It’s a gold medal for the grappler originally from the Golden State.
Jake Varner, a two-time NCAA champ at Iowa State, struck gold in men’s freestyle wrestling at 96 kg/211.5 pounds at the 2012 Olympics at ExCel Centre in London Sunday.
The Bakersfield, Calif. native defeated Valeri Andritsev of Ukraine, 1-0, 1-0, to win the gold medal in the final match of the closing day of the Summer Olympics.
Varner became the 49th U.S. wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal, and the second men’s freestyler to win the ultimate prize at the London Games. University of Nebraska mat champ Jordan Burroughs claimed gold at 74 kg/163 lbs. on Friday.
Meanwhile, fellow former Big 12 wrestler Jared Frayer’s Olympic experience Sunday was anything but golden, as the University of Oklahoma mat alum was knocked out of contention after one match at 66 kg/145.5 lbs.
With his Olympic training partner and freestyle coach Cael Sanderson in his corner, the 26-year-old Varner started the day with a best-of-three-period win over Uzbekistan’s Kurban Kurbanov (a past World bronze medalist), 1-0, 0-1, 1-0. In the second round, the former Cyclone defeated Canada’s Khetag Pliev — a two-time Ohio high school state champ for Lakota East outside Cincinnati — 1-0, 1-0. The semifinals saw Varner top Georgi Gogshelidze of Georgia, 0-2, 1-0, 1-0.
Varner becomes the sixth Iowa State wrestler to win gold, joining his Cyclone coach the first three years, Cael Sanderson (2004 Olympics), as well as his coach his senior year at ISU, Kevin Jackson (1992). Other Iowa State alums to earn Olympic gold: Dan Gable (1972), Ben Peterson (1972), and Glen Brand (1948).
In addition to receiving the gold medal, Varner will also take home a $250,000 bonus from the Living the Dream Medal Fund, which is funded by the wrestling community to reward excellence in Olympic wrestling.
The other Team USA wrestler competing Sunday, Jared Frayer, lost his opening match to Ali Shabanau of Belarus at 66 kg/145.5 lbs., 0-3, 0-1. When Shabanau failed to make the finals, the Oklahoma Sooner assistant coach was eliminated from further Olympic competition. The 33-year-old Frayer later told reporters his Olympic match would be the last time he would step onto the mat.
Medal Results — 66 kg/145.5 lbs.
- Gold: Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu, Japan
- Silver: Sushil Kumar, India
- Bronze: Akzhurek Tanatarov, Kazakhstan
- Bronze: Livan Lopez Azcuy, Cuba
- TheMat.com panel of 12 wrestling writers’ predictions to win a gold medal: Two journalists thought Yonemitsu would claim the gold..
Medal Results — 96 kg/211.5 lbs.
- Gold: Jake Varner, USA
- Silver: Valeri Andriitsev, Ukraine
- Bronze: Georgi Gogshelidze, Georgia
- Bronze: Khetag Gazumov, Azerbaijan
- TheMat.com panel of 12 wrestling writers’ predictions to win a gold medal: Only one writer predicted Varner would bring home gold.
Want to know more? Read recaps from TheMat.com and InterMatWrestle.com which include more detailed accounts of the matches, along with quotes from the wrestlers and their coaches.
Get to know the U.S. Olympic wrestlers: USA Wrestling has produced an online guide for the 2012 Olympics, featuring bios, info and videos of Team USA wrestlers, and their coaches. Also check out College Wrestling Examiner’s weight-by-weight previews.
Pin down the basics: Check out the schedule for wrestling at the 2012 Olympics. TheMat.com has a special Olympics page with wrestler bios, profiles, news stories. InterMat also has an Olympics page, with brackets, photos and news and notes. For basic facts about Olympic wrestling, take a look at the “How To Watch Wrestling” primer at the NBC Chicago website, and NBCOlympics for specifics on the rules.
Want to meet past U.S. Olympic gold medalists of the mat? Check out the series of articles in College Wrestling 101 for brief bios on the 47 U.S. wrestlers who brought home gold between 1908 and 2008. To learn even more, you’ll want to read the brand-new book The Gold Standard, featured in a College Wrestling Examiner article from April 2012.
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College Wrestling 101: Links to College Wrestling Examiner articles answering basic questions about wrestling, including rules, scoring, uniforms, past U.S. Olympic gold medalists, more
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