(LAS VEGAS) -- Recent high school grad Jake Deitchler (New Ramsey, Minn./Minnesota Storm) shocked the wrestling world by earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in Greco-Roman wrestling at 66 kg/145.5 lbs.
The 18-year-old becomes the first wrestler from high school to make a U.S. Olympic team in wrestling since Mike Farina of Illinois qualified for the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team in Greco-Roman. The first high school athlete to make a U.S. Olympic team was Jimmy Carr of Pennsylvania, a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team.
Deitchler won in two straight matches over veteran star Faruk Sahin (Colorado Springs, Colo./US Army), igniting the crowd with his joy and enthusiasm. Both matches were very close and competitive.
"I haven't had pressure the whole tournament. I'm the younger guy here and they just told me to relax, wrestle hard, score points, focus on certain things, not so much winning and losing. But that second match, I'm saying, 'hey, this could be my lifelong dream here in about six minutes," said Deitchler.
In match one, in the first period, from the par terre position, Sahin hit a five-point thrown on Deitchler, which automatically ends the period. In the second period, Deitchler scored a three point headlock to take a lead. Sahin tied it at 3-3, but in the final 30 second period, Deitchler had a two-point reversal to take the period. In the third period, neither wrestler scored from their feet, and neither wrestler could score from the par terre position giving the match to Deitchler.
In match two, it seemed that Sahin had taken control. Sahin won the first period.In the second period, Sahin jumped to a 5-0 lead, but Deitchler stormed back with a flurry of points to capture the period, 7-0. The third period was scoreless on the feet, and Deitchler defended in the first par terre period to lead 1-0. In the second par terre position, Deitchler turned Sahin for two exposure points with 14 seconds left to make the score 3-0 and earn his Olympic spot.
Deitchler attended the same high school, Anoka High School, as 1996 Olympic silver medalist Brandon Paulson, who is one of his Greco-Roman coaches. Also coaching Deitchler Saturday was three-time Olympian Dan Chandler.
"The level I train at, my coaches and my family, mentoring-wise just believing I can do everything. People tell me that I'm young enough and kind of ignorant enough. People say that I'm kind of unrealistic about things. To tell you the truth, it really doesn't matter if I can do things like this," said Deitchler.
Sahin is a naturalized U.S. citizen who is originally from Turkey. Sahin received his citizenship in 2004, and has been a top challenger since.
Deitchler made waves within wrestling earlier this year by placing second at the U.S. National Championships on the Senior level this year. He made even bigger news this morning after defeating two-time World bronze medalist Harry Lester (Akron, Ohio/Gator WC) in the semifinals with last second heroics.
After winning his third-place match, Lester left his shoes on the mat in the traditional retirement ceremony in wrestling, indicating that he would retire from competition.
Qualifying for his second U.S. Olympic team in Greco-Roman was Brad Vering (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC), who captured the 84 kg/185 lbs. title with a two-match sweep over Aaron Sieracki (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army).
Vering won the first match in two straight bouts. In the first match, he won the first period on a 1-1 tie by scoring the last point, and the second period on a gutwrench and a lift late in the period.
In the second match, Vering opened up his offense for a 5-0 win in the first period. In the second period, a three-point throw closed out the win.
Vering seeks to improve on his performance at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, where he lost his only bout and did not place. The rules of Greco-Roman wrestling have changed.
"I've had to do all kinds of things to alter my body to get ready for this new style of wrestling. I've made myself more explosive, better technically, and I don't feel like I've ever been a better wrestler than I am right now at 30 years old," said Vering.
Vering won a silver medal at the 2007 World Championships and has twice placed fourth in the World Championships. He entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, after losing in the U.S. Nationals finals to Brad Ahearn (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army). After earning his spot, Vering told the crowd over the PA system in his MSNBC interview that this was his last match in the United States, indicating his plan to retire after the Beijing Olympics.
"The last five weeks were the best five weeks of training I've had. I was actually doing three-a-days two days a week. I've got to thank my strength and conditioning coach has been doing a great job of getting me explosive. My coaches have been behind me the whole time," said Vering.
In a hotly contested three-match Championship Series in men's freestyle, 1997 U.S. World Team member Henry Cejudo (Colorado Springs, Colo/Sunkist Kids) defeated 2004 Olympic silver medalist Stephen Abas (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) at 55 kg/121 lbs.
Cejudo won the first match, but Abas came back to win bout two. The last match of the evening, Cejudo came out strong to capture the spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.
"Oh yeah, for sure. I beat a great competitor. He's one of the guys I kind of looked up to when I was growing up. Now that I beat him, I feel powerful," said Cejudo.
In the first match, Cejudo scored a point in the closing seconds to win the period, 3-2. In the second period, he was able to turn Abas and hold him for three points to win the period, 4-0. However, in the second match, Abas came back strong, dominating the action, winning in two periods, 2-0, 6-3.
In the third period, Abas won the first period, scoring a takedown from the clinch with only one second left in the 30-second overtime period. The second period turned things around for Cejudo, who scored on a low single leg. Abas injured his knee as Cejudo attempted to turn him. After that Cejudo scored two more takedowns to win the second period, 3-0. In the final stanza, three more Cejudo takedowns sealed the victory with a 3-0 margin.
Cejudo made big news in 2006 when he became the first high school wrestler to win a U.S. Nationals freestyle title on the Senior level since USA Wrestling has been the national governing body. In 2007, Cejudo made his first World Team and also captured a gold medal at the Pan American Games.
Cejudo has been training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center since his junior year in high school. He chose to concentrate full-time on freestyle wrestling rather than attend college to compete in collegiate-style wrestling.
"To me this is my NCAA title. My dream is to be a World and Olympic champion, and I guess I'm half way there," said Cejudo.
Also qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Team in freestyle was 2007 U.S. World Team member Doug Schwab (Iowa City, Iowa/Gator WC), who won the 66 kg/145.5 lbs. Championship Series in two straight matches over 2006 World Champion Bill Zadick (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC).
Schwab scored takedowns in every period of the series. He won the first match, 1-0, 1-0 and came back in match two with a 1-0, 1-1, 2-1 victory over Zadick.
Both were NCAA champions at the Univ. of Iowa. The World champion Brands twins were in opposite corners for this showdown, with Tom Brands coaching Schwab and Terry Brands coaching Zadick.
The other U.S. Greco-Roman Olympic team member determined on Saturday was T.C. Dantzler (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC) who captured the 74 kg/163 lbs. title in two straight matches over Cheney Haight (Orem, Utah/New York AC).
Both matches went the full three periods, with Dantzler coming on strong in the deciding third period. Dantzler won the first match, 3-2,0-2,5-0 and sealed the Olympic spot with a 5-1,1-1,4-1 victory in match two.
Dantzler, 37, made his first Olympic Team after making five past U.S. World Teams. The U.S. did not qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games at his weight class, and Dantzler was able to get the weight qualified this spring at an international qualifying event.
Winning the Championship Series at 60 kg/132 lbs. in menï¿½s freestyle was 2006 World silver medalist Mike Zadick (Solon, Iowa/Gator WC), who needed three bouts to defeat Shawn Bunch, Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC). The United States did not qualify to compete at the Olympic Games at this weight class.
Zadick won the first match, 3-1, 1-0, but Bunch won the second match, 3-0, 3-0. In the deciding third match, Zadick lost the first period, 0-2, then won the second 3-0. In the final period of the deciding match, Zadick scored the only takedown for the victory.
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