CrossFit Games Masters Champion Cal Cherrington to Pursue Wrestling Glory

January 23, 2023 by
Photo Credit: CrossFit, LLC
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Cal Cherrington, the owner of Stand Firm CrossFit in Granby, CO, capped off his 2022 CrossFit Games season by winning the Masters division (65+). Now he will retire from the competitive side of the sport in order to pursue another championship, one in wrestling. 

The details: The 2023 U.S. Open, presented by FloWrestling, will take place in Las Vegas on April 26-30. Cherrington will register and compete in both the Freestyle and Greco-Roman divisions while trying to add a win to his resume. 

  • “So I’ve always wanted to get back into competitive wrestling in the last – say five or six years – but the US Open is held the same week as the online qualifier, or what they’re calling the Quarterfinals now,” Cherrington said. “And it’s in Vegas, and it’s like if I go out there and try and do those workouts the next couple days, I’m just not gonna be able to do it.” 
  • “So this year, I’ll do the Open because I love doing it, and it’s definitely a high point of the year in our gym because we all do it. But I probably am not going to do the qualifiers and stuff because I want to go wrestle in the Open. If you win the Open, you can go wrestle for a world title.”

A new division: As Cherrington explained, there have been some changes in recent years. The Masters’ division in wrestling used to refer to anyone over the age of 35. Now, however, there are age groups, much like in the CrossFit world. Cherrington will be able to face off with other athletes in the same age range. 

The background: A high school wrestling coach for 33 years, Cherrington learned about CrossFit from one of his former students. He said it was either 2011 or 2012 when he received the recommendation. He Googled CrossFit workouts to see what they were, and he stumbled across Murph.  

  • Cherrington gave CrossFit a try, and he immediately became hooked. He started training this way while also using it to help the kids in his small Colorado town.  
  • “Of course, I started using it with my wrestlers and it changed the game completely. It made practice so much more fun. And they were in so much better shape. I mean, we were always really good, but we got really good and fit. And the kids had fun.”

Since falling in love with CrossFit, Cherrington has made functional fitness a focus. He made the decision to walk away from coaching wrestling to open Stand Firm CrossFit and pursue a trip to the CrossFit Games. Instead of coaching students for two hours each night, he began teaching six CrossFit classes each day while putting in extensive work to get better. 

  • “I was back where I’d always been – teaching,” Cherrington said. “I call it adult PE on steroids. That’s really the way I describe it to people. I had former students to kids of former students. I had a built-in clientele.”
  • Stand Firm CrossFit has been Cherrington’s base of operations since 2014 as he and his wife, Tami, have continued to make an impact on the people of Granby. They have helped others improve their fitness while putting wrestling on the back burner.

As Cherrington continued to coach, he also steadily rose through the ranks of the Masters’ division. He secured four trips to the CrossFit Games. He finished seventh in 2017 (60+), third in 2018 (60+), 10th in 2021 (60-64), and first in 2022 (65+). This final trip checked off a longtime goal. 

A different type of training: As Cherrington focuses on his pursuit of a world title in wrestling, he will have to shake up his schedule a bit. Though he is not giving up CrossFit. This is his fountain of youth, and he still loves training this way while teaching his classes.

  • Cherrington’s plan heading toward the US Open is to get in some wrestling practice about two days a week. He hasn’t regularly wrestled in a few years while focusing on the CrossFit Games, and he wants to see where he is at and where he needs to make some improvements. 
  • Cherrington is still working out the exact training schedule, but he knows that he will test himself by facing off with some younger competitors that boast significant talent.
  • “I have a grandson that wrestles, my son was a Division I national champ (Boise State in 2006) and he’s coaching a high school team over north of Denver. I go watch them wrestle so inevitably I end up down on the mat between sessions. I’m still a kid. People cannot believe I’m 65 years old. They’re like, ‘Seriously, there’s no way.’” 

The biggest change, which is something that Cherrington started after winning the CrossFit Games, is that he has backed away from lifting super heavy. He doesn’t need to put 185 pounds over his head when 135 will still create an effective workout. This is something that he learned when competing in the Legends Championship.

  • “[Rich] Froning – apparently he helped program most of that – he wore us out really good. We got really tired, but we didn’t get beat up.” 
  • “I mean, at the end of each workout, you were absolutely zapped but within an hour or so you were back ready to go because you had to go. And the next day you didn’t feel like you’d been run over by a truck.”

Cherrington is a CrossFit Games champion, but he is so much more. He is a coach, a teacher, and a multi-sport athlete. Now he will have the opportunity to pursue a championship in an entirely different sport while relying on his wrestling background and CrossFit, which has helped keep him young.

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