"This is the only bronze medal that I will ever accept" -- Dan Gable | VIDEO footage of unveiling here
So how did Iowa lure Dan Gable, a two-time NCAA champion and one of the greatest college wrestlers of all-time away from his alma mater, Iowa State? It all started with a box of athletic tape.
"Little did I know, he was a plant (at Iowa State)," Gable said of Marks, who later spearheaded recruiting for Iowa under Kurdelmeier and Gable. "He was one of the guys on the inside … trying to get me to come back to Iowa City. I didn’t realize all this homework was being done. (But) as soon as the job was done and I was committed to come (to Iowa, Marks) up and left everything, ran out and never went back."
Gable theorized Kurdelmeier and the Hawkeyes gained insider information through Marks and knew the full story about his knee injury — how he tore cartilage that February, ignored a doctor’s recommendation for surgery that would have ended his Olympic quest, taped the leg for every workout and wound up paying for bandages out of his own pocket when he had trouble obtaining them from the Cyclones.
Then a package arrived from Iowa trainer Tom Spalj — a box filled with enough tape to last Gable through the Olympics.
"That really influenced me," he said. "It was already a done deal behind the scenes with my parents. But for me feeling good, that was a big deal. I’ve never forgotten it."
Somewhere in Ames, Jamie Pollard is retroactively inconsolable.
Meanwhile, as we celebrate Dan Gable's astounding accomplishments, it's worth sparing a few moments to celebrate his predecessor at Iowa, Gary Kurdelmeier. Gable may be the G.O.A.T., but Kurdelemeier established the foundation for Iowa wrestling that Gable elevated into the stratosphere. He was also a trailblazer: in marketing and in pushing the limits of the NCAA rules (often forcing them to devise new rules after he exploited their loopholes). Here's to you, Gary.
More U.S. Olympics Trials coverage than you can shake a stick at after the jump.
So what is freestyle exactly? If you attend the Trial in Iowa City this weekend, or watch them on TV or online, you'll probably notice that while it's similar to the style of wrestling you see in college competition, it also has some pretty significant differences. To bone up on those differences, you could start with the wiki entry, which explains several aspects of freestyle wrestling quite well. Andy Hamilton also has a tremendous breakdown that I strongly encourage you to read.
The circus never made it to town. A few months ago, there was a lot of chatter about some big-name participants at the U.S. Olympic Trials this year -- Cael Sanderson and Kurt Angle. Both were celebrated Olympic wrestlers -- Sanderson won gold in Athens in 2004 and Angle won gold in Atlanta in 1996 -- but had spent years away from freestyle competition. Angle parlayed his gold medal into a long pro wrestling career (which continues today), while Sanderson moved into coaching (I think we're pretty familiar with that chapter of his career). But they were talking comebacks (Sanderson even dusted off the singlet for a return at the 2011 World Championships; he got 5th) -- emphasis on were. Angle pulled out last week after a series of lingering injuries (most notably, a torn MCL), while Sanderson pulled out last week to focus more on coaching. The Trials will be less of a spectacle with them not participating, but so it goes -- the quality of wrestling on display is unlikely to be diminished too much.
* 60kg (Mike Zadick)
* 74kg (Ryan Morningstar)
* 120 kg
* 55kg (Matt McDonough)
* 66kg (Brent Metcalf, Todd Meneely, Joe Johnston)
* 84kg (Phil Keddy)
* 120 kg (Steve Mocco)
Here's the full list of competitors at each weight. Note that Reece Humphrey (formerly of Ohio State) and Shawn Bunch are sitting out the Trials to focus on the upcoming World Olympic Games Qualifying Tournaments later this month and in early May; 60kg remains the only weight the U.S. has not yet qualified for the Olympics -- obviously getting that done is more important than the Trials.
If you want the Vegas odds for each men's freestyle weight -- you're in luck. Zadick and Metcalf are Iowa's best bets at a first-place finish and McDonough has the best odds of the longshot guys. Morningstar and Keddy are the longest of longshots -- if they do anything, we should probably be impressed. Especially Morningstar, who is in a seriously loaded weight class -- 74kg includes four former national champions (who have combined for seven national titles -- so far): Jordan Burroughs, Andrew Howe, Kyle Dake, and David Taylor. Burroughs, the reigning World Champion, is the heavy favorite at that weight, but even if he is a cut above everyone else, the race for #2 should be pretty interesting with the quality of the remaining competitors.
Via The Mat, NBC Sports (formerly Versus) will be providing tape-delayed coverage of the Trials on Sunday from 3-6pm CT (covering Saturday's action) and Monday from 2-5pm CT (covering Sunday's action). NBCOlympics.com will be providing live streaming of the event on the internet. I'm not aware of radio coverage.
"You talk about the legend you leave here for yourself and the stats that you put on the wall," said Metcalf, who was 108-3 at the UI. "When I was young, I used to open wrestling magazines and there were these kids' faces in there. I would tell my dad, `I want my face in this magazine.' He said, `You have to wrestle in this tournament, this one, this one, and you have to win them all.' So that's what we would do. I would go to the tournaments and win them all, and I would get in the magazine. To me, it was about being the best in wrestling."
"When you're young and you have those dreams, they slowly become more reality and with each step I take, it is becoming more reality," he said. "Now it can't just be having a goal in mind, it has to be a mission. I am on a mission to do this, and I have to do whatever it takes to get there.
"We don't compete just to throw our hat in the ring; we compete to be the best, to be on top of the podium, and to do the very best of your ability every time out there."
After capping an outstanding college career with the University of Iowa in 2010 by winning his second NCAA championship in three finals appearances, Metcalf said Tom Brands (1996) had won an Olympic title, Dan Gable (1972) won an Olympic title but he needed to win two. The statement was partially meant to needle them, but it also represents his desire to be the best.
"When you think about it, you want to win as many as you can. I see myself being able to compete now and again in 2016, for sure," Metcalf said. "Tom Brands is our bar. Dan Gable is our bar. I want to be the new bar. Every one of these guys should want to be the new bar. That’s really a mentality thing."
"We didn’t push to get the wild card so it could be a learning experience. (USA Wrestling Freestyle Coach) Zeke Jones would have us tarred and feathered if we were using this as a learning experience," Iowa assistant and former U.S. Wrestling Team Coach Terry Brands said. "This is about high-level wrestling. Matt McDonough is about high level wrestling. He’s about going forward with his wrestling, both figuratively and literally. You want experience then you go to win the doggone tournament."
Mike Zadick’s vision became clear at a young age.
At 5, he already determined he wanted to reach the acme of amateur wrestling, which is an Olympic gold medal.
Now, he will likely make one last big at completing that mission when he competes in the 132-pound men’s freestyle division of the USA Wrestling’s Olympic Wrestling Team Trials on April 21-22 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Wrestlers in men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman will contend for spots on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team and a chance to compete in the Olympic Games this summer in London, England.
"That’s one thing I wrote down and have been in the sport at (33) years old still trying to accomplish," Zadick said. "That’s why it’s driven you and etched in stone. That’s my motivation."