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|1980 U.S. Olympic Team reunion to be held during U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Las Vegas
Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
USA Wrestling is proud to host a reunion for the 1980 U.S. Olympic wrestling team during the week of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling, set for the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev., June 13-15.
This group of special athletes were not able to compete at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, because of a U.S. government boycott of the Olympic Games after the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
Almost every member of the 1980 Olympic Team in freestyle and Greco-Roman, including the team coaches, have confirmed that they will be in Las Vegas to attend the Olympic Trials.
Fans will be able to get to meet these athletes during the weekend, including an official autograph session at the Vendor Village in the Cox Pavillion on Saturday, June 14 at 4:15 p.m.
The 1980 U.S. Olympic Team for wrestling will be introduced during the evening session of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on Saturday, June 14, between the first and second match of the best-of-three Championship Series.
That evening, the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team will be honored during a social, where USA Wrestling also presents its annual awards.
The 1980 U.S. Olympic Team for wrestling had some tremendous athletes. Many later went on to become members of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Included in this group were three-time World champion Lee Kemp, World champion Chris Campbell, Olympic champion and two-time finalist Ben Peterson, Olympic medalist Russ Hellickson and 1984 Olympic champions Bobby Weaver, Randy Lewis and Jeff Blatnick. Another Hall of Famer from this team was Gene Mills.
"I was so happy to hear that the 1980 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team is going to be honored at the Olympic Trials in Las Vegas. There will never be anything to take the place of having our shot to win our Olympic golds, but it will nice to be noticed and honored. I look forward to being there and watching to see who will be representing us on our 2008 U.S. Olympic Team," said Gene Mills.
The Greco-Roman team also featured a number of legends, including four-time Olympian Mark Fuller and three-time Olympian Dan Chandler. The 198-pounder was Mark Johnson, currently the head coach at the Univ. of Illinois.
Other freestyle team members were John Azevedo, Chuck Yagla and Greg Wojciechowski. Other Greco-Roman team members were Bruce Thompson, Brian Gust, Dan Mello, Tom Minkel, John Matthews and Brad Rheinghans.
The head coach for freestyle was Dan Gable and the head coach for Greco-Roman was Lee Allen. Other coaches from the staff expected in Las Vegas are Wayne Baughman and Stan Dziedzic. Referees from the delegation include Rick Tucci and Jerry Wager.
The decision by the United States government to boycott the Moscow Olympics affected the lives of all of the athletes who had qualified to participate.
"I couldn't believe it was happening," said Kemp. "Of all the things go into your mind as an athlete, like I could get hurt or could get beaten, the last thing you think if is that they wouldn't go. It was a bad dream to have it taken away that way. I felt ready. I wanted it more than anything else. If felt it would define my career."
This will be an opportunity for the entire wrestling community to honor these special athletes, and show its appreciation to them.