Climmons’ only shot would have been the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, had the IOC not reversed its decision seven months later and reinstated the sport.
Now, Climmons doesn’t have to worry about that, and neither do his teammates at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
A two-time state champion with a No. 1 national ranking in his weight class as a senior, Climmons joined the USA Olympic wrestling development program in October and has since been training there. He initially enrolled at the nearby Air Force Academy following his graduation from Pope, but didn’t find the military lifestyle to his liking.
“I was at the Air Force Prep School and realized the military really wasn’t for me,” Climmons said. “I wanted to go a different route, so I filled out a questionnaire for the University of Oklahoma during the out process of getting out of the military, and the (Oklahoma) coaches emailed me back.
“We talked. I took a visit and I loved it. They wanted me to come out in January, but I didn’t want to use a full year of eligibility for half a season of competition. So I’m going to start fresh in June and be ready to get after it.”
With his college plans locked up at Oklahoma, Climmons, a two-time all-American and national high school champion, still needed a place to stay and train to prepare for his Olympic pursuits. He was already in Colorado Springs, so joining the Olympic program seemed to be a solid option.
“I emailed the coach (Brandon Slay) and told him of my interest and he emailed me back and said I had a spot on the team,” Climmons said. “That was really exciting news. He said I have a bed there for a year, so just come over and live there and train.”
It’s been non-stop training for Climmons ever since.
“All I do is eat, sleep and train,” he said.
Climmons arrived at the training center in mid-October and was on the mats for training immediately.
“It’s been crazy and hard,” he said. “I had to get stitches one day my second week there. I got beat up wrestling national champions and people in the top five in the country, so it’s tough. It’s a tough experience, but I love it there.”
Climmons is part of the developmental program headed by Slay and Bill Zadek.
After waking up around 6:30 a.m. to get something to eat, there’s a morning workout or drill that focuses on technique and working fundamentals that lasts roughly an hour. Then, there’s a more strenuous and intense workout for nearly two hours in the afternoon.
The team practices twice daily, except on Wednesdays, when the workouts aren’t as difficult and usually involve swimming or some cross-fit training. Saturday workouts also involve weight-training.
Climmons spends his down time sleeping or eating, or trying to recover from practice with an ice bath or massage. Trainers also look at him from time to time.
The training center includes Olympic hopefuls from other sports including judo, swimming and diving and men’s gymnastics.
“Almost every different sport is here,” Climmons said. “It’s crazy. It’s like a college campus with dorm rooms and everything.”
Climmons is one of five wrestlers out of high school who is a part of the developmental program. He traveled to Nice, France, towards the end of November with other members of Team USA to compete in his first event — the Henri Deglane International Challenge, sanctioned by FILA, wrestling’s international governing body.
Climmons’ first taste of international competition went well. He went 3-1 and tied for third out of 18 competitors in the freestyle senior division at 84 kilograms, the equivalent to 185 pounds.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Climmons said. “I love it. It was my first overseas meet and it was cool. It was nerve-racking at first, but I did what the coaches told me to do and tied for a bronze medal.
“Europeans wrestle differently, but I definitely know I’m getting better. I’m just trying to get better and get ready for next year at Oklahoma. I want to get a national title there and get on the podium as a freshman.”
Pope coach Jim Haskin is excited for his former pupil.
“Brooks is training with some of the best kids in the country,” he said, “so it’s a pretty sweet deal to go out of high school to be with those guys for half a year before going to OU.
“We’re proud of him. I want him and all of my kids to go on and do great things in life. When you get to a situation when you have this opportunity — holy cow, that’s the top level. When you get a chance to wrestle at Oklahoma, and then there’s the possibility to go to the Olympic trials and even be involved in the OTC that may be the road to get you to the Olympics — it’s an amazing opportunity. Obviously, he has a long way to go, but he’s on the path.”
Climmons plans on taking online classes in the spring that will transfer to Oklahoma. He’ll take two classes over the summer to get some more college credit so he can graduate early.
Climmons will travel with Team USA to upcoming events in Russia and Cuba. Donations and sponsorships are often needed to help athletes with travel expenses. Otherwise, they often have to pay for many of these trips out of their own pockets.
With the experience Climmons expects to get at Oklahoma, and at the training center in the offseason, he knows he’ll be ready when the time comes to qualify for Olympics.
“My goal is the 2020 Olympics, right after college,” he said. “2016 would be nice if I can make it, but, realistically, I think 2020 is for me. That’s what I’m aiming for.”