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All Signs Are Pointing Toward Paris 2024 For Heavyweight Mason Parris At This Weekend’s Wrestling Trials

by Alex Abrams

Mason Parris stands on the podium during the men’s freestyle wrestling 125 kg. final during the Pan American Games Santiago 2023 on Nov. 01, 2023 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Getty Images)

Mason Parris has joked with his family that it’s his destiny to wrestle this summer at the Olympic Games, and they see signs pointing toward that future everywhere they look.

The most obvious sign is his last name, Parris, which is pronounced the same way as the French city that will host the Olympics in three months. It has led to jokes between him and his family about how it will soon be “Parris in Paris.”

And then there is his age. He’s 24 years old and won’t celebrate his next birthday until two months after the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

Perhaps all the signs are proof that the universe has been coming together over the past few years to ensure that Parris, 24, will make his Olympic debut at Paris 2024. He has gone from wrestling in his small hometown of Lawrenceburg, Indiana — population around 5,200 — to being only two wins away from getting to compete on the world’s largest stage.

“It would just really be a dream come true to be able to go over there and represent not only myself and my community and my school but also the sport of wrestling and my country,” Parris said. “So, it’s something that would mean something, that I would remember for the rest of my life.”

Parris has quickly made a name for himself despite being younger than some of the other wrestlers who’ll compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Wrestling, set for Friday and Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania. He’s considered the favorite in the 125 kg. weight class for freestyle wrestling.

Parris became the first wrestler at the University of Michigan to win the Hodge Trophy, college wrestling’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, following his dominant senior season in 2023. The heavyweight finished with a perfect 33-0 record and faced little resistance on his way to earning a national championship.

Parris then earned a bronze medal at the 2023 world championships. He said it was a “huge confidence booster” to reach the medal podium at one of his first major international tournaments, and it proved to himself that he had the potential to someday be a world champion and an Olympic gold medalist.

Mason Parris competes in the men’s freestyle wrestling 125 kg. quarterfinals during the Pan American Games Santiago 2023 on Nov. 01, 2023 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Getty Images)

By winning the bronze medal at the world championships, Parris earned an automatic berth into the best-of-three 125 kg. championship series at the Olympic trials on Saturday night.

“I’m super excited,” said Parris, who has been training for the Olympic trials at Michigan’s Cliff Keen Wrestling Club in Ann Arbor. “I feel like I’ve been waiting for this since the world championships, and I just feel like I’ve been doing all the right things and really just trusting in myself and my abilities and trusting in God and just improving myself and seeing myself grow every single day.

“So, I don’t really feel nervous at all about it.”

Along the way, Parris has become a big deal back home in Lawrenceburg, located on the Ohio River in southeast Indiana. But he wouldn’t be the city’s first Olympian if he won this weekend at the Olympic trials.

Nick Goepper, a fellow Lawrenceburg native, competed in freestyle skiing at the past three Winter Olympics and earned two silver medals and a bronze. Parris said he expects there to be a considerable cheering section from Lawrenceburg rooting for him at the Olympic trials.

“It’s a smaller town, so they’re bringing up a bunch of people to come watch me, and I know a bunch of people that will be paying attention,” Parris said. “The community stays really close and follows me, and they all really support me. It’s really cool.”

Parris’ father, Mark, played football at Ball State from 1988-92. He decided to get his son into wrestling at age 4 because he thought the sport would help Parris become a better football player.

“I did (wrestling) and I liked it, but it was hard,” Parris said. “I enjoyed, as a kid, football more. It was more of a team sport. Just going out there and losing by yourself as a little kid is hard. Once I got older, I learned to love it a lot more and just appreciate it a lot more.”

Parris developed into an all-state linebacker for Lawrenceburg High, but as good as he was on the gridiron, he seemed to be even better on the wrestling mat. He earned three consecutive Indiana state championships at 220 pounds and didn’t lose a match over his final three seasons in high school.

Parris graduated from high school in 2018 with a 206-1 record, and he was ranked as the top 220-pound wrestling recruit in the nation. He ultimately had to make the decision to quit playing football, so he could focus on wrestling.

“It was definitely really hard to let go of (football) because, as a little kid, I thought I was going to be in the NFL,” Parris said. “But I’m glad I picked wrestling over football now.”

Maybe it was another sign telling he could someday make the Olympics.

“We just think it’s destiny and it’s going to happen,” Parris said.