Before stepping onto the mat at the 2012 Olympics, U.S. wrestlers scored bonus points with the media at press conferences in London over the weekend.
Arguably one of the main stars for Team USA was Jake Herbert, men’s freestyle wrestler at 84 kg/185 pounds. When asked why he has been dubbed the clown of the team, the two-time NCAA champ for Northwestern University responded, “I only have enough seriousness in me for about a six-minute match. It’s fun, we go to practice in sweat pants, I’m trained to beat up my boss, and I’m pretty sure I can almost take Zeke (Jones, USA head coach and 1992 Olympic Games 52 kg silver medalist) now… It’s the Olympic Games here, it’s a great experience, but you’ve gotta keep things light.”
Herbert then turned serious: “Then you start to look at that guy across the mat and you start to think what that guy’s trying to take away from you. He didn’t work as hard as me. I know for a fact he wasn’t up at 6 a.m., he wasn’t hitting the bike until he puked, he wasn’t hitting those weights harder than me, he wasn’t as dedicated as I am, he doesn’t want it as much as I do, and it starts to excite me, it starts getting my blood pressure up, starts to get the hair standing on the back of my neck. It gets my heart beating and gets me ready to go out there for war. Because this guy’s trying to take what’s mine. That gold medal’s not his, that’s my gold medal. I have to go out there and take it.”
Another wrestler with high expectations is Jordan Burroughs. The two-time University of Nebraska NCAA champ has been picked by Sports Illustrated as the favorite for the gold medal at 74 kg/163 pounds freestyle. “A lot of people expect me to win, I expect to win, my family expects me to win and I gotta get it done. I’m representing not only myself, but my whole country… I have an extremely high level of confidence. I expect to win every time I step out there in the match.”
On a lighter note, U.S. veteran Greco-Roman heavyweight (120 kg/264.5 lbs.) Dremiel Byers weighed in on security issues with the 2012 London Games: “”Usually I’m my own security. These guys should feel safe because I’m here.”
Even before the press conferences, a couple Team USA wrestlers had made news in the mainstream media. Elena Pirozhkova, wrestling freestyle at 63 kg/138.75, made a splash when she lifted First Lady Michelle Obama in a meet-and-greet event Friday… while Herbert’s “Howard Stern! Baba Booey!” shout-out during the Opening Ceremonies generated significant buzz in both traditional and social media despite having been edited out of the NBC tape-delayed broadcast Friday night. (It had been shown in the live BBC feed.) The Northwestern mat champ’s message to the popular radio show host did not go unnoticed — or unrewarded. Early Monday morning, Herbert posted on Twitter: “Life goal 1 complete got on the Howard stern show talked to @Howard_Stern and Robbin life goal #2 get gold medal aug 11.”
Things may be quiet for a while, as U.S. wrestlers have gone to various facilities away from London for workouts before taking to the mat next week. But it won’t be the last fans hear about the men and women of Team USA wrestling.
Go to the press conferences: See video and read transcripts of what Team USA wrestlers said this weekend at press conferences at the 2012 Olympics at TheMat.com.
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.
Want to know more? Check out the schedule for wrestling at the 2012 Olympics. 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.
The Olympics are here… and there’s plenty of other news, too! Keep up with all this summer’s developments in wrestling, including the 2012 London Olympics, awards, coach hirings, firings and retirings, new programs and other developments year round… by clicking the “sign up” button at the top of the page — or click on the Twitter link below — to make sure you don’t miss a single article from College Wrestling Examiner, winner of Amateur Wrestling News’ Dellinger Award as wrestling writer of 2011. It’s absolutely FREE!
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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