Mason Reiniche is in Athens, but the Baylor School junior isn’t there to see the Bulldogs.
He is in Athens, Greece, representing the United States at the United World Wrestling Cadet Championships. He’s in the Greco-Roman tournament.
Reiniche, competing at 152 pounds (69 kilograms), will wrestle at 3:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday. The semifinals are set for 10:30 a.m. that day and the finals for 11 a.m. Wednesday.
His previous longest trips from home were to compete in New York, North Dakota and Colorado. He left Thursday, joining the rest of Team USA in Chicago for the flight to Athens.
Reiniche initially thought he had missed out on the opportunity at the world team trials in early June in Akron, Ohio, where he finished second in Greco-Roman to Will Lewan, but Lewan also won the freestyle tournament and elected to compete in that division instead.
“I’m excited but at the same time nervous,” said the three-time state finalist. “I’m certainly not getting overconfident.”
Baylor wrestling has produced an NCAA champion (Jordan Leen) and a five-time state champion (Zach Watson), but Reiniche is the first Red Raider to represent the U.S. in international competition on the mat.
“He’s the only one that’s ever made a world (competition) team,” Baylor coach Ben Nelson said, “and he’s not at the oldest level for high school students yet, so he’s set a bar that other wrestlers behind him may want to meet.”
Yet Baylor coaches aren’t really surprised at Reiniche’s accomplishment.
“He’s the type of kid that’s a typical mat rat who wants to learn all he can,” Nelson said. “Him being able to get on the world stage just shows how far he has come and how far he can go if he wants.”
Added Baylor assistant Rex Kendle: “He loves wrestling as much as any kid I’ve ever coached. You have to lock the doors to the wrestling room to keep him out.”
Reiniche has been wrestling since he was 3.
“My dad said if I didn’t pay attention I wouldn’t come back, so I kept my eyes locked on the coach,” he said. “My intent since has been to keep my eyes on the coaches and my ears open. I try to be the best, coachable-wise. I take what they give, put my own style on it and use it.”
Reiniche has continued to make the sacrifices that come with wrestling, Kendle reminded.
“Wrestling is a tough sport, from the weight-cutting to the physicality of the sport to being out there on the mat by yourself,” Kendle said. “It takes a different type kid to get out there, and Mason’s different. He loves the spotlight, and he’s better in a match than he is in practice.”
Reiniche seems to be well on his way to securing a college scholarship.
“He’s dedicated such a large part of himself to the sport, and his expectation is to do that,” Nelson said. “And I think barring some catastrophe, he has the desire and skill set to do that if he chooses.”
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him on Twitter @wardgossett.