For Maryland wrestling and Youssif Hemida, new uniforms mean more than style

Maryland's Parker Robinson and Northwestern's Jack Heyob face off at the Xfinity Center on Feb. 16, 2020. (Joe Ryan/The Diamondback)

It all started with a tweet.

On Feb. 16, Team USA wrestler Pat Downey III quote-tweeted a video posted nearly a month prior from Maryland wrestling.

That original tweet, from Jan. 20, showed a video about the program’s switch to “Fight Kits,” a newly-allowed uniform style with tight-fitting t-shirts and loose-fitting shorts.

Downey, a 2016 All-American with Iowa State at 184 pounds and a member of the 2019 US Senior World Championships team, summed up his response in the first two sentences of his tweet: “This is an awful focal point. Usually winning precedes becoming the trailblazer for anything.”

A day later, former Maryland wrestler Youssif Hemida responded. A two-time All-American while in College Park, Hemida opted for a more positive outlook on the Terps’ new digs.

“I know a lot of people have their views on the two-piece,” Hemida said. “Anything new, anything out of the status quo is always going to get hated on, whatever it is. My idea was that let’s make the sport be more modern and appeal to more people.”

[Read more: After losing all but one bout, Maryland wrestling finishes last in Big Ten Championships]

For Hemida, coach Alex Clemsen and the rest of the Terps, the new uniform represents a look to the future, the first step to pushing the program away from the woes that have defined much of its existence since joining the Big Ten.

“Youssif is a Terp through and through,” Clemsen said. “If anybody in recent history can have a voice in the program, it’s definitely him.”

Hemida, who said he personally prefers the traditional singlet, is all for the change. It took him a while to get used to wearing a singlet as a youth, he said, and with Maryland helping to pave the way in college ranks, Hemida hopes the new style can drive participation numbers at youth levels.

“When I first started the sport, I would have loved to wrestle in shorts and a t-shirt,” Hemida said. “A lot of kids that say ‘I’d wrestle, but I wouldn’t wear that,’ I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. Is that an excuse? Yeah, probably, but now, you have shorts and a shirt to wear. What’s your new excuse?”

Hemida’s tweet provided a new perspective about the matter, one that stuck in the mind of Clemsen, who is tasked with bringing Maryland back to relevance after struggling as a member of the uber-competitive Big Ten.

[Read more: Ahead of Big Ten Championships, Maryland wrestling values its rest and recovery]

“I thought his tweet was well-timed, well-spoken, not just as a Terp, but somebody who wasn’t the epitome of what a typical wrestler looks like when he first started,” Clemsen said. “You think about, if that’s a kid that’s become a two-time All-American feels that way, I’m sure there are plenty of other kids out there to have that opportunity and now, they are getting it.”

On the mat, Maryland sported the all-black uniform look to finish out the season. At the Big Ten Championships in Piscataway, New Jersey, the Terps unveiled a new look with new gold tops.

It’s a welcomed change to a program going through massive changes. And despite the negative feedback, the new uniform reinforces the program’s shift toward what could be the future of the sport.

“People are always gonna hate,” 165-pounder Kyle Cochran said. “It’s really not a big deal. It’s not gonna affect me. It’s never affected me my entire life.”

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