Wanting to test himself against the top competition in the country, Empey took part in two national tournaments earlier this month, placing second and third respectively.
Flying to Virginia Beach, Va., Empey battled his way through a three-day national tournament for juniors throughout the country and placed second, losing an 8-2 decision in the finals to J’Den Cox of Missouri, the No. 2 ranked wrestler in America.
While most of the athletes returned home to rest their bodies after a grueling tournament, Empey instead jumped in a car immediately after placing second and took U.S. Route 13 five hours north to Philadelphia to compete in the Flonational Tournament at Drexel University.
Empey worked his way to the quarterfinals of the tourney where he lost, but he was able to successfully wrestle back four matches to complete his weekend of wrestling with a third-place finish.
Despite the fact that he finished second and third in two national tournaments against some of the nation’s top wrestlers, Empey still remained focused on becoming the best.
“I was definitely excited but I still knew that I should have done better,” Empey said. “I lost two matches that if I had done things a little bit differently, I could have won so just the thought that if I would have done a little bit better is still there.
“I learned what I’ll need to do to prepare for next year. It was a great experience to learn and see all the different people because usually we’re just wrestling other people from Oregon and California, but it was good to see how other people’s styles differ and see what to do against them.”
While Empey was still not completely satisfied with his finishes, his coach at Reed, who traveled with Empey, was certainly impressed.
“He showed a lot of toughness,” Dan Barraza said. “Doing the back-to-back, that’s five straight days of wrestling. He got four hours of sleep after we drove from Virginia Beach and got up the next morning and wrestled like nothing happened the night before. It was impressive. I know he was sore from head-to-toe. To still be able to come back and take third at that second tournament, it showed me a lot and something that I haven’t seen out of him before. I’ve seen him win and do all that, but to see him wrestle back the way he did, he handled it well and it was cool to see that.
“He was wrestling the toughest guys in the nation. He’s put himself in a great spot. People are noticing him and the fact that he went to both tournaments and did well at both. He is right there with the best guys in the country. I think he realizes how close he is. He’s right there and that’s a good thing.”