Whippings and a big boost.
The price was worth it to Jake Varner when he made the decision to attend Iowa State University and train with Cael Sanderson.
“I knew he was going to get me where I needed to be,” Varner said in a pre-Olympic Games news conference in London, England. “Lucky enough for me he wrestled my weight. I got him right after he won his gold, too. I took a lot of beatings from him. You’ve got to learn from that.”
The former Iowa State two-time NCAA champion and four-time national finalist will attempt to become an Olympic champion, matching his mentor, at the London Games. Varner represents the United States at 96 kilograms in men’s freestyle competition, which takes the mat Aug. 10-12.
Varner expressed his gratitude for the impact Sanderson, the 2004 84-kilogram Olympic gold medalist in Athens, Greece, has made in his career.
“He’s a big part of my success,” Varner said of Sanderson during a pre-Olympics news conference. “I owe a lot to him.”
The Bakersfield, Calif., native moved to State College, Pa., after graduating from Iowa State, following Sanderson, who took over Penn State’s program after Varner’s junior year. The move resulted in Varner climbing the world freestyle ranks that included a gold at this year’s Canada Cup and a bronze medal in the 2011 World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. Varner wasn’t satisfied with just a medal, noting that he “lost the gold” instead of winning bronze.
“That fuels the fire even more,” Varner said. “This is a big year. This is the one everybody wants. This is the one I want.”
The dream of being an Olympic and World champion started in middle school. The vision became clear as he determined he had as much ability as anyone. At this level, anyone is capable, and Varner .
“I’ve been training for this for a long time,” Varner said. “It might as well be me.”
Varner received themat.com Wrestler of the Week honors last week for his training since arriving in Europe.
“Jake had a solid three days in London, and he is ready to get a couple of solid training cycles in this week in Belarus,” U.S. National Coach Zeke Jones said. “His focus is good right now and he is taking care of business.”
Varner has been looking to peak for the London Games. He has worked on making minimal changes to his style, trying to fix things that have gone wrong the last year. Varner said he has done what is needed to succeed on the world’s biggest athletic stage and the more than 20 friends and family expected to arrive in London the day before competition.
“I’ve wrestled all the top guys,” Varner told USA Wrestling after the news conference. “I know where I’m at and what I’ve had to do to change and I’ve made the adjustments.
“I’m just ready to go. I’m just ready to get out there.”