Jake Varner Ends Olympic Wrestling on Right Note for Team USA

Mike ShiekmanFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2012

Matt Kryger/USA Today
Matt Kryger/USA Today

When American wrestler Jake Varner reigned victorious on the final day of the 2012 London Olympics, the chants of “USA” weren’t far behind. That’s because Varner’s win saved Team USA wrestling from a paltry Olympic outing.

In the 96kg final, Varner took a 1-0 1-0 victory over Valerie Andriitsev of Ukraine.

Before Varner's triumph, the United States had only won one gold in these London Games, marred by weak showings in the Greco-Roman tournament and the women’s freestyle. Varner’s gold, though, along with Jordan Burrough’s win in the 72 kilograms, rendered the United States one of five nations to finish with multiple golds.

Team USA’s double gold was their first since 2000. They finished with four medals overall (three mens, one womens), ranking them in sixth place in the wrestling medal count.

They can thank Jake Varner for catapulting them into that top six. He had one of the most impressive showings in all weight classes, winning four straight matches en route to being Olympic champion.

Varner could not have reached the mountaintop without Cael Sanderson, his coach and mentor and the 2004 gold-medalist. They have been training together for seven years, including in 2010, when Varner drove 15 hours to Pennsylvania to train with his coach full-time. That was one day after graduating from college.

Then, only two years later, Varner reached the pinnacle of all his training and hard work.

"He was going to get me to my ultimate goal, which was to win a gold medal at the Olympics – and that's what he did," Varner said (via Huffington Post).

The road wasn’t easy for Varner and USA wrestling to stay relevant. Many American wrestlers were drawn into tough brackets, resulting in some being unable to medal. Varner, though, was a bit more fortunate.

He drew favorable matchups in the first rounds, never trailing in victories over Kurban Kurbanov of Uzbekistan and Khetag Pliev of Canada.

The semifinals didn't start in Varner’s favor against George Gogshelidze of Georgia, as he trailed early. Varner, however, willed himself to victory in the second round with a takedown and push-out for a finals berth.

After he took out Andriitsev of Ukraine in the final, Varner was smiling like a kid in a candy store. When asked about what he would do to celebrate the win, the fledgling gold-medalist said:

"I don't know, probably some chocolate milk or something like that." – via Yahoo! Sports

Chocolate milk, the drink of champions