The Crossing: The Anthony Echemendia Story

'To Be Honest, I Was Mad': Echemendia Sets The Record Straight On His Age

'To Be Honest, I Was Mad': Echemendia Sets The Record Straight On His Age

Anthony Echemendia wins everywhere he goes but still faces questions about his age — so we decided to let him set the record straight himself.

May 6, 2020 by Hunter Sharpless
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Everywhere Anthony Echemendia goes, he wins. 

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Everywhere Anthony Echemendia goes, he wins. 

From decimating the high school field in Arizona in early 2019, where he logged a 22-0 record with a state title, to ripping apart Fargo in both freestyle and Greco, or thrashing future Cornell stud Josh Saunders at Who’s Number 1, Echemendia has sliced through any and all competition like a searing-hot chef’s knife through a stick of butter left out on the counter. 

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Given the amount of success Echemendia has had, you might’ve thought that much of the conversation surrounding the young man who fled Cuba a couple of years earlier would be about his wrestling. Echemendia is lightning-quick and strong in defense; he can wrestle up top or scramble with the best of them. His leg attacks come so fast and furious there’s almost nothing you can do about them. There’s a reason we speculated so early — back in July of last year — that “sooner rather than later” he could be going toe to toe with the Yiannis and Zains of the world. 

But despite all this, there’s a different topic that has directed much of the conversation surrounding Echemendia, not his wrestling, not his unique narrative: his age. 

Rather than conjecture and speculate about what is or isn’t true, or going on some ridiculous wild goose chase, we decided to talk to Echemendia himself and hear what he had to say. 

Because, look: when Echemendia gets on the mat this coming NCAA season, age doesn’t mean a thing. 

FloWrestling: When did you first start facing these questions about your age?

Echemendia: I started facing those questions the first time I wrestled in high school. Everybody was wondering, ‘Who’s this guy? He’s old — he’s 23, 24.’ I don’t really care about what people say. I care about me. I care about getting better every day, wrestling hard. I’m motivated. I came here to do big things.

Were you surprised when those questions first started getting asked?

Well, to be honest, I was mad, you know what I mean? At that point nobody knew me. I was alone here, with my high school coaches, sleeping on the floor sometimes, and you know people lying about my age — it was kind of frustrating for me. 

But I was fine, because my parents know how old I am. The people who care about me know. I don’t care about what other people say about me. 

Has this been a distraction at all?

No, that’s not gonna do anything to me. I’m fine. I’m here. I’m gonna help my family. I’m gonna wrestle hard. People can say whatever they want. I’m gonna wrestle harder and harder every time.

What happened at the 2019 US Open in Vegas?

I was supposed to wrestle in the round of 16, against the guy who won the tournament, Yahya Thomas — but someone started complaining about me. At that point I didn’t have my legal ID in the USA, so I couldn’t keep wrestling in that tournament. The head table called me out and asked me for my legal papers to wrestle in that tournament. 

I beat two guys and they were like, ‘Who’s this guy?’ Everybody started complaining. They kicked me out. I wasn’t hurt. I was fine. I was ready to wrestle.

What about Fargo?

I had everything: my Arizona ID, legal documentation here in the USA. But some guys did the same thing, ‘We’re gonna do the same thing we did in Vegas, we’re gonna kick him out.’ But I had my Arizona ID so they couldn’t kick me out. 

Were people still talking about the age issue at Who’s Number 1?

People are always gonna talk. They’re always gonna talk about me. They’re gonna wonder how old I am. But I didn’t care. They were saying the same thing: ‘Oh this guy’s not even in high school and he’s wrestling at Who’s Number 1.’ 

I didn’t ask anybody to wrestle at Who’s Number 1. Flo asked me, ‘Hey, do you want to wrestle against Saunders?’ And I was like, ‘I’m down.’ 

I know how old I am: I’m 20 years old. My birthday is September 10, 1999.

What would you say to people who still think there’s concern about your age?

I would say to those people that I hope one day they could support me, because I just want to wrestle — for the USA, to represent this country. And I hope one day they could support me if I go to the World Championships or the Olympics. I wanna see their support.

I’m not gonna say something rude to anybody. My whole family’s in Cuba — so wrestling followers are my biggest supporters.