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A Hard Lesson Learned

Aug. 13, 2008, 9:28 a.m. (ET)

It's called the repechage - - a second-chance at redemption after an early-round loss.

Jake Deitchler and T.C. Dantzler, at polar ends of Greco-Roman wrestling careers, both hoped for theirs Wednesday.

Only Deitchler got one - the opportunity to meet Ukraine's Armen Vardanyan in a wrestle-back for the right to face Nikolay Gergov of Bulgaria in the 66kg bronze-medal match.

When a wrestler is an early-round loser like Deitchler and Dantzler were at China Agricultural University, a second chance is the best an athlete can hope for. The wrestler who beat him has to advance all the way to the final in order for him to wrestle again. Deitchler eventually lost to Vardanyan in the wrestle-back but, in his first Olympics, at least he got that chance.

That was probably the furthest thing from Deitchler's mind after his earlier loss. The only sound in the hallway was his sobs.

Deitchler was in control of his match with Kanatbek Begaliev of Kyrgyzstan in the second period. Then, he let it all slip away.

"I was in the position I wanted to be in," said Deitchler, 18 and the rookie on the U.S. team. "Normally (with me), it comes down to the second period anyways. I kind of stopped wrestling for a second.

"Against these top-level competition guys, anything can happen. The world champ, who was right next to me in the bracket, got beat in his first match. A lot of people are going down. That hurts really bad. I did everything I could to get ready, and it hurts."

The first high-schooler to make the U..S. Olympic team since 1976, Deitchler is at the beginning of a promising career. A five-time U.S. World team member, Dantzler , 37, is nearing the end of his.

"You've got to be that good that when things aren't going your way, you can still win," Dantzler. "I just wasn't able to overcome it.

"It just happens, man. Internationally, sometimes you'll get a ref and as soon as you get out there, they have an attitude about something. It might be something that happened the match before. He just might be anti-you. You have to overcome all that. So, I get to go home, start working again, just looking forward to 2012."

Deitcher can look at 2012 and beyond. Good as he is, he will leave Beijing a much smarter wrestler than when he arrived.

He took the first loss hard.

"He's hurting," said Brandon Paulson, Deitcher's coach and a '96 Olympic silver medalist. "We didn't come here just to participate. We came here expecting to win.

"It was a small mistake but at the Olympics, you can't wrestle with mistakes. I don't know if it's a rookie mistake. He lost the junior national finals in a similar fashion, in a similar position. He's always thinking about scoring. Maybe he was thinking too much about scoring. "

Paulson, like Deitcher, said the young Olympian won't make the same mistake again.

"He hasn't been in the position enough to know," Paulson said. "You can only teach so much and you can only go over so much technique. Sometimes, it's just feel and feeling every position thousands of times.

"Whether he took the bronze or not, he's going to work his butt off to get back here and win, because that's the kind of guy he is. He's going to get better. He just needs more matches. "

They will come. After all, Deitcher is still only 18 years old.

"It didn't turn out the way I wanted it to," he said. "I have to move on. I was right there. It was close. I stopped wrestling there for a second, and he took advantage.

"I did everything I could, but I'll move on from there. Next time, I'll be ready."


Tommy Hine is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.