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|Nine champions crowned on Saturday as eight earn Olympic berths|
By Roger Moore Special to TheMat.com
Stephany Lee (Blue) made her first Olympic team by sweeping Ali Bernard in two matches in women's freestyle at 72kg. (Photo By Larry Slater)
IOWA CITY – Only a select few can claim the title “Olympian.”
On Saturday in front of a capacity crowd of 13,750 inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, eight wrestlers added the distinction to their resume.
For American Greco-Roman stars Spenser Mango and Dremiel Byers it will be visit number two to an Olympic Games. For six others a lifelong dream came true on a Saturday evening where none of the best-of-three series needed the full three bouts.
Mango (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) earned his fifth consecutive Trials title, beating Max Nowry in back-to-back matches at 55 kg/121 lbs.
Mango, eighth at the 2008 Olympics, pinned Nowry to grab the first bout and followed that up with a 1-0, 1-0 decision.
“The first time, I’ll admit, I surprised myself,” said Mango of his win in the 2008 Trials. “I knew I could do it, but I hadn’t done it yet. This time it was all business.”
In qualifying for his eighth straight World Team, Byers (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) beat Michigan State's Steve Andrus in two straight matches at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. Byers was seventh at the 2008 Olympics.
“I’m just happy to be here still competing strong,” said the 37-year-old 2002 World champion. “I’ve got less time (to win Olympic gold). This time I want to show them who I am, leave everything out on the mat. Don’t walk off the mat fresh or walk off the mat and watch a lesser-guy get his hand raised.”
Another veteran of Greco, Justin Lester, a two-time World bronze medalist, became an Olympian for the first time with back-to-back victories over C.P. Schlatter at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. Both were four-time Ohio state champions.
“I’m definitely glad to tack that on to some of my accomplishments but this is only the first part,” said Lester, who won his World medals in 2006 and 2007. “We’ve got a lot to do before we get to London. I’m pretty much eight years deep into it. That’s a pretty long time to be in to it compared to some of the guys like C.P. who’s studied for two or three years.”
Chas Betts (Colorado Springs, Colo./Minnesota Storm) became the fourth wrestler in Greco to earn a spot, beating fellow Storm wrestler Jordan Holm in consecutive matches for top honors at 84 kg/185 lbs. In the first bout, Betts, a 2009 World Team member used a turn to secure the first period, but a powerful Holm toss sent the match to a third where Betts benefitted from a tough call to win after an extended review. The second bout saw another extended review won by Betts in a 2-0, 2-0, victory.
Three champions were also crowned in freestyle – Coleman Scott (60 kg/132 lbs.), Jordan Burroughs (74 kg/163 lbs.), and Jake Varner (96 kg/211.5 lbs.)
Burroughs’ powerful offensive attack was on display in a 4-2 first period victory against Andrew Howe. The first seven seconds of the second period saw a push-out and a 1-0 lead before Howe scored with a duck-under to tie it and eventually force a decisive third.
A Burroughs double-leg attack resulted in a 1-0 lead early in the third and the former Nebraska Cornhusker came out of a fantastic scramble unscathed to claim the first bout.
Unfortunately, during the late scramble Howe was injured and could not step on the mat for the second bout, injury defaulting. It was Howe’s third straight runner-up finish.
It was Burroughs’ ninth straight tournament win, a streak that includes a World Championship in 2011.
“It was kind of anti-climactic,” said Burroughs. “It’s tough. I didn’t want it to end this way. I’m happy being on the team. Being on the team was my main goal at the beginning of the season and I did that.”
Varner (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC), a bronze medalist at the 2011 World Championships, beat Tommy Rowlands in back-to-back matches. The former Iowa State Cyclone lost the opening period of the first match but rallied to win four straight two-minute sessions. A push-out gave Rowlands a 1-0 period win to start the series, but Varner took the second and used an old-fashioned head snap to claim the third period.
Scott (Stillwater, Okla./Gator WC) beat Logan Stieber in two matches to claim his first Trials title. Scott, a three-time third place finisher at U.S. Team Trials competition, won the opening bout in two periods, and then won the second match in a decisive third which came down to a ball draw. Steiber, an NCAA champion in 2012 for Ohio State, drew his color but was unable to finish a takedown attempt.
The 2008 NCAA champion will now wait and see if Shawn Bunch can qualify the United States for the Olympics at the weight class. Bunch competes in Taiyuan, China, next weekend. If Bunch is successful he will compete against Scott and 2011 Trials champion Reece Humphrey at a later date for the right to go to London. If a spot is not earned in China there is one last qualifier in Finland the first week of May.
“I think I’ve won one ball draw in two years and it was today,” said Scott. “I think my rubber knee helped me out a couple of times (against Stieber). I’ll back at it on Monday. I told Coach (Kenny) Monday that I can’t wait around, I have to keep training so I can gain on (Humphrey and Bunch). Things are really out of my control and all I can do is be ready. This is my first step, I’ve got one more.”
Scott’s day also included a victory over three-time Olympian Martin Berberyan, formerly from Armenia who became a U.S. citizen in 2011.
“I honestly had no idea who he was,” admitted Scott. “Maybe it would have been different had I known. I was in a good weight, tough matches all day.”
In women’s freestyle, Kelsey Campbell (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) claimed the 55 kg/121 lbs. title with a two-match victory over Helen Maroulis, who was fifth at the 2011 World Championships. Campbell was also fifth a year ago competing at 59 kg/130 lbs.
“It’s surreal,” said Campbell. “I feel like I am dreaming, like is this real? It’s awesome. A lot of people believed, but I think I had to go out there and do it to believe.”
Stephany Lee (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) finished off Ali Bernard at 72 kg/158.5 lbs. in decisive fashion, wrapping up the series with a technical fall in the second period of the second bout. Berhard won a bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships. It marks the third World Team for Lee, a 27-year-old originally from Hawaii.
The nine remaining weights will be contested on Sunday. Among those expected to compete in freestyle are 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo (55 kg/121 lbs.), former Hawkeye Brent Metcalf (66 kg/145.5 lbs.), 2009 World silver medalist Jake Herbert (84 kg/185 lbs.), and 2009 World bronze medalist Tervel Dlagnev (120 kg/264.5 lbs.)
In women’s freestyle 2008 World champion Clarissa Chun (48 kg/105.5 lbs.) is set to compete, while in Greco-Roman young Ellis Coleman and Jesse Thielke are among the competitors at 66 kg/132 lbs.
Kristie Davis, a two-time World champion and nine-time World medalist, and Iris Smith, a World champion in 2005, met for true third in women’s freestyle at 72 kg/158.5 lbs. After dropping the second period Smith rallied to win the third as all three mats had women’s matches simultaneously in front of the largest gathering to watch women’s wrestling to date.
The last time an athlete still competing in college made the U.S. Olympic squad in freestyle was 1988 when John Smith and Ken Chertow competed in Seoul, South Korea. It was the first of Smith’s two Olympic squads and the first of his two gold medals. On Saturday, Stieber had a chance to join that list but fell to Scott in the finals.
Championship finals (best-of-three series)
60 kg/132 lbs. – Coleman Scott (Stillwater, Okla./Gator WC) def. Logan Stieber (Monroeville, Ohio/NYAC), 2 matches to 1
Scott dec. Stieber, 3-0, 1-0
Scott dec. Stieber, 2-0, 0-1, 2-0
74 kg/163 lbs. – Jordan Burroughs (Lincoln, Neb./Sunkist Kids) def. Andrew Howe (Cedar Lake, Ind./New York AC), 2 matches to 0
Burroughs dec. Howe, 4-2, 1-0
Burroughs dec. Howe by injury default
96 kg/211.5 lbs. – Jake Varner (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC) def. Tommy Rowlands (Hilliard, Ohio/Sunkist Kids), 2 matches to 0
Varner dec. Rowlands, 0-1, 2-0, 1-0
Varner dec. Rowlands, 2-0, 1-0
55 kg/121 lbs. – Spenser Mango (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) def. Max Nowry (Wheeling, Ill./NYAC), 2 matches to 0
Mango pin Nowry, 1:53
Mango dec. Nowry, 1-0, 3-0
66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Justin Lester (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) def. C.P. Schlatter (Minneapolis, Minn./Minnesota Storm), 2 matches to 0
Lester dec. Schlatter, 1-0, 2-0
Lester dec. Schlatter, 2-0, 1-2, 1-0
84 kg/185 lbs. – Chas Betts (Colorado Springs, Colo./USOEC) def. Jordan Holm (Minneapolis, Minn./Minnesota Storm), 2 matches to 0
Betts dec. Holm, 1-0, 0-3, 2-0
Betts dec. Holm, 2-0, 2-0
120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Dremiel Byers (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) def. Steve Andrus (Manhattan, Kan./Michigan WC), 2 matches to 0
Byers dec. Andrus, 1-0, 1-0
Byers dec. Andrus, 2-0, 2-0
55 kg/121 lbs. – Kelsey Campbell (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) def. Helen Maroulis (Rockville, Md./New York AC), 2 matches to 0
Campbell dec. Maroulis, 0-2, 1-0, 2-1
Campbell dec. Maroulis, 2-0, 0-1, 1-0
72 kg/158.5 lbs. – Stephany Lee (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) def. Ali Bernard (New Ulm, Minn./Gator WC), 2 matches to 0
Lee dec. Bernard, 3-1, 5-2
Lee dec. Bernard, 3-1, 6-0