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Toby Erickson's Olympic dreams on hold after trials postponed

Posted at 5:05 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 22:52:39-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- East Helena’s Toby Erickson has always dreamed of competing in the Olympics.

“This has been my dream since I was 5 years old,” he said. ”I’m 100 percent totally invested in this.”

In December, Erickson finished third at the US Open wrestling tournament at 130 kilograms and qualified for the US Olympic Team Trials for the third time in his career in the Greco-Roman discipline. But his training is on hold while he waits in limbo for competition to resume following the postponement of the Trials and the Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Erickson was near the end of the eight-week training cycle and ready to compete. The Trials were originally set for April 4-5 at Penn State but were officially postponed on March 13.

Now, Erickson, who is a member of the US Army World Class Athlete Program, is forced to train on his own at home.

“I'm not trying to play catch up and get back into shape. I'm already in shape,” Erickson said. "And that's the hardest thing right now. We’re on our own. It's not structured and it's difficult to continuously challenge yourself.”

Erickson is one of Montana’s most decorated wrestlers. He was a two-time state heavyweight champion at Helena High School, won the 2017 U.S. Open championship, and is now a three-time qualifier for the Olympic Trials where he finished third in both 2012 and 2016.

“I've been there. I'm getting confident, and mentally I was ready to go. I was ready to lay it out on the line again,” Erickson said about the 2020 cycle. “I was bound and determined to go out and do what I needed to do to make this team.”

As ready as he was, Erickson also knew a big decision was on the horizon. He’s wrestling at the senior level for 12 years, recently got married, and is starting to give thought to life after wrestling. Now he’ll have to wait have those conversations with his family.

“That was a big decision that I was hoping to have to answer this last Sunday. If I made the team, then I'm gearing up, I'm getting ready and focusing on what I need to do to bring back some hardware from Tokyo,” Erickson said. “If I didn't, then the wife and I were going to sit down and have some serious talks, some hard conversations about what's next. But now that it’s postponed, we’re in a holding pattern. When are our answers going to come to us?”

Though it threw off his training, Erickson understands the decisions being made and the reason behind the postponements.

“It was hard to justify at first, but in the end it is the right call because we need to stop the spread (of COVID-19), and these big events are what's going to cause this outbreak to expand,” he said.

Erickson is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army and through the WCAP program can train full-time while serving in the military in Colorado Springs. So he is biding his time, staying in shape, getting ready for another shot to reach the pinnacle of his sport.

"If the Trials are next year then we take the year to prepare for it,” he said. “If they’re later this year, we'll continue to prepare for that. Whatever comes our way, we're ready for it.”