL) will start on active PUP list

    Blogs

    In the first quarter of a season opening win at Altanta last season, Jacquies Smith suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while attemping to cover a punt.

    Jacquies Smith will begin training camp on the active Physically Unable to Perform list.
  4. Odorizzi on disabled list with lower back strain

    Blogs

    Odorizzi (6-4, 4.47) has been victimized this season by the long ball, allowing 23 home runs in his 18 starts. He will miss starts in homer-friendly Yankee Stadium and against the homer-happy Astros in Houston next week.

    Jake Odorizzi was placed on the 10-day disabled list this morning.
  5. Bucs rookies Beckwith, McNichols cleared for training camp

    Blogs

    The Bucs took a calculated risk on two injured players that were discounted in the NFL draft and it may pay off.

    LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwiith (51) fell to the third round after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a game against Florida Nov. 19.