IOWA CITY — He almost surely would have been the most-told story about a 2012 U.S. Olympic wrester leading up to this summer in London.
But sometimes the potentially most-interesting stories have abrupt endings. Former Northern Iowa wrestler Jordan Holm’s bid for an Olympic berth was denied in the 84 kilograms final Saturday night in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
This quest ended in Iowa City, the city in which he was convicted of third-degree sexual abuse in 2003.
Holm served six years and nine months in prison, getting his release from Anamosa State Penitentiary in April 2010. He could have had a significantly reduced time in prison, but adamantly refused opportunities to participate in Iowa’s Sex Offender Treatment Program.
To do so would have required Holm to admit guilt. He would not.
“The worst part of my sentence was the accusation,” Holm said recently.
“Injustice is tough to deal with,” he said after his loss Saturday.
But his best-of-three final against fellow Minnesotan Chas Betts had a result that had no gray areas in anyone’s mind. The 25-year-old Betts won two consecutive tight matches. The first was 1-0, 0-3, 2-0. The second was 2-0, 2-0. That was that for Holm, 30.
“I give credit to his coaching staff and to Betts himself,” said Holm. “He’s given a lot of time to the sport.”
A total of 10 minutes of wrestling Saturday night, and Holm’s goal - — which seemed beyond unreachable during his incarceration — was gone.
“I was not disappointed with my effort,” he said. “I know I gave everything I had on the mat. I felt comfortable.”
The difference between first and second place, between pursuing Olympic gold in London and staying home in Minneapolis, was mighty thin.
“Sitting at breakfast this morning,” Holm said, “I was thinking I know my sport and I’m used to this, but in no other sport that I can think of do you train for thousands of hours, a countless amount of time and effort in a difficult sport to train in, and it comes down to four minutes of execution on the mat, six minutes tops.
“You wish you could do a best-out-of-7, a best-out-of-21, you know, but you only get a best-out-of-3. And that’s part of the beauty of the sport as well.”
No one could question Holm’s resolve, that’s for sure.
A year after his release from Anamosa, he won the U.S. Open. Another year later, he was within a victory of joining his nation’s Olympic team.
Holm had his share of supporters in the arena that was stuffed with a record number of fans for this event.
“I’m really grateful for the crowd’s response,” Holm said Saturday afternoon after his second match of the day, a 2-0, 2-0 win over Zac Nielsen. “I feel like they have been welcoming and encouraging. I am very grateful for that.”
After his first match, a 0-1, 1-0, 5-0 victory over Cheney Haight, Holm said “I love this community. They are very knowledgeable with wrestling. It should be fun to continue to compete here.”
The fun had turned to dejection several hours later. Holm said he thinks he’ll keep wrestling. At 30, he isn’t old by Greco-Roman standards. But another Olympic bid would seem unlikely. He will be 34 in 2016, and he also wants to resume pursuit of a college degree. That’s been on hold for nine years.
“I would like to have had the chance to compete in the last two Trials,” he said. “But I’m grateful for the opportunity to be in this one.”
Yet, “It’s painful to lose. It will probably be a few days for it to kick in all the way.”
Here's a photo gallery, provided by The Gazette's Brian Ray and Cliff Jette, of Saturday's Trials action: