G’Angelo Hancock’s departure from Greco left many questions


G’Angelo Hancock has retired from wrestling and nobody talks about it. There was a press release that he would be replaced at 97 kilograms by Wisconsin sophomore Braxton Amos for this year’s Greco World Championships, but that’s about it.

This is particularly interesting since Hancock is the current face of USA Greco. Her bronze medal at the 2021 Worlds was the only medal for the United States after making an appearance at the 2020 Olympics.

Hancock, 25, was only getting better. Now he’s gone. And no one seems to care.

If you dig deep, you will learn that Hancock has transitioned to professional wrestling and is currently at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.

Goodbye G’Angelo. I hope you enjoyed your stay at Greco.

When was the last time a top athlete retired a few weeks before the biggest competition of the year? Imagine a football player reaching the Super Bowl and winning it back days after winning the NFC Championship. Or, a tennis player reaching the Wimbledon final and deciding to make a career out of it.

It just doesn’t happen. If so, the media would analyze it for weeks.

Wrestling retreats are tricky because they often don’t stick. It’s the same with boxing and mixed martial arts. Maybe we collectively roll our eyes because we know they might be back.

Remember when Rulon Gardner put his shoes on the mat after winning a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics to attempt a comeback at the 2012 Olympic Trials? What about when 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo retired from mixed martial arts in 2020 and is expected to fight again after entering the USADA test group? Or when Cael Sanderson won the 2004 Olympics and returned to make the 2011 World Team?

Wrestling retreats are fun because most never leave. Tom Brands won the 1996 Olympics, rented a car in Atlanta, drove home and mowed his lawn. He held his assistant position in Iowa under Dan Gable and never looked back.

Tom’s brother Terry hinted at a comeback after winning a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics since the 2001 Worlds were scheduled for New York (they moved to Bulgaria after 9/11) but quit competition without fanfare. John Smith won a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics and continued his career as Oklahoma State’s head coach.

It might be different for wrestlers today, as retirement can increase social media influence and public reputation. We are in the golden age of American wrestling with Jordan Burroughs, Adeline Gray, Kyle Dake, David Taylor and Helen Maroulis leading the way. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where they won’t post anything on social media when they leave competitive wrestling.

Burroughs has already indicated that 2024 will be his last year of competition, so we’ve been prepared for what’s to come. Fortunately for us, our best wrestlers have made careers in the sport and they remain in their thirties.

Hancock’s situation is a bit odd, though. Granted, Greco-Roman wrestling, which has changed direction in recent months at national team level with the departure of Matt Lindland, isn’t as popular as its freestyle counterpart – and Hancock has no college career that we can cling to. It just seems strange that we let this moment pass without asking questions.

Why would our best Greco wrestler of the last five years leave? What was his motivation? Does Hancock still feel good in this sport? Will he stay involved in the fight? What happens if WWE doesn’t sign him to a contract? Could we have done something different?

Retirements may be a thing of the past and we should be focusing on the next step in someone’s career. Hancock is a charismatic and talented athlete in an underground sport that doesn’t garner much domestic love.

This may have been the best possible move for Hancock. We just need to understand why.

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