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|World champion Dremiel Byers eager for another shot at Olympic gold
Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Two-time Olympian Dremiel Byers has won World gold, silver and bronze medals. John Sachs photo.
LONDON – It was one of the biggest clutch performances of his remarkable wrestling career.
Dremiel Byers walked onto the mat at the 2007 World Championships and delivered by capturing a bronze medal.
That victory propelled the United States to the championship, the first and only Greco-Roman World team title won by an American team.
Two years later, Byers delivered again by earning a silver medal at the 2009 Worlds.
But in between, Byers came up short of his goal of capturing an Olympic gold medal in 2008 in Beijing, China. He finished seventh.
“The biggest lesson I learned is that it is a small tournament, and it comes and goes so quick,” he said. “It seems like just yesterday when I walked off the mat in Beijing. You just have to do what you’re good at – win. That’s what got you here, because you won. You have to stay focused and take care of business.”
Byers is eager for another shot on wrestling’s biggest stage.
The World title he won was a decade ago, but he’s still wrestling at a high level and he’s a legitimate contender to stand atop the podium at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Byers is scheduled to compete at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. at the Olympics on Monday at the ExCel Center.
“I’m very excited,” said Byers, who trains in Colorado Springs. “We’ve been training real hard. My coaches have been pushing me and getting more out of me than ever before. I’m looking forward to doing what I came here to do, win a gold medal.”
Byers will turn 38 just over a month after he competes in London. He was asked about his decision to keep wrestling after the 2008 Olympics.
Byers has made the last eight World-level teams for the U.S.
“I think wrestling will let you know when it’s done with you,” he said. “I’m just happy to still be going, and I’m still going strong. I’m grateful for that.”
Byers took part in his second Opening Ceremonies shortly after arriving in London.
“I’m proud to walk among the great athletes in our country,” he said. “It’s a huge honor.”
2008 Olympic champion Mijain Lopez of Cuba is considered the favorite in London at heavyweight. The massive 6-foot-5 Lopez has won three World titles, including a win over Byers in the 2009 World finals.
Byers was picked for an Olympic bronze medal by Sports Illustrated, with Lopez the pick to win gold in London.
“He’s the most popular – he’s a tremendous athlete,” Byers said of Lopez. “However, looking around there are five World champions in our weight class. There are two Olympic gold medalists. But no matter what you’ve done, you still got to go out there and wrestle. He’s out there wearing wrestling shoes and a singlet, just like I am. That’s all that matters.”
Byers, who competes for the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program, fully understands what it takes to excel when the stakes are highest. He’s placed in the top five in the World on four occasions. He was fifth in the World in 2010.
The U.S. has won three Olympic gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling. Two were by heavyweights.
“Sometimes all the technique in the World doesn’t matter,” Byers said. “Sometimes, it’s about who is the bigger man today, and about who wants it and how much fight you have. I love it when it’s fight day. I think I bring a lot of fight with me when I wrestle.”