TALLINN, Estonia – South Dakota State's Tanner Sloan is ready to take on the world.
The second-year Jackrabbit wrestler is scheduled to compete at the United World Wrestling Junior World Championships, which begin Monday. Sloan is slated to wrestle in the 97-kilogram weight class of the freestyle competition.
Sloan earned a spot on Team USA by winning the UWW Junior Freestyle World Team Trials in Raleigh, North Carolina, in May. In his first international competition a month later, Sloan won the gold medal at the UWW Pan American Championship in Guatemala City, Guatelmala.
"I feel we like to hand-fight harder, wrestle harder than some of the foreign countries," Sloan said. "I felt that when I was in Guatemala, so that was good experience before going over to worlds."
Before departing for Estonia on Friday, Sloan spent the first week of August working out with Team USA at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. SDSU assistant coach Cody Caldwell accompanied Sloan to Colorado and also will be a part of the Team USA contingent, along with Jackrabbit head coach Damion Hahn.
"It's going to take a lot of pressure off me, I feel," Sloan said of having some familiar faces working with him on his latest journey. "Damion has been to places like this before so he knows what to expect, and having Cody there, too – the coach I probably spend the most time with – I'm excited to have him in my corner."
When asked what he thinks it will take to be successful on the world stage, Sloan said it's about keeping the proper mindset.
"Wrestle how I know how to wrestle; other than that I think I will be fine," he added.
Before this spring, Sloan's experience competing in freestyle wrestling was limited to a couple of local tournaments near his hometown of Alburnett, Iowa.
"This is my first real hard summer of freestyle. It really only took a couple practices to get back into it and ever since the first of April it's really picked up," Sloan said of transitioning from wrestling folkstyle at the collegiate level to freestyle. “It's a lot of fun, it's a little more laid back."
Although he redshirted during the 2018-19 campaign, Sloan made a splash during his first collegiate season.
"The first couple weeks were a little harder for me as I wasn't really sure what to expect," Sloan said of his transition to collegiate wrestling. "Once I started to get the hang of things I knew I was going to be alright."
He began his collegiate career with a runner-up finish at 197 pounds at the season-opening Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open, then put his potential on full display in late December at the Midlands Championships in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Considered one of the top annual collegiate tournaments before the NCAA Championships, Sloan advanced to the title match, compiling a 4-1 record over two days, with all four of his victories over seeded wrestlers. His 19-3, technical-fall trashing of second-seeded and fourth-ranked Jacob Warner of Iowa in the quarterfinals drew the attention of the wrestling community.
Sloan would go on to compile a 24-2 record in open tournaments for the season. Of his 24 victories, 14 were by either technical fall or pin.
An animal science major, Sloan said his decision to become a Jackrabbit was based on finding the right fit, despite a coaching change after his commitment creating some uncertainty.
"At first, it was mainly academics. I wanted an ag school and this was about as close as to what I wanted," Sloan said. "When I found out that Cody was going to be able to stay and knew who the coaches were, it made me more excited to stay."
Classes will resume shortly after Sloan returns from Estonia, followed by the start of workouts for the 2019-20 season. He says he is focused on doing his part to help the team improve while working toward his personal goal of becoming an All-American."It's going to be an exciting year," Sloan said.