Area Wrestling: Zillmer prepping for the Senior World Championships
Former Crosby-Ironton area wrestler will head down to the Senior World Championships looking for a gold medal this July
Hayden Zillmer is looking for a gold medal.
The 2011 Crosby-Ironton graduate made it to the Senior World Championships in freestyle wrestling after winning his weight class in the Final X New York meet June 10 at Madison Square Garden.
It is the first time Zillmer qualified to the Senior World Championships which will be held Sept. 10-18 in Belgrade, Serbia.
“This is my first World team I’ve ever made,” Zillmer said. “I’ve made six Nationals so it’s been a long time coming.”
Zillmer needed to win back-to-back matches to get his spot in the World Championships.
In a best of three series, Zillmer lost his first match 5-0, but won 4-3 and 5-5 on criteria against Nick Gwiazdowski to get his spot.
“All the nerves were gone and I remembered all the training I went through,” he said. “The first match I wrestled crappy and I just put everything aside and went after it.”
This is Zillmer’s sixth season wrestling as a post-collegiate.
After being a three-time Class 1A state champion at Crosby-Ironton high school. He wrestled at North Dakota State University, where he was sixth at the NCAA Championships and an All-American as a senior in 2015.
After college in 2016, Zillmer wrestled in the Greco-Roman division where he finished third in the US Olympic Team Trials.
The next year he was second in the US World Team Trials and US Open in Greco-Roman just missing World Championships. He also was third in the US World Team Trials in freestyle.
In 2018, he moved to freestyle full time and nearly qualified for the Senior World Championships as he finished runner-up in the Final X.
He followed it by winning the Senior Nationals in 2019 and was third in 2020 before the pandemic.
Last year, he was a bronze medalist in the Matteo Pellicone International and third in the World Team Trials.
Zillmer has drastically changed weight classes since he was a high school wrestler.
As a Ranger, he won state titles at 103, 112 and 138 pounds. At the World Championships in September, he will wrestle as a heavyweight at 275 pounds.
“My weight classes have been crazy,” he said. “I started off the Senior circuit at 87 kilos (191 pounds) when I was wrestling in the Greco National team in 2016. I moved up to 98 kilos and then bounced around to 97 kilos, which is a freestyle weight class, and made the National team out of it. In 2018, I just switched to freestyle and got down to 92 kilos when I made the Final X. Then in 2019, I missed the National team and in 2021 I moved to heavyweight because my 97 kilo weight was already taken because of the COVID year the returning medalist from the Olympics got the spot. So I built up to heavyweight and ended up making the National Team.”
Zillmer lives in Minneapolis and will workout at the University of Minnesota to prepare for the Senior World Championships. There is a tournament in Tunisia which will be a tuneup scheduled for July.
“We got a National team camp in Colorado Springs in the first part of July and from there we are going to an international tournament in Tunisia,” Zillmer said. “That will be the last tournament. Then we have a training camp in August over in Germany and get accumulated to the time zone and then wrestle the World Championships.”
Zillmer still hangs around the Lakes Area and helps coach wrestling classes Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays at the Score Edge Wrestling Center on North Long Lake Road in Brainerd.
“As a young guy when I was growing up as a kid I always traveled to train,” Zillmer said. “I never had anything really close to home. Down in the metro it was easy and it was consistent, so I moved down there. Now I’m living down there and I’m driving up here. It’s pretty cool and I never thought I would have to do all that driving again. I work like crazy for those young guys to make them better wrestlers and people.”
Zillmer will turn 30 in July, but feels like he’s in the prime of his wrestling career.
“I don’t know if there was a big challenge or anything like that, it was just about staying consistent,” Zillmer said. “There were a lot of people that told me I was getting older, but I actually feel like I’m in the prime of my life as a wrestler right now. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m in great shape and I feel myself getting better in the room everyday. I have always been knocking on the door and it’s all about timing.”
The big goal for him is to qualify for the Olympics in 2024 in freestyle.
“This isn’t the end,” Zillmer said. “My goal is to win a gold medal. I want a gold medal in the World Championships and then we have two more years to compete in the Olympic year. It’s the same process for the Olympic year and I want to win my spot in 2024.”
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.