In today’s society, social media plays a huge role in everyday activities. People can pretty much keep up with any kind of celebrity they desire on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, including Olympic wrestler Tervel Dlagnev.
This past June, the Northwestern wrestling team’s Twitter page tweeted Dlagnev asking if he would be interested in visiting NW sometime this fall. Wrestling coach Rik Dahl was surprised to get a reply only a few hours later from Dlagnev that said, “Send me some dates, and I’ll see what I can do!”
“That’s what got the ball rolling,” Dahl said. “We wanted to get a speaker who would cast a wide net out and was bold in their faith.”
Dlagnev was on campus yesterday and leaves later today. The main purpose for his visit to Orange City is to give encouraging advice to fellow athletes on how to act as they go through different trials in their individual sports.
On Oct. 2, he spoke in the Bultman Center gymnasium to many NW athletes who are a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization. Students from schools in and around Orange City also attended. Dlagnev spoke on his life goals and achievements, and how he has balanced his wrestling career with his faith.
“Wrestlers tend to be pinned as a bit edgy,” said Dahl. “It’s great to be able to see such an encouraging figure in the wrestling world, and how it’s possible for God to do extraordinary things with ordinary people.”
This morning, Dlagnev spoke to NW’s student body during chapel. Again, he shared with the students his life story and the difficulties he’s encountered on his Olympic journey. Dlagnev was even able to relate to the students not involved in athletics by giving advice on how students should hold one another accountable in everyday circumstances, and how as Christians they should always strive for excellence in their day-to-day lives.
Josie Clark was one of the many NW students excited for Dlagnev’s visit, but for a different reason. When Clark’s family lived in Nebraska, Clark’s father worked on the University of Nebraska-Kearney Navigators’ staff. Dlagnev attended college there. The wrestling team would go over to Clark’s house for Bible study quite often, and the family grew very close to Dlagnev.
“It was cool to see his faith walk and learn to love Jesus more,” Clark said. “It’s cool to see his level of success hasn’t changed him.”
Dlagnev moved with his family to America from Bulgaria at age four. He began wrestling at his high school in Arlington, Texas. During his time there, he placed third and fourth in two state tournaments.
After graduating high school, Dlagnev went on to wrestle for the University of Nebraska-Kearney. In 2006, he placed second in the NCAA Division II tournaments, and in 2008 led his team to UNK’s first ever national team title.
Dlagnev has had two third place finishes and three fifth place finishes in the World Championships. He represented the U.S. in the 2012 London Olympic Games, and just barely missed the bronze medal with a fifth place finish.
He did not give up, however, and on Sept. 8, 2014, just 24 days before Dlagnev came to visit NW, he competed in Azerbaijan in the World Championships. There, he earned his second bronze medal.
“It’s been cool to track his progress through his Olympic career,” Clark said. “He can use his platform to show students that even though he’s seen the world, he still loves Jesus.”
Dlagnev has been a part of the U.S. Olympic team for six years now, and is currently being coached by Lou Rosselli. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife Kirsten and son Isaiah.