Dillon Stambaugh Herald Contributor — Specimen. Soldier. Beast.
These are just a few of the words RWU wrestling coach Jon Egan uses to describe senior Alec Golner.
Standing at an imposing 6 foot 1 inches tall and 165 pounds of sculpted muscle, just meeting Golner for the first time is enough to understand Egan’s descriptions. Watching him wrestle, however, will make you never question them.
“He’s a scary dude,” says Egan. “He beats kids before they even step on the mat.”
Golner’s specialty is intimidation. He spent the summer sporting Viking-inspired warrior braids.
His industrious frame, once a blank canvas, now serves as host to an array of tattoos. When he warms up for a match, he stares down his opponent from across the room and violently smacks himself in the face. And that’s before he even steps foot on the wrestling mat.
“With Al, every match is war,” Egan says. “He is a very intense kid and if you don’t match his intensity, he has no time for you.”
His teammates feel the same way.
“[Golner] wants to make the other wrestler feel as much pain as possible,” said junior teammate Carter Merecki. “His goal is to win in the most dominant fashion.”
Before every match, Golner talks to himself. It’s audible. It’s visible. Spectators, coaches, and opponents take note. He isn’t like other wrestlers.
“I tell myself,” Golner says, “‘I am the best. I am better than you. I am here, and I am going to beat you.’”
In this ritual, he is speaking to himself, his opponent and a third party—the imaginary enemy. It’s something he got from his brother, and now has tattooed on his body. The imaginary enemy represents the mental demon within someone that hinders them from achieving their goals.
“It’s the battle with the person inside telling you that you can’t run that extra mile, you can’t take that kid down,” Golner says. “The toughest battle is the one in your head. If you can conquer that, you can conquer anything.”
This mentality, coupled with a stringent diet and NFL-style workout plan, metamorphosed Golner into the wrestler he is today. After an underwhelming high school career, Golner entered college with a chip on his shoulder. He dedicated himself to the sport and each season earned an increased role on the team. In his junior campaign, Golner wrestled his way to a 29-13 record and a second place finish in the regional tournament, earning a trip to nationals. The once-scrawny freshman is now a captain on one of the best wrestling programs in the country.
“Al went from being just a raw, tough kid three years ago to becoming one of the best kids on the team,” Egan says. Moreover, he’s one of the best wrestlers in the country.
Like most people, Golner is complex. He is more than just a brute. Behind his mammoth appearance exists a very endearing ideology centered around pride and family. The youngest of three boys, he cites his two older brothers as his role models. Mike, who is eight years Al’s senior, has a degree in biochemistry and just graduated law school. Derek, who is three years older than Al, wrestled Division I at the University of North Carolina and now serves in the United States Army. Thus, Al is the product of Mike’s academia and Derek’s toughness. A well-balanced, nationally regarded wrestler pursuing a career in law enforcement.
“They shaped me into the man I am,” says Golner. “I’m a family man. I have three swallows [tattooed] on my ribs for them. Swallows are a symbol of family. They never leave the first nest that they build, and they always return home.”
Family, however, isn’t exclusive to blood. Golner views his teammates as an extension of his family. He doesn’t like to talk about himself. When asked about his goals for the season, he immediately reverts to discussing the team and how excited he is to watch his brothers compete.
“[Golner] is a great leader,” says Merecki. “He will do anything anyone asks him to, and he will do anything for the team—no matter how hard or how simple.”
It is a testament to his passion. If wrestling is a war and each match a battle, Golner is a selfless soldier, willing to put everything on the line for the pride of his people. And with the start of the 2016-2107 season approaching, he is ready to get the job done.
“I never accept defeat on or off the mat,” Golner says. “When I’m wrestling, I’m like a wolf who smells blood. I just keep attacking. This year, I’m not accepting any type of loss. I want to win, and I want to win dominantly.”