Throughout his childhood in Wood Dale, Joshua Castellano played sports he loved like football and baseball, or tried to emulate his older brother on the basketball court.
It was only a fluke that he started wrestling at Fenton High School in Bensenville as a freshman in 2005, when Castellano's coach said the sport might improve his football skills. But coaches quickly recognized his talent, and today wrestling might take the 20-year-old college student to the Summer Olympics in London.
"I liked playing basketball because my older brother plays, and I was somewhat hesitant toward wrestling at first," Castellano said. "But I didn't lose often, so I started gaining confidence and it started getting more fun."
After graduating from Fenton in 2009, Castellano began studying at Northern Michigan University's U.S. Olympic Education Center. It's one of only four Olympic training centers in the country and the only one located on a college campus.
He has traveled the world to compete in wrestling tournaments, most recently becoming the national Junior Champion and moving on to compete at the World Team Trials in Romania.
This year, Castellano can compete at a Senior level and has placed at all tournaments he's entered so far, which qualifies him for the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials on Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.
"I'm not too nervous right now, but once it gets closer it's getting to me a bit," said Castellano. "But I have a positive mindset to know I can win this."
To ensure he has the best chances to qualify for the Olympics, Castellano adheres to a strict training and diet regimen. He must eat only precise amounts to maintain his weight of 145.5 pounds, or 66 kg, while training for four hours a day, six days a week. His workouts include 7-mile runs across Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
When he's not training, Castellano is a full-time college sophomore. But he acknowledges his life is not like the average student's.
"Yes it's a little different because of the training and all the hours," he said. "Sometimes I come home and visit my friends in Illinois and it's a great time. But right now, up here, it's just the perfect place to get the good training because there's not too many distractions."
The two biggest challenges ahead for Castellano are making weight at 66 kg and winning at the Olympic trials this weekend.
But even if he takes second or third place and doesn't advance to the Summer Games in London, he will continue his education and wrestle for USA Wrestling next year, competing in six tournaments within the United States and four tournaments internationally.
Castellano isn't focusing on backup plans, though. Instead, the Olympic hopeful said he's confident he can represent our country in the Summer Games.
"It would be so cool to be on an Olympic team at such a young age and know that I worked for three years on trying to make it," he said.