IOWA CITY – We learned a few things at the 2012 United States Olympic Team Trials.
The Penn State Nittany Lions are human after all.
The state of Iowa solidified its position as hotbed of wrestling in this country.
And isn’t easy to make an Olympic squad while still in college.
Record crowds — the smallest crowd of the four sessions was still more than 12,000 — saw a pair of collegians challenge for a ticket to London.
Andrew Howe, an NCAA champion for Wisconsin in 2010 and All-American in 2011, took a redshirt season in 2011-12 to train full-time in freestyle. He reached the 163-pound final by beating two other collegians, Cornell’s Kyle Dake and Oklahoma’s Tyler Caldwell. But Howe was unable to unseat 2011 world champion Jordan Burroughs in a best-of-three final which saw Howe injured in the first bout and unable to step on the mat for a second match.
Logan Stieber, who won an NCAA title for Ohio State as a freshman in March, beat former Illinois star Jimmy Kennedy and hometown favorite Mike Zadick, but could not get past 2008 NCAA champion Coleman Scott, a veteran of the freestyle circuit, in the best-of-three final at 132 pounds.
|THERE’S STILL TIME LEFT|
|Olympic Trials hopefuls from a number of colleges gave it their best but came up short in Iowa City. While many will have another chance in 2016 and beyond, it shouldn’t have been a surprise as it’s normally a long shot for collegians to make the team, according to NCAA.com’s Roger Moore. Find out more by clicking here.|
“He’s a tough kid; going to be really good, already is really good,” said Scott of Stieber, who beat Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver in the 2012 NCAA final. “Obviously it meant something to me to beat him after he beat Jordan Oliver in the [NCAA] finals. I wanted to get him back. But that kid has a big future.”
Oliver, an NCAA champion in 2011, was expected to be in the 132-pound bracket but did not make weight and moved up to 145.5 pounds. He faced off against former Iowa stat Brent Metcalf in the first round and was game, but in the end, lost a three-period bout.
Another Wisconsin wrestler taking a redshirt last season, Tyler Graf was in the 132-pound bracket, losing to former Penn star Matt Valenti, but came back to take third place with four victories.
For the Penn State contingent, it was not a weekend to remember. But it also shows the level of competition is on a different plane.
David Taylor, an undefeated NCAA champion at 165 pounds and the Hodge Trophy winner in 2012, opened with a solid win against former Northern Iowa star Moza Fay, but didn’t have much luck against Howe. Taylor came back to win a pair of matches but was pinned by Dake in the consolation semifinals.
Ed Ruth, NCAA champion at 174 in March, got whipped by former Hawkeye Phil Keddy. After winning a match, he bowed out of the tournament with a loss to Raymond Jordan, a former All-American for Missouri.
Quentin Wright, NCAA champ in 2011 and runner-up in 2012, won a match but lost to Keith Gavin and was pinned by Mack Lewnes a round later to exit.
Iowa’s Matt McDonough, now a two-time NCAA champion, saw exactly what it is going to take to move to the next level. McDonough, competing at 121 pounds, beat old Big Ten rival Brandon Precin in the first round but ran into 2011 Trials champion Nick Simmons a round later. After dropping into the consolations, McDonough won a match but was beaten by another former World team member, Obe Blanc.
“I got a chance to wrestle a few of the top guys and that is a lesson you learn,” McDonough said. “I still have a college season left so I need to focus on that, but as far as international competition goes, every chance I get to step on that mat is a chance to improve myself and see where I stand and help to get to where I want to be. Maybe I made a small step forward getting to wrestle [at the Trials].”
Getting to where you want to be often takes time.
For Sam Hazwinkel, a four-time All-American for Oklahoma, the wait includes three consecutive second-place finishes at U.S. Team Trials. He turned 29 last March.
Jared Frayer, an NCAA runner-up in 2001 for Oklahoma, turns 34 in October. He was the champion at 145.5 pounds in freestyle.
Jake Herbert, the 185 pound champion, is 27.
Burroughs is the youngest member of the U.S. freestyle squad. He turns 24 in July.
The 2016 Olympics are scheduled to be held in Brazil. Which current collegians, after waiting patiently, will get their shot at Olympic glory?