Frayer upsets hometown favorite to qualify for first Olympic team
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Brent Metcalf had never lost at Carver-Hawkeye Arena entering the final session of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. But on Sunday night, Jared Frayer beat Metcalf twice in the best-of-three 66 kg finals match.
"They said he's never lost here, but I guarantee he's lost in that wrestling room a couple times," said Frayer, who coached Metcalf for nine months while the pair was at Iowa.
Metcalf defeated Frayer, 33, in the 2010 world team trials -- the last year Frayer competed at the international level. Frayer took a one-year break after his daughter Khloe, who has Down syndrome, was born.
"I always knew I'd be back," said Frayer. "This is nothing compared to what she's going through."
Frayer's family likely won't come with him to the Olympic Games. His wife Nicole is due to give birth to their second child on Aug. 7 and Frayer said he may have to watch the birth on Skype. The Oklahoma assistant coach wasn't joking.
"Why excel at one thing? I want to be the best coach in the country. I want to be the best recruiter, the best father," he said.
After finishing as the runner-up at the 2006 and 2009 world team trials and placing fifth at the 2008 Olympic trials, Frayer was finally able to put it all together in Iowa City. Being an Olympian has been Frayer's dream since he watched John Smith win gold on television as a 10-year-old, but before this year the closest he had come was traveling with Team USA as a practice partner. Now it's his turn.
Frayer will be joined by three freestyle wrestlers who have previously medaled at the world championships. Jake Varner, a 2011 bronze medalist at the world championships, earned the 96kg slot after defeating 2008 Olympic trials runner-up Tommy Rowlands in two close matches. Jake Herbert dropped the first match to Travis Paulson, but the 2009 world silver medalist, who also finished as runner-up at both the 2008 Olympic trials and the 2011 world team trials, rallied and earned his first Olympic berth.
At the 74kg weight class, 2011 world gold medalist Jordan Burroughs, who will likely be a favorite to win gold in London, only had to win one match to earn his Olympic spot. His competitor, Andrew Howe, suffered a severe knee injury at the end of a close three-period match, giving Burroughs the win.
"It's tough. I would have liked to have won and dominated the second match," said Burroughs. "I'm a natural competitor so it's not always fun to win this way."
The only Olympic medalist to compete in the trials was 2008 gold medalist Henry Cejudo. The 55kg wrestler lost a high scoring match to Nick Simmons and then announced he was retiring from international wrestling competition. Cejudo threw his shoes into the record-breaking crowd at Carver-Hawkeye arena before walking off the mat.
"It is what it is," said Cejudo, the son of illegal Mexican immigrants who has become a face for immigration issues. "Tomorrow the sun's going to rise and I'm going to be happy to be in America."
He hopes to go into public speaking, but also wants to help 2012 Olympian Sam Hazewinkel train. Hazewinkel admitted before his finals match that he was glad he didn't have to wrestle Cejudo, but won a close fought series against Simmons to get an Olympic spot. All three of the matches between Hazewinkel and Simmons went the full three periods, but the 29-year-old was able to join the company of his father Dave, and Uncle Jim -- both of whom were also U.S. Olympians.
"I can't put it in words right now. It is incredible," said Hazewinkel. "I am so happy my dad could be here to see it."
The U.S. Army team that trains out of Colordo Springs dominated the Greco-Roman style. They'll send three to London: Dremiel Byers, Justin Lester and Spenser Mango. Byers, who will represent the U.S. at the 120kg weight class, is the oldest U.S. qualifier this year, but the 37-year-old said his teammates' performances show that the U.S. Army will continue to produce Olympians after he retires.
"It gives me a swollen heart to know that my team's going to be alright once I'm gone," said Byers.
Mango, a 2008 Olympian, is 25 and Lester is 28.
On the women's side Clarissa Chun became the first American to qualify for two Olympic Games. After placing fifth in Beijing she won the 2008 world championships later that year. Her new goal, along with every Olympic trials champion, is to take home a medal in London.