USA Wrestling TOKYO BLOG (August 8...

TOKYO BLOG (August 8): Historic USA Wrestling performance at Tokyo Games is something to be proud of

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | July 27, 2021, 7:36 p.m. (ET)

Gable Steveson of the USA soaring over the mat during his victory flip. The U.S. team was flying high at these Olympic Games. Photo by Larry Slater

Hey, U.S. wrestling community… I hope you are feeling as good about our Olympic wrestling team back home as we are feeling about the team over here in Japan.

We have a lot to be proud of, each and every American who is involved in the sport of wrestling. Our Olympic athletes came to Tokyo and had a record performance. Every time they stepped on the mat, they poured their heart and soul into their match. Although we didn’t always get the outcome we wanted, these athletes performed well under extreme pressure and were outstanding when the whistle blew and it was game time.

Nine Medals. Three Gold Medals. Five men’s freestyle Medals won by just five athletes. Four women’s freestyle Medals, doubling the best previous Olympic performance by our women. Spectacular.

This is our best Olympic performance. It is hard to compare this with the 1984 Olympic Team, which captured 13 medals out of 20 weight classes including nine golds. That Olympics featured a Soviet bloc boycott. I will always contend that all of those 1984 medals are worth the same as any other Olympic medals. The U.S. team in Los Angeles were historic trailblazers, also. So is our 2001 Olympic team.

I hope you were able to enjoy as much of the competition as you could fit into your schedule due to the time zone challenges. For the first time in my memory, we could point our fans to one location to see Olympic wrestling, on the Olympic Channel. I know the announcers John Smith, Jordan Burroughs and Jason Knapp, and the rest of the production crew down in Miami did everything they could to cover our team to their best abilities. The American wrestlers put on a great show, and I hope you were able to watch on television and other platforms what I was able to see from the press seating in the Makuhari Messe Hall A in Chiba, Japan.

Think of those amazing moments. Tamrya Mensah Stock powering through her weight class and captivating the nation afterwards with her upbeat personality. David Taylor dominating his preliminary opponents, then taking out the great Yazdani of Iran in the gold-medal match. Gable Steveson scoring four points in only a few seconds to shock a three-time World champion and win one of the most amazing matches anybody ever saw. And that is just the memories of the gold medals…

There were a ton of special moments from our other medalists. I will always remember that ninth medal, which gave us the best medal haul during my career, when Sarah Hildebrandt won the bronze at 50 kg. Sarah had a big disappointment in the semifinals, losing a lead at the last seconds. She didn’t just come out and beat Livach of Ukraine for the bronze. She made sure to finish the match off with an ankle lace and a technical fall. What an exclamation point on the entire American performance.

Winning that ninth medal had great significance, in that we beat the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and won the most wrestling medals at the Tokyo Games. They ended up with eight medals, with host Japan next with seven. We have a huge rivalry with the Russians in wrestling, and it sure feels great to outperform them at an Olympic Games.

I have been to every Summer Olympic wrestling competition since 1988, and I don’t remember any better American performance. On paper, this was our best finish. We won a medal in half of the weight classes (9 medals in 18 weights), but only had 15 qualifiers to do it. Until Hildebrandt won that match, we were tied with the U.S. medal performance from Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996 (events with 20 medal opportunities, not 18). This team now stands above many very, very successful American Olympic teams from the past.

Even better was being there to witness the skill, pride, passion and talent of our Olympic athletes. These folks can flat out wrestle, and they were well prepared. In spite of all of the challenges caused by COVID protocols and the uncertainty of the entire Tokyo Games, these athletes, coaches and team staff kept their focus and stepped up when it was time to wrestle.

It is hard to explain just how hard it is to win an Olympic medal. This event is like no other. The entire world is watching and all of the opponents are well prepared and motivated. Every match is important. Every opponent is talented. Every move can make or break your day. It is the ultimate test, and our team was worthy.

The team is leaving today (Sunday) but my flight out of here is on Monday. I was able to go into the lobby here at the APA Hotel to see the U.S. men’s freestyle team off to the airport. I helped Cody Bickley and others to pack the suitcases of our team members and staff on a bus in the rain. It took a little time to load the entire team, because Gable Steveson and David Taylor had their Olympic golds with them and every Japanese person in the lobby wanted to get a picture with these American wrestling heroes. Wrestling is a big deal in Japan, so it is fitting that our heroes are also respected here in the host nation. It will seem very quiet tonight without all of the American athletes, coaches and team officials around.

Most of the U.S. wrestling media that made the journey to Japan to cover these athletes are also heading home today. When you get a chance, thank them for working so hard to document what happened in Tokyo for the fans back home. We have a lot to celebrate within the United States wrestling community. Our team was excellent and represented themselves, their families, the USA Wrestling community and our nation very well. There will be many lasting memories coming out of these Tokyo Olympic Games.

TOKYO BLOG (August 7): The world now knows what we already knew: Gable Steveson is something special

He is the buzz of the worldwide wrestling community, and has already made an impact on the general public in the USA and the world. Gable Dan Steveson, with his last second heroics in the Olympic gold medal match at 125 kg, has made it to the big time.

But, of course, we already knew that.

It is the strangest thing really. Here is a 21-year-old kid competing in his first major Senior-level event on the biggest stage on earth (the Olympic Games), and many in the wrestling community in the USA expected that Steveson would come home as an Olympic champion. So, how is that possible?

Gable’s road to the top of the Olympic podium was like a rocket. After winning the NCAA Tournament, and a few weeks later, putting on a dominant performance at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, the American wrestling community saw what Gable was capable of doing. If you spoke to his teammates on the Olympic Team during the training phase leading into Tokyo, they had great confidence in Gable’s ability to win this tournament.

The rest of the world may have known a little about him because of his Cadet and Junior World titles, but they did not see the transformation of this man in the last year. The Gable Steveson that came to Tokyo was so much different, and better, than the one we saw in the finals of Final X in 2019. This is somebody who made great strides during the pandemic.

Gable Steveson is a showman who has no lack of self confidence. He loves the big stage, a chance to show his talents when it counts the most. The Olympics offered Steveson a chance to do what he does, and he took full advantage of the opportunity.

When Steveson hammered 2016 Olympic champion and two-time World champion Taha Akgul of Turkey in the second round, the consensus among the U.S. wrestling media in Tokyo was that he was going to win it all. The American wrestling media is not always correct, as we all know. But this time, they had it nailed…

In his own Gable Steveson way, the finals was full of drama and excitement. Steveson jumped to an early lead, showing how his quickness and tenacity were huge assets against a big opponent like three-time World champion Geno Petriashvili of Georgia.

However, Petriashvili did not win three World titles by accident. When he was able to take Gable down, he used all that size and strength to power Gable to his back with two gut wrenches. For many, that 8-5 lead would have been more than enough against pretty every other heavyweight on earth. Except Gable Steveson.

He didn’t give up. He believed in himself. And he made it happen. A quick spin behind takedown closed it to 8-7 but there was little time left on the clock. Somehow, in the blink of an eye, Steveson got behind Petriashvili again and had him down on the mat before the buzzer went off. Absolute pandemonium erupted in Makuhari Messe Hall A. Did that really just happen?

Yes, Gable Steveson made it happen. And he put on a celebration to remember, flexing and screaming and expressing his joy for all to see. And once the challenge by the Georgia corner was denied, and the official raised his hand to indicate he was the champion, Gable Steveson went flying through the air with his patented flip, and then paraded around the mat with the American flag. Hello world. We’d like you to meet Gable Dan Steveson.

Some of my media friends asked me if in my years within wrestling if I had ever seen something like that. The short answer is no. This was entirely a new experience, and there aren’t enough words to really describe what happened.

I thought quickly of how Damion Hahn, another Gopher wrestler who scored in the last micro-second to win an NCAA title. I thought of some great Olympic sudden death victories, especially Kenny Monday taking down Adlan Varaev of the USSR in the 1988 Olympics. And I even thought of the drama of Rulon Gardner winning that clinch against Alexander Karelin of Russia in the 2000 Olympics. But really, I had never seen anything like that before.

Gable is already a big time star. His interest in professional wrestling gave him an entirely different and wider audience of fans before he ever came over here to Tokyo. His dramatic victory in the Olympic gold medal match just widened that audience even more. The kid who was named after wrestling legend Dan Gable has put himself in the same conversation as his namesake. And remember that Gable Steveson is just 21 years old. Amazing stuff.

Who knows what the future holds for Gable Steveson? It seems for somebody like him, the sky is the limit. I do know it will be fun seeing what he does next, and what he has in store as an encore to the fantastic show he gave the world last night.

TOKYO BLOG (August 6): Not many better Olympic days than U.S. wrestlers had on an amazing Thursday

Thursday, August 5, 2021 is a day that many of us will remember for a long time. It was one of the most successful days for a U.S. wrestling team in many, many Olympic cycles. Those of us who were lucky enough to be here in person and witness the way our U.S. wrestlers competed will be talking about this for many years. I am certain that the U.S. wrestling fans back home watching on The Olympic Channel were also very inspired.

It was not just about having success. We certainly had a bunch of that yesterday, headlined by David Taylor’s gold medal, bronze medals from Helen Maroulis and Thomas Gilman, and Gable Steveson’s amazing run to a spot in Friday’s finals. That is a three-medal day (and four if you count the fact that Gable has clinched at least a silver the next day).

Let’s do some comparison. At the 2016 Rio Games, we won three medals total (Helen Maroulis and Kyle Snyder got gold, a bronze to J;den Cox). At the 2012 London Games, the haul for the entire event was four medals (golds for Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner, bronzes for Clarissa Chun and Coleman Scott). Go back to 2008 and we had three medals (gold to Henry Cejudo, bronzes for Adam Wheeler and Randi Miller).

We won three medals yesterday and clinched a fourth. In one day, we were able to match our entire medal haul they we finished with during each of the last three Olympics. Add in our success earlier in the week, and we are now at six medals, with four other athletes in a position to win some more. Amazing stuff.

It was not just the clutch wrestling. We were also able to have some good fortune along the way. Everything didn’t go perfect for Team USA yesterday, but we were able to overcome. It started with Gilman winning his repechage match handily, the first bout of the day and a tone-setter for the day. It’s nice to get a good start and Thomas made sure we did that.

Two of our 2019 World champions dropped matches on Thursday, Kyle Dake at 74 kg in men’s freestyle and Jacarra Winchester at 53 kg in women’s freestyle. Dake’s loss was a bit shocking, when he dropped a technical fall to Mahamedkhabib Kadzimahamedau of Belarus, a transplated Russian who has yet to win a World medal. Winchester was stopped by a past World bronze medalist, Pang Qianyu of China, who scored six quick points and did not let Jacarra back into the match. The good fortune came the next round, when both Kadzimahamedau and Qianyu won their semifinal bouts to pull Dake and Winchester back into today’s repechage.

The match between Kadzimahamedau and past World champion Frank Chamizo of Italy was a back-and-forth fight in which it seemed like Chamizo was right on the verge of getting the match going his way, but to have Kadzimahamedau score more clutch points and keep the lead. For sure, this breakthrough athlete from Belarus earned his spot in the finals with his wins over both Dake and Chamizo.

The big buzz on the wrestling scene was provided by Gable Steveson, who blitzed the 2016 Olympic champion and two-time World champion Taha Akgul of Turkey in the quarterfinals by an 8-0 margin. He continued his great wrestling in the semifinals with a 5-0 shutout of a tough wrestler from Mongolia, Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur. He has drawn three-time World champion Geno Petriashvili of Georgia in the finals, another difficult test for the young star.

The medal round went exactly how the USA would like it, not only getting victories but doing it with style. Gilman was locked in during his bronze-medal match, beating a solid talent in Reza Atrinagharchi of Iran. Maroulis was sharp in her bronze-medal match, a dominant 11-0 technical fall over Khongorzul Boldsaikhan of Mongolia. She became the first U.S. woman to win two Olympic medals. Her only loss was to another Olympic champion, Risako Kawai of Japan, in a bout where no technical points were scored and the winner was determined by the referees.

The David Taylor vs. Hassan Yazdani championship battle was as good as advertised, a lower scoring affair than their last battle at the 2018 Worlds. It looked like Yazdani had the edge after taking a 3-2 lead with a second-period stepout. But Taylor scored a double leg takedown with 15 seconds to go to take the victory in a dramatic fashion.

It was even a good day when it came to the draw for the final two American wrestlers. At 97 kg, 2016 Olympic champion Kyle Snyder is in a good spot on the bracket. He earned a seed, which meant he would be on the opposite side from his top rival, World and Olympic champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia. However, the wrestler who beat him at the 2019 Worlds, Olympic champion Sharif Sharifov of Azerbaijan, is not only on the other side from Snyder, but actually drew Sadulaev in the first round. Sarah Hildebrandt, a past World silver medalist, was not seeded, yet drew on the opposite side of top seed and Olympic champion Mairya Stadnik of Azerbaijan, as well as from Japan’s past World champion Yui Susaki.

Did everything go perfect on Thursday? Absolutely not. But it never goes perfect at the Olympics, which has more drama and surprises than any other wrestling competition. Team USA showed a mix of talent, poise and grit, and came through the day with a bunch of hardware. Trust me, the rest of the world noticed. We had more people congratulating us after the session than I have remembered in a long time. This day will go down in history, for sure. Hopefully you were able to follow it back home. There aren’t too many days like the one we just had on Thursday in Tokyo.

TOKYO BLOG (August 4): Taylor vs. Yazdani, the fans’ dream matchup, is going down in Tokyo

If there is one thing predictable about the Olympics is that it absolutely can not be predicted. Nothing goes according to the book. If the Olympics could be held on paper, it would be boring. Many, many times, you can throw the past away, light a fire to all the pre-event publications making predictions, and sit back and enjoy the mayhem.

People over-perform. Others just don’t seem to show up physically or mentally. At times, an intense early round battle will tire out the winner, who then struggles in the next match and beyond. Seeds get beaten, legends get humbled and unknowns power their way to the top. There are no easy matches at the Olympics. You can take nothing for granted.

Coming into the Tokyo wrestling competition, fans worldwide were looking forward to a battle of the titans at 86 kg in men’s freestyle between 2016 Olympic champion and multiple World champion Hassan Yazdani Charati of Iran and 2018 World champion David Taylor. Often, these kind of dream matchups just don’t happen, because somebody beat somebody else, or some other twist of fate that makes it just not occur.

This time around, what the fans were asking for will be happening. Taylor and Yazdani will battle in the Olympic gold-medal match tonigh.

How can you not like this matchup? Yazdani is a hero in his wrestling-crazy nation, the man who brought home gold from Rio, and has won World titles two of the last three times. One of the sad realities of not having spectators at the Olympics is that we truly miss those amazing Iranian fans, who bring excitement and passion to every match by every Iranian who steps on the mat.

Taylor had to pay his dues for many years, part of that crazy Burroughs-Dake-Taylor logjam at 74 kg. When Taylor moved up in weight, he established himself as one of the world’s best. He drew Yazdani in the first round of the 2018 World Championships because one of them were not seeded, and they had a classic high-scoring battle won by Taylor. After getting to the top of the podium in 2018, Taylor missed the entire 2019 season due to an injury. Yazdani quickly reclaimed the weight class in his absence. The pandemic stole the opportunity for them to compete in 2020. Even though Taylor did not get a seed (because of missing the ranking events with injury), the random draw put the two on opposite sides of the bracket here in Tokyo.

Instead of upsets yesterday, both Taylor and Yazdani took care of business. Taylor scored three technical falls, putting up points and getting off the mat as soon as he could. While Yazdani had just one technical fall in his three matches, the other two bouts were not even close. Nobody could stop these stars for an inevitable showdown for the gold medal.

In his Mixed Zone interview on Wednesday after the semifinals, Taylor was absolutely fired up about the opportunity to face Yazdani again. He said that matches between worldwide stars like he and Yazdani were great for the sport, and something that he is very excited about being a part of. He knows that winning this match will not only be exciting within the wrestling community, but also might give his sport a bigger audience in the larger general public. He is very excited about a chance to put on a show this evening.

While I don’t speak the language, I know that the Iranian press in attendance is making a huge deal about this back home. United World Wrestling’s media team is also whipping up the promotion of this showdown. What is even better is that fans back home in the USA can see this match, and all the other U.S. athletes in action, live on The Olympic Channel. Get your popcorn ready, and line up some drinks. You won’t want to miss this one.

Who ya got? It is one of those kind of matches….

Story Two of the Day: Helen Maroulis shows class and poise after tough semifinal loss

There is no bigger competitor on earth than Helen Maroulis, and you might think that her one-point loss to fellow Olympic champion Risako Kawai of Japan in the Olympic semifinals might have crushed her spirits. However, after that intense semifinal battle, won by Kawai by a 2-1 margin, Maroulis came off the mat and gave a number of great interviews in the Media Mixed Zone.

She answered questions about her injuries and her experiences with concussions. She talked specifically about how she may have been a bit too respectful about Kawai’s abilities and offense. She talked about being grateful for the opportunity to compete in the Olympics, and thanked the Japanese people for being great hosts and keeping the athletes safe. She showed poise and class and was very comfortable sharing her thoughts on the experience. Nobody will be rooting harder for her (in a silent manner) than I will be during the bronze-medal bout, hoping she can leave Japan with a second career Olympic medal.

TOKYO BLOG (August 4): No pandemic can stop Mensah Stock from sharing her love with the world

The gesture was so Mensah-like.

After her matches during the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan (all which were victories), Tamyra Mensah Stock of the United States took her hands and made a heart, lifted it above her head and shared it with the fans in the stands and the millions watching on worldwide television.

Pretty simple. A great big heart from somebody who might have the biggest heart on earth.

I know that people worldwide have fallen in love with Tamyra Mensah Stock because of her amazing wrestling abilities, but as they have gotten to know her more, they are hooked on her pure expression of kindness.

I am not sure how the Lord was able to pack so much love, joy and happiness into such a hammer of a wrestler, but Olympic champion Tamyra Mensah Stock is every bit of all of that.

Many knew that Tamyra Mensah Stock had great athletic abilities, right from the start of her international Senior level career. But what has made the difference for her was developing all of the rest of her game, making her mental toughness a true asset, and becoming a much better technical and tactical wrestler.

Her early matches at this Olympic Games showed that in droves. In her first match against 2016 Olympic champion Sara Dosho, Mensah Stock was able to turn this excellent wrestler a few times with an ankle lace, something she would not have done so well a few years ago. In her second match against World medalist Feng Zhou of China, Mensah Stock scored five straight powerful takedowns. Two straight 10-0 dominant technical falls. Amazing, truly amazing wrestling.

Her next two matches showed why she is an Olympic champion. Mensah Stock has the grit and determination to win the tight battles as well. In the semifinals, 2018 World champion Alla Cherkasova of Ukraine scrapped hard and was able to tie up the match with Mensah Stock at 4-4. From that point on, Mensah Stock went into an extra gear and scored six straight points for a 10-4 statement win.

We knew that her finals against Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria would be a battle, based upon previous times they had met. Oborududu is very physical, and tried to use that as a way to keep Mensah Stock from wrestling her normal explosive style. Tamyra was able to pound with her, not lose her edge, and execute the only two takedowns of the match for a 4-1 win. Nobody was going to beat Tamyra Mensah Stock in Tokyo, no matter what the style of the match was or the strategy of the opponent. There is a reason there is a gold medal around her neck this morning.

During the gold-medal ceremony, which I watched in person from the press seating but also carefully studied the television feed that showed things very close up. All of the medalists must wear a mask when getting their medals. I tried to tell what expression Mensah Stock had when the U.S. national anthem was being played in Makuhari Messe Hall A, but it was a bit difficult. Exactly what was going through her mind as they raised the flag and the star spangled banner was blasted throughout the arena?

After the ceremony, they allow the athletes to lower their mask so they can smile for photos with their medals. That is when you could see the radiant smile that makes Tamyra Mensah Stock so genuine and appreciated. She just burst out with the joy that makes her a special person, all for the rest of the world to see.

Tamyra is famous for giving great hugs, and I was blessed to get one last night after the Olympic medal ceremony when I saw Mensah Stock near the mixed zone. Sometimes in life, good things to happen to good people, and that was absolutely the case last evening at the wrestling venue.

I remember speaking with Johnny Cobb, her college coach at Wayland Baptist, and asking about what he thought of Tamyra Mensah Stock as her coach. Johnny didn’t really go into that much, just going on and on about how much he loved her as a person, perhaps his favorite wrestler to coach in his career. Johnny Cobb is one of those rare coaches, because he has now coached two Olympic wrestling champions of different genders: men’s freestyle Olympic champion Brandon Slay and women’s freestyle Olympic champion Tamyra Mensah Stock.

All of us who have spent a lot of time around Tamyra know how special she truly is. She is an original, somebody who makes an impact on those around her. I truly hope that because of her success yesterday in winning the Olympic gold medal that the rest of the nation and the world learn all about her too. I hope that NBC and the international media fall in love with her like the rest of us, and help share her message of love and joy with more and more people. And if they don’t, we will still do everything we can to tell the story of this champion person and award-winning athlete now that she has raised herself to the top of the podium at the most important sporting event on the planet.

TOKYO BLOG (August 3): Saluting wrestling Super Heroes Adeline Gray and Mijian Lopez

Wrestling fans had a wonderful opportunity on Monday night to witness two of the sport’s greatest stars of all time, as well as those with the largest impact, during the gold-medal round of the Olympic Games here in Chiba, Japan.

Of course we are speaking about the legendary Adeline Gray of the United States in women’s freestyle and Mijian Lopez of Cuba in Greco-Roman. They have not only created a legacy of excellence on the mat, but have been a force for building the sport off of the mat.

I will start with Adeline, who is near and dear to so many of us affiliated with USA Wrestling. Like I sometimes tell Adeline, I have known her ever since she was a Cadet. (This is true, because even at the Cadet age, she was already one of the best Senior-level wrestlers in our nation). We have been there as she has developed into one of the true greats and been part of her journey’s many twists and turns.

What can you say about her performance record except Bravo!!! It really speaks for itself. The only American (any gender, any style) to have won five Senior World titles. Seven Senior World medals, and now, an Olympic silver medal. The only U.S. woman with Junior, University and Senior World titles. Two Olympic teams. She is a great champion, a Hall of Famer, a true trailblazer.

It is appropriate that she gets to add Olympic medalist to her record, because back in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Adeline was not able to get on the podium. She took off a year to get healthy, both physically and in with her spirit, and made the commitment to take another Olympic run. In 2020, COVID-19 pushed it back another year, but Adeline stayed the course, finding ways to train, getting prepared to make the USA Olympic Team, then cashing in here in Tokyo with some clutch victories to power herself into the finals.

The fact that in the finals last night, she did not beat a great champion (one of her friends, Aline Rotter Focken of Germany), does not alter her legacy at all. As Adeline said to me after getting off the medal stand here in Tokyo, she came away from these Games with hardware. And if you saw her on the Olympic podium, or doing her NBC interviews, she was strong and proud and cherished her achievement and her Tokyo experience, even though that medal is not the color that she wanted. She represented herself, her nation and her sport very well, which is what Adeline Gray does every day.

Where she really checks the box as a Super Hero is as a role model for young women, especially those who want to be wrestlers. There was limited opportunity for girls to find a path into wrestling when Adeline came through the youth and high school ranks. Adeline took it upon herself to step up and be an advocate for girls in wrestling, giving them a living example of what the sport of wrestling could do to transform their lives. Adeline chose to be a leader in this area, made personal empowerment for young women one of her core causes, and set an example for thousands of young girls on why they should be a wrestler and how to do it with excellence, style and dignity, both on and off the mat.

I don’t know when or if Adeline will wrestle again. I didn’t ask her last night. Either way, I fully expect she will remain very active in our sport. Her impact and legacy will continue far past this week in Japan.

From an international perspective, the biggest news coming out of the wrestling venue last night was Lopez, the massive heavyweight from Cuba, who became the first man to ever win four Olympic gold medals in wrestling. (The first was women’s wrestling superstar Kaori Icho of Japan who got her fourth in 2016).

Lopez has not wrestled much this Olympic cycle, but it was not a surprise that he chose to come to Tokyo to make a run at Olympic title No. 4. It was 2019 World silver medalist Oscar Pino Hinds who qualified Cuba to compete in these Olympic Games at 130 kg, but in my heart, I expected that he was just holding the place until Lopez decided to make a run for his fourth gold medal. When UWW announced last month that Lopez was coming to Tokyo, it certainly made sense.

Mijian Lopez is bigger than life. Honestly. He looks huge when you watch him on the mat. He is even larger when you are standing next to him. He has a presence. I compare that kind of aura to the great Alexander Karelin of Russia, who was not only the biggest and strongest and baddest wrestler of his era, but also carried himself with a special kind of physical impact. When Mijian Lopez is in the room, everybody knows it and can’t help themselves to look at him.

Lopez has always been very nice to me in our limited interactions, and from what I hear from our U.S. Greco-Roman athletes and coaches, he is somebody who is a friend to the USA. There is no doubt that he is the King of the Pan American countries, especially those Spanish-speaking nations in Central and South America. All of us in this hemisphere take great pride in the fact that Mijian Lopez is one of the greatest wrestlers in history, and he comes from our part of the world.

How difficult is it to win Olympic gold medals in four straight Games? It is very, very rare in any sport. According to Rich Perelman of the Sport Examiner, Lopez joins these Olympic giants: Paul Elvstrom (DEN, sailing), Al Oerter (USA/discus), Carl Lewis (USA, long jump), Kaori Icho (Japan, women’s wrestling), Michael Phelps (USA, swimming). They don’t make athletes like Lopez very often.

Throughout his career, everybody talked about the kind of money he would have made if he played in the NFL, or went into MMA, or did pro wrestling entertainment. But Lopez remained as a Greco-Roman wrestler in Cuba, a national hero there. Every time I saw him on the mat, I felt like he would win the match. He didn’t win every match, but I really believe he could have.

I always have considered that Alexander Kareline is the greatest wrestler, the most dominant, in my lifetime. And even the great Kareline didn’t get four golds, because of our buddy Rulon Gardner. When Icho won her fourth, the Japanese women everyone expected to join her was the legendary Saori Yoshida, but Helen Maroulis stopped her from getting the fourth. And even Icho, who got to four golds, was unable to go for a fifth because she couldn’t make the Japanese team this time around. Seeing what Lopez did last night is one of sport’s great achievements and a special memory.

So, in each of our ways, let’s life a glass to Adeline Gray and Mijian Lopez, for what they have meant to wrestling and for the people that they are. They are truly Super Heroes.

TOKYO BLOG (August 2): Olympic wrestling with no fans is still a great showcase of talent and competitive spirit

I was not really sure what to expect when I went to the Makuhari Messe Hall A on Sunday to see the first day of the Tokyo Olympic wrestling competition. Not only would this be my first Olympic wrestling competition without any fans (thanks to COVID-19 protocols), but it was also my first major wrestling event with no fans in my entire wrestling life, which goes back almost 50 years.

It only took a few minutes after the action started on Sunday morning for me to realize that with or without fans, the level of wrestling at this Olympic Games was spectacular.

During the pandemic, I did not attend any big events that did not include spectators. My colleague Taylor Miller managed the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier in Ottawa, Canada which was held without spectators. This year, I was not at any of the other wrestling competitions where spectators were eliminated, holding out until I was vaccinated. I heard a lot of stories about wrestling events with no fans, but I wasn’t sure what it would be like to be in that kind of environment.

There are thousands of spectator seats here in Makuhari Messe Hall A, the exact setup which would have been used had there been spectators. The first move by organizers was to eliminate spectators from other nations. As the event drew closer, because of the COVID concerns in Japan, the next move was to eliminate Japanese spectators. All of those seats that normally would be filled with fans are now sitting empty.

You might think the arena would feel like an empty ghost town, but that is not the case. First of all, there is a full contingent of media who are in the house, both photographers on the floor and in the stands, as well as other journalists in the press seating (called tribune in the business).

Add in the army of volunteers who have been assigned at the venue, and are located all over the place, including many inside the actual arena. At one end of the arena, you also notice numerous accredited coaches and wrestlers who are filling up many seats. There are people here in the building, for sure.

With the familiar sound of PA announcer Jason Bryant on the mike, alongside his Japanese announcer colleague, as well as the videos and the music that is traditional at an Olympic Games, there is a bit of the atmosphere of a big-time sports event.

So when a match got exciting, it didn’t matter whether there were fans there or not. An upset still sends a buzz around the facility. When 2016 Olympic champion Erica Wiebe of Canada was edged by Epp Maee of Estonia in the first round in women’s 76 kg, it had a big-time feel. And the last match of the first session, when Cuba’s Luis Orta Sanchez stopped World champion Sergei Emelin of Russia at 60 kg in Greco-Roman in a down-to-the-wire Greco-Roman battle, it for sure held your attention.

Granted, the semifinals did not seem to have the same kind of energy that they would with fans in the crowd. No doubt about that. However, that didn’t seem to affect the wrestlers, who were able to display their talents in spite of the relative silence. Whether the place is packed or relatively empty, the competitive nature of wrestlers comes out on the mat.

The two Cuban Greco-Roman wrestlers in the semifinals put on big-time performances. Orta continued his amazing run with a technical fall victory in the semifinals, which made American fans happy because it pulled Ildar Hafizov of the USA back into repechage. Then the huge showdown at 130 kg between three-time Olympic champion Mijian Lopez of Cuba and multiple World champion Riza Kayaalp of Turkey did not disappoint. The massive Lopez had just enough to beat a gutsy Kayaalp, 2-0, giving him a chance to become the first male wrestler to win four Olympic golds tomorrow.

The biggest impact of the lack of fans was the elimination of the home field advantage for Japan. If this arena had thousands of Japanese fans, the women’s semifinals at 76 kg might have had a different outcome. 2014 World champion Aline Rotter Focken of Germany scored a 3-1 win over Hiroe Minagawa of Japan to earn the right to face American Adeline Gray in the finals. A loud crowd behind Minagawa may have given her an edge that she did not seem to have this time around. This morning at 68 kg, 2019 World champion Tamyra Mensah Stock of the USA opens up against 2016 Olympic champion Sara Dosho of Japan at 68 kg. Dosho won’t have a home crowd behind her, either, which could be helpful in the big picture of things.

Nobody likes the fact that these Olympic Games are being held in empty stadiums. But trust me, the athletes came here ready to wrestle, and we will see some amazing matches all week long. The Olympics have been a dream for them since childhood, so the challenges caused by the pandemic cannot dampen that Olympic spirit that fuels great performances. It is the passion of the athletes, filled with that Olympic spirit, that makes the Olympics great, regardless of circumstances. Someday, COVID-19 will be a thing of the past, but these Olympic performances in Tokyo will withstand the test of time.

P.S. – Don’t miss the Gray vs. Rotter Focken final this evening. It could be our first chance to hear the U.S. national anthem in the wrestling venue this year, something that is always inspiring and joyful should we be fortunate enough to have a champion tonight.

TOKYO BLOG (August 1): Today was only possible because of the Keep Olympic Wrestling movement of 2013

We weren’t supposed to be here today, and this was not supposed to happen.

This morning, at 11:00 a.m. local time in Tokyo, Japan, five-time World Champion Adeline Gray of the United States will compete in the first match on Mat B against Zaineb Schaier of Tunisia at 76 kg in women’s freestyle at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in Makuhari Messe Hall A. There will be matches held alongside them on both Mat A and Mat C.

When that first whistle is blown, everybody in the wrestling community worldwide, wherever you are at the time, should stand up and give a standing ovation to each other and the leaders of our sport.

Back in 2013, when the IOC Executive Committee recommended that wrestling be removed from the Olympic program, this day was never supposed to happen.

Had the IOC leadership been able to get that recommendation to stand, the world’s oldest sport (that was included in the ancient Olympic Games and the first modern Olympic Games in 1896) would have been taken off the program of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

There would be no matches available for Adeline Gray, all of her teammates on the U.S. Olympic wrestling team, and every single athlete from every single nation in the Olympic wrestling field this week. Wrestling would have no longer been an Olympic sport. This opportunity would have disappeared.

Eight years ago, for most of 2013, the wrestling community banded together behind the Keep Olympic Wrestling movement, fighting for its life. In the United States, a leadership group called the Committee to Preserve Olympic Wrestling (CPOW) was formed to lead a national and international effort to keep wrestling in the Olympics. It wasn’t until September of 2013, when the entire IOC voted on adding a “new” sport for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics, that wrestling was restored to its rightful place on the Olympic program.

I want to thank Mitch Hull, who at the time served as the National Teams Director of USA Wrestling, for reminding me about just how important today is in wrestling history. As Mitch noted, we should all take time to thank those who fought so hard for our sport and saved this opportunity for today’s young athletes.

Last night, I visited with Greco-Roman Team Leader John Bardis, who is here helping our Greco-Roman team (and all three teams in the delegation), and reminded him about the significance of today. Bardis was a huge leader in CPOW, serving as its treasurer and finance chief, and also serving in a spokesperson role in many occasions. John had not thought about this, either. He and Mitch Hull go way back (wrestling teammates in college), and we both smiled that Mitch had this date circled for us. We shared some thoughts about that epic battle, and our successful outcome. Eight years is a long time, but it feels like yesterday, really, especially for those who were in the trenches that year.

Wrestling needed some big changes. We had to get rid of our international wrestling president, change the bad rules, create more transparency and democratic governance. We had to run some huge events, such as the USA vs. Russia vs. Iran dual meet in Grand Central Station in New York City, which was followed by everybody everywhere. We had to raise a ton of money. We needed strong leaders willing to work tirelessly towards one goal. And as a group, with help from every level of the sport in large and small ways, wrestling won. We saved Olympic wrestling.

Today would not be possible without that group of wrestling enthusiasts, who pushed through one of the hardest years in wrestling history. Today is what they worked so hard about.

When that first whistle goes off at 11:00 a.m., since there is no cheering allowed at these Games, I will stand and salute all of those who made this possible. And shed a tear or two, I am sure.

We are here in Tokyo. We are standing strong. Wrestling is a sport at Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Let the Games truly begin again.

TOKYO BLOG (July 31): 20 ways you know the Olympic Games wrestling is about to start in Tokyo

For those of us in Tokyo, especially those who are coming in just to participate in the wrestling competition, the Olympic Games are about to start. All of the preparation and anticipation is over. The first draw is set for later this morning, and there will be news to report about the first set of three weight classes.

Here are 20 ways that we know it is Game Time…

20. Three mats are down in Makuhari Messe Hall A, and the television folks are setting up the lights. The press is being allowed into the venue, and photos of the field of play are starting to be posted on the internet.

19. Team Canada was having a lunch together outside the pizza restaurant at the APA Hotel, across the street from the arena.

18. Members of the United World Wrestling staff, including Media Chief Tim Foley, are at the arena, discussing details with the local organizing committee venue press staff.

17. FloWrestling is in Tokyo, with Christian Pyles and Andy Hamilton ready to go. Other U.S. media is filtering in from locations far and wide.

16. USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender has joined the U.S. delegation, and is spending time with the coaches, athletes and staff.

15. The practice area at the wrestling venue has athletes and teams from numerous nations all working out on side by side mats. Many of the wrestlers are using the check scales to determine their weight after practice. There is a variety of music being played on personal speakers.

14. Security is at every entrance of the arena, and if you don’t have the correct credential, or the right access number on your credential, you can’t get into certain locations.

13. U.S. photographers John and Anne Sachs, Larry Slater and Tony Rotundo are here and prepared to capture the action for American wrestling fans to enjoy.

12. TheMat.com has posted its traditional champions predictions by journalists, with reporters from a number of countries and media outlets

11. More people in the hotel lobbies and walking down the street are wearing wrestling gear than are wearing normal clothes.

10. All of the countdown graphics on all of the wrestling websites and social media platforms have the number 1 on them.

9. A press conference with UWW President Nenad Lalovic has been scheduled for Sunday night, the first day of competition.

8. Lots of people from all over the world are stopping to take pictures of the beautiful trees, flowers and art surrounding the Makuhari community in Chiba.

7. You recognize people on the street corners as being international wrestling referees that you have seen in other locations all around the world.

6. Nobody is writing preview articles any more on the wrestling event. Starting today, we will see stories about the pairings and whatever history the opponents might have against each other.

5. The USA Wrestling National Coaches are praising the hosts of the training camp in Nakatsagawa for all they did to assist the U.S. delegation in its preparation, and are confident that the Team USA wrestlers are healthy, rested and ready to perform at their best.

4. USA Wrestling’s High Performance Manager Cody Bickley is fully prepared for today’s Technical meetings, where the wrestling delegations learn about any changes to the wrestling rules and event procedures for this specific Olympic Games.

3. Armies of young people wearing blue shirts are everywhere to serve as volunteers for the wrestling competition, and impromptu meetings are being held to give them their marching orders.

2. The. U.S. wrestlers have received their gear package for the Olympics, and are all wearing the amazing clothes and accessories provided to Olympians by the USOPC.

1. All the wrestlers you see everywhere have that lean, mean, chiseled look to them, as they are ready for weigh-in and battle.

TOKYO BLOG (July 29): Best blog in Tokyo? Coach Terry Steiner’s Friends of USA WFS Team WhatsApp Group

I am hoping this blog is fun and interesting for fans, but I already know that it won’t be the best blog coming out of the Tokyo Games. That designation belongs to Women’s National Coach Terry Steiner’s “Friends of USA WFS Team” group on WhatsApp.

Coach Steiner started this group on July 15, when the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team delegation left the USA to head to Japan for its final training stretch in Nakatsagawa, Japan, and it will continue through the rest of the wrestling competition at the Games, which ends on August 7.

I am not sure how you get onto this group, but since I am a long-time supporter of our women’s program, I was added to the group on July 21, which means I missed some of the earliest posts. However, ever since I was added, I have been entertained, informed, enlightened, motivated and included. Coach Steiner agreed to let me share some kudos about this “blog,” which he has been very disciplined in adding content on a daily basis.

This is not new for Steiner, who has sent email updates to those close to the women’s program from past Olympic Games as long as I can remember. I’m not sure he did this for that first Olympics with women’s wrestling in 2004 or not, but I remember following this at recent Olympics, for sure. By placing this in WhatsApp, Steiner has made this blog very interactive, meaning those included in the group can respond, post and truly participate.

Steiner lists training schedules, posts training pictures and videos, pokes fun at those on the U.S. delegation, gives pictures of food and architecture and landmarks, and mixes in his coaching and life philosophies. It is like a renaissance man’s journal. And the good part is because the USA women were training with the men’s teams, there are glimpses of what is going on with the other two Olympic programs as well. And he throws in some information on the history and culture of Japan, to boot.

Here are a few of his Steinerisms….

July 21

“As you can imagine, every athlete brings special gifts to the table. There are no two athletes alike and so it is impossible to structure a practice that caters to the needs of each athlete. There are certain focuses that we all need to focus on, but at this stage of the game, we tend to focus more individually than on the overall team areas.”

“As a coach, you have to drop your ego and understand you don’t always have the right answer. This is why you surround yourself with strong minds and different perspectives, but it is imperative that you are all working in the same direction for the benefit of the athlete you are trying to help.”

July 22

“Greco-Roman Coach Matt Lindland and I also gave a short clinic in the game of Euker to Yianni Diakomihalis and Kayla Miracle. They put up a good fight and had great spirit but they were a little out of their league! But hey, they have great potential. I know they have better days ahead of them!”

“Most of the food in Japan is fish, rice and greens. It is a very healthy diet. The locals also like a dish called NATTO! NATTO is a fermented soy bean. It came about by accident. I’ve been told NATTO came about during wartime hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Food was given to Japanese soldiers but when the rice and beans arrived, they were rotten and fermented, but the soldiers ate it anyway and began to take a liking to it, so when they arrived back home they continued to enjoy the new dish.”

“Excitement, nervousness and questions are all a part of preparation and performance. It really means you care. It means you are invested. We try to help them realize that these feelings are a normal part of competing and performance. It is important that you learn how to manage it though, it is just as important as it is to build strategies for technique, or lifting weights and getting stronger. To be mentally strong means that you remain resilient and steadfast through all the situations.”

That is just a sampling, and just from two days. Terry has been doing these kind of posts for weeks.

Steiner gave updates from the Cadet World Championships, where he was not in attendance but getting regular reports from Coach Jessica Medina and others. He posted a photo of the World Champion trophy won by the Cadet Women, and shared a video of the Cadet Women athletes encouraging the Olympic women wrestlers individually. At this time, he made this comment on July 24 on the first U.S. Cadet World women’s team to bring home a team title.

“I am super proud of this team for their successes these past few days. It is a historical win! I have a feeling that they may be the first of many to come. We needed one group to break the barrier! Congratulations and Thank You to everyone that has put into this effort!”

July 25

“How do you measure tiredness and fatigue? There are a few different ways, but we use the jump test to check whether the athlete is fatigued or not. We need to know if we can push them or not. This is especially important as we get closer to major competition.”

He has posted some great practice photos and videos, including a humorous clip of Greco-Roman wrestlers John Stefanowicz and Peyton Walsh in practice which you have to see to appreciate.

What makes it more fun is the interaction of those from the WhatsApp Group. On Thursday, Steiner posted a photo of his Olympic credential after it had been activated. One of the coaches from his high school in North Dakota quickly posted some pictures of Terry in his wrestling stance from high school back in 1987 and 1988 and suggested they use that photo for the credential. Terry quickly responded, “Watch it, I can remove you!” Later on, Terry posted a credential that had been issued which accidentally had his twin brother Troy’s face on it. Because they are using facial recognition to get into the arena and other Olympic locations, they had to change the credential to make sure it had the correct Steiner twin on it. Hilarious stuff.

Anyway, although I have been writing and posting stuff for a living for three decades, Coach has me beat when it comes to interactive blogging. And since I don’t know how I got included in this group, I would think that if you know Coach Steiner and are supportive of women’s wrestling, he would probably add you to the WhatsApp group. It is worth it. And maybe we can get his permission to post some of his writings for more people to enjoy.

TOKYO BLOG (July 28): Arrival day starts series of small interactions which make the Olympics so special

It’s Thursday morning in Tokyo. Got an early start at 5:00 a.m. after a decent night of hard sleep. More on that later.

Yesterday was actually almost two days, leaving the USA on a Tuesday, arriving in Tokyo on Wednesday and finally hitting the hay at the hotel late Wednesday night. Arrival day at international events, especially the Olympics, can be very long and full of lots of different adventures.

I could write up arrival day as if it was a comedy of errors, but that really is not accurate. Travel is clunky, always is. In fact, especially at the Olympics, it is all about the small interactions with people that happen on a daily basis that makes the Olympic experience so special. I learned a long time ago that the Olympics are much bigger than any one of us, and to go with the flow and appreciate the folks you meet along the way. Here is the day, in the lens of these interactions.

So, we arrive from Los Angeles, with the Olympic people asked to deplane last. A small group of us, including some USA Track and Field athletes and a coach, plus the Aussie skateboarders. I had a chance to chat with one of the Track coaches, who was also in Rio (he recognized my knapsack). One of the track athletes had a travel problem and did not have his credential form with him. After a bunch of little meetings, some volunteers were able to get the credential from another incoming flight and get it in his hands in time to go through processing. One of the first little miracles of the Games.

We were chatting with the Aussies when somebody asked my favorite Olympics, and I mentioned Sydney 2020. One of the skateboarders lived in Syndey, but alas, had not yet been born when the Games were in his city. A reminder of how young some of the Olympians are here.

I ran into U.S. photographer John Sachs and his wife Anne while I was awaiting the results of my spit COVID test, which is part of the process of entry into Japan. I gave them some USA Wrestling and USOPC Olympic pins, and we shared some travel stories. After I cleared all of my protocols, I had no idea what to do next. A volunteer put me in a spot for the media bus, and I saw some people wearing USA and waved them down. I turned out to be Davis Tutt and Nancy Gonsalves of the USOPC, but I didn’t immediately recognize Davis because of my travel fog. He gave me some updates on how things were going, and they confirmed I was in the right spot to get myself to the hotel. Davis said for him it was day 18 on the ground in Tokyo, while for me it was just day 1.

I also had my first chance to give some pins to some of the young Japanese volunteers who helped me find the Media Transit bus to take me into Tokyo. They seemed a bit hesitant, maybe because of COVID or just because they were humble, but when they looked closer at the USA Wrestling pins, there were big smiles on all three of them.

I had an hour bus ride into Tokyo to the media transport center, where accredited media can get on about a zillion buses to hotels, arenas and other official Olympic locations. While in Tokyo, we have to use Olympic transport only, not any of the public transport. It got dark before we got into town, which added a bit to the fatigue setting in. Tokyo is a huge city, a major international center, with zillions of big buildings all lit up. Parts of it are also on the water, which is a nice thing to see (being a beach kid who lives now in the mountains).

When I got to the bus depot, I had no idea where to go with my four heavy bags to get to the hotel. A few volunteers pulled out pages and pages of detailed schedules and told me to find bus D26. They pointed where to walk, and I found my way to a spot called the “Makuhari Circular Bus.” Luckily, a friendly journalist from South Africa who speaks English confirmed I was on the right bus, because he was also staying at the APA Hotel where I was heading We chatted about a variety of things. He encouraged me to visit his hometown of Capetown, which he said was the most beautiful city in the world (and he had travelled extensively). I confirmed that I heard it was a worthy location to visit. Ironically, he had never been to the USA, so I gave him some info on Colorado and other places he should check out.

The drive back to the hotel area was 45 minutes or so, and it was fortunate that the South African journalist was on the bus because I may have gotten off at the wrong spot. (It was dark and the driver spoke no English). We got out at Makuhari Messe Hall A (where the wrestling will be held) and I followed the South African and a guy from India out of the parking lot and across the street to a large hotel. It is great that I will be staying across the street from the arena for the entire Olympics (thanks USA Wrestling and USOPC for that!!!)

When I got to the check in, for some reason I was not in their computer system, but they did a search by passport number and found me. I got a key, some breakfast passes and was sent to the other end of the hotel in the West Wing, eighth floor. As I searched for the elevators, I ran into National Women’s Coach Terry Steiner and personal coach Nate Engel in the lobby. (They were in a different hotel but were scouting out the saunas in our hotel). When I got to my room door, I ran into my Communications team partner Taylor Miller, who is staying just down the hall. I had arrived, unpacked, showered, got my stuff organized and went to sleep as soon as I could.

It’s morning and our first trip will be back to the Main Press Center to get our Olympic armbands and to hunt down my COVID testing materials. More to come later. I do look forward to more little encounters, knowing that we will be hitting the ground running really soon with the wrestling.

July 26-27: Flying over Pacific, looking forward to Olympic wrestling in Tokyo in a few days

Got an internet connection flying somewhere over the Pacific, and felt like getting a blog started for the Olympic wrestling competition in Tokyo.

Every Olympics is different. Every Olympics is unique. The Tokyo 2020 Games (being held in 2021) will for sure be completely different and unique. It is the first Olympic Games, at least in our lifetime, held during a worldwide pandemic. There is no getting around that fact.

This will be my ninth Olympics, a run of Summer Games that started with 1988 in Seoul, Korea. Before every Olympics, you get both nervous and excited. I felt that way this morning, hoping that I was as prepared as possible for what might happen. Because of the extensive COVID protocols that all Olympic participants have gone through and will go through at the Games, I am probably more nervous than excited.

Here is a shout out to USA Wrestling staffers Cody Bickley, Corey James and Jaimie McNab, plus a slew of USOPC staff members, for helping get our wrestling team through all the procedures necessary. The team has been in Japan training in Nakatsagawa, a long way away from Tokyo, since the middle of July, and from what I know, everything is going very well. Taylor Miller from our Communications team has been with the U.S. wrestlers and has been doing some neat coverage on our different platforms. (I, however, spent last week in Fargo at the largest combined Junior/16U Nationals of all time).

My flight to Tokyo on United was out of Los Angeles, and there are not a ton of people on the plane. We have lots of room to spread out and relax. I did see some athletes from Australia getting on, but did not notice anyone else with Team USA gear when I boarded. When we were pulling out, of the gate, the flight attendant explained that the ground crew was going to be waving at the plane in celebration of the U.S. Olympic Team on its way to the Tokyo Olympics. It’s possible that the only person they were waving at was me.

This will be an entirely different experience for me. In almost all of my Olympic journeys, I have been in-country for most of the Games. This time, since Taylor handled the training portion, I will be arriving just a few days before the competition to help during the actual tournament. It feels a little more like a business trip than an Olympics, but that is OK. The important thing is getting our team ready to compete at a high level and to have a great effort in chasing their Olympic dream. I will be there to help document and promote our wrestlers, and support the team and the USOPC in all areas regarding communications.

I arrive in the afternoon, and have to go through procedures in the airport, including getting my credential activated. The main goal for the day is getting to the hotel in the Chiba section of Tokyo where I will stay, along with the U.S. delegation. The first set of athletes and coaches are also coming down on Wednesday from their training location. It is Game Time already.

The USA has a talented team that has high hopes for success in Olympic wrestling. Anything can happen at an Olympics, so it is really difficult to know how things will sort out once they blow the first whistle on August 1st. So much has already gone on in Tokyo, even before I hit the ground running. USA Wrestling is hoping that our athletes will put on a great show, and close out the Games with some tremendous stories (and a slew of medals). We are encouraging wrestling fans to follow all the action on The Olympic Channel, as well as on all of USA Wrestling’s platforms.

I’m not sure how we will do the blog thing this time. Maybe I make a short post daily. Maybe we get some others from the delegation involved. We will keep you posted.

All I can really say, with a sense of anticipation, is:
GO TEAM USA.