In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. It also sometimes helps when you’re being coached by the best, as well.
Jake Varner teamed up with his longtime personal coach, undefeated NCAA wrestler and Olympic champion Cael Sanderson, to make a dominating gold-medal run in the men’s 96 kg, freestyle wrestling competition.
For his entire life, Varner knew what his wrestling goal was, and on Sunday, he finally achieved it.
“He’s an Olympic champion. It’s what he’s wanted to be since he was a little kid,” Sanderson said.
Varner attributes much of his success to his coach, and says that picking Sanderson years ago was the best move he could’ve made.
“I knew he was going to get me to my ultimate goal: being a gold medalist at the Olympic Games,” Varner said.
Varner began the afternoon with a 1-0, 0-1, 1-0 victory over Kurban Kurbanov of Uzbekistan. He then easily ousted Canada’s Khetag Pliev in the quarterfinals with a 1-0, 1-0 victory. In the semifinals, Varner battled to a 0-2, 1-0, 1-0 win over eventual bronze medalist George Godshelidze of Georgia.
With the gold medal on the line, Varner defeated Ukraine’s Valerii Andiitsev, 1-0, 1-0, in the final. The American won the first period by converting an anklepick takedown for one point. In the second period, he scored his winning point off a scramble on the edge to earn the push-out.
“He’s very excited. He’s been dedicated this whole trip, sitting in his room resting and doing what it takes to win,” said Sanderson. “He likes to compete. He’s the same whether it is the Olympic finals, or any other match. That’s one of the reasons he’s so good, he has great composure.”
Varner’s temperate demeanor restrains him from displaying any excitement, but he affirms that he enjoying every minute of realizing his dream.
“Every time I step on the mat I expect to win. I think I smiled more than I usually do today, though,” Varner said. “I’m very excited. I am an Olympic champion now.”
Representing Team USA in the men’s 66 kg. freestyle division, Jared Frayer bowed out in the opening round of competition with a 0-3, 0-1 loss to Ali Shabanau of Belarus.