Someone has to lug a gold medal home. So, why not Jake Varner?
The former Iowa State University four-time NCAA finalist and two-time national champion will represent the United States at 96 kilograms at the Olympic Games in London, England. Men’s freestyle competition will be Aug. 9-12.
During a news conference Saturday, Varner spoke about his bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships and his desire to capture an Olympic gold medal.
“I don’t know if you ever “win” bronze. … I lost gold is what happened,” Varner said. “That fuels the fire even more.
“This is a big year. This is the one that everybody wants. This is the one I want. I’ve been training for this for a long time.”
Varner will look to duplicate the accomplishment of mentor Cael Sanderson. His former coach at Iowa State and coach now in Pennsylvania, who won Olympic gold in 2004 at Athens, Greece, has made a big impact in Varner’s career.
“He’s a big part of my success,” Varner said. “I owe a lot to him.”
All seven men’s freestyle team members and USA Wrestling men’s freestyle coach Zeke Jones and Olympic Coach and Oklahoma State Coach John Smith talked with media.
Jake Herbert (84 kg) was particularly entertaining, describing how he flips a switch from a fun-loving person to warrior on the mat. He thinks of all the hard work and sacrifice, including early morning workouts and missing personal activities to train and that the opponent on the mat isn’t going to take it away.
Herbert gave a glimpse at his mentality during competition. If it doesn’t endear a wrestling fan to him, nothing will.
“If they want to win they’re going to have to kill me,” Herbert said. “I’m still breathing and I’ll guarantee I’ll be breathing after London’s done.”
Herbert, a 2009 silver World medalist, also provided some laughs. At about the 31:45 mark on the video he confesses, “I only have enough seriousness in me for about a six-minute match.”
He is then interrupted by a sneeze from the spectators, only to stop and say, “God Bless you, Mike.” Of course, the brief glimpse of him posing with his arm draped around Jordan Burroughs as they both smile was priceless.
Burroughs, the defending World champion at 74 kg, has been thrust into the spotlight. He has been on the Today Show, but has been embracing the attention instead of shying away.
Now his focus on winning an Olympic gold. he knows there is work to do until he can make claim to an Olympic crown.
“Right now, I’m just visualizing that day,” Burroughs said of competition. “Go out there and execute at my highest level.”
Tervel Dlagnev (120 kg) talks about his late start in wrestling, and how his dream of vying for an Olympic title started around the time former Janesville native Tolly Thompson chose him as a workout partner while training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Jared Frayer, a former University of Iowa assistant who will compete at 66 kg for the U.S., talked about how the birth of his first child served as the reason he came out of “pseudo retirement” about two years ago, and that the birth of his second child, which came during a recent simulation tournament has gotten him ready for the Olympics. He was physically simulated by the tournament and underwent anxiety simulation the next day as his wife was in labor.
“I’m pretty simulated for this tournament.”