Former NCAA Division I wrestling champs Jake Varner and Franklin Gomez each earned medals at the 2011 World Wrestling Championships in Istanbul Saturday, while 2004 Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson placed fifth, all in freestyle competition.
Varner, a two-time NCAA titlewinner for Iowa State, won the bronze medal for the U.S. at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. Gomez, a national NCAA champ as a Michigan State matman, earned silver for his native Puerto Rico at 60 kg/132 lbs. Sanderson, who won four NCAA titles as an Iowa State Cyclone, just missed winning a medal at 84 kg/185 lbs.
Reece Humphrey, a NCAA All-American for Ohio State, came in ninth at 60 kg/132 lbs in freestyle.
Here’s how each of the former NCAA wrestling champs did in Turkey on Saturday:
- Gomez, who was born in Puerto Rico but wrestled in high school at prep powerhouse Brandon High School in Florida, made it to the gold-medal round, where he faced Besik Kudukhov of Russia. The former Spartan wrestler lost to the Russian 5-0, 1-0 in the finals.
- Varner knocked off Taimuraz Tigiyev of Kazakhstan 0-3, 3-2, 2-1 in his bronze-medal match. The California native who wrestled for Sanderson at Iowa State defeated his first two opponents — Krassimir Kochev of Bulgaria, 1-0, 5-0, and China’s Yunbilige Wu, 7-0, 6-0, before falling to Turkey’s Serhat Balci, 0-1, 0-1. The 25-year-old Varner then pinned Rustam Iskandari of Tajikistan to qualify for the bronze medal bout.
- Sanderson, who had been named by 15 of 20 international wrestling journalists polled as their pick to win gold in 2011, shut out Mexico’s Alejandro Gallardo Ocampo, 6-0, 7-0 in his opening-round match… but lost to Sharif Sharifov of Azerbaijan, 1-3, 1-4, in the second round, eliminating any chance at gold. The 32-year-old head coach at Penn State then won his next three matches — pinning Korea’s Chan-Uk Yoon at 0:50; then getting decisions over Yermek Baiduashov of Kazakhstan, 4-3, 0-1, 2-1, and Iran’s Alireza Goudarzi, 6-0, 1-0 — to qualify for the bronze-medal match, where he lost to Russia’s Albert Saritov, 0-3, 0-1.
Because of their final top-six placements at the 2011 Worlds, Varner and Sanderson assured the U.S. will have a wrestler competing at 84 kg and 96 kg at the 2012 London Olympics… while, thanks to Gomez, Puerto Rico will have a wrestler at next year’s Olympics at 60 kg.
Varner joins U.S. women’s freestyle medalists Ali Bernard and Adeline Gray who each won bronze medals Friday night at Istanbul. None of the members of the U.S. Greco-Roman team won medals.
Three more U.S. wrestlers — Teyon Ware, Jordan Burroughs, and Tervel Dlagnev — will compete on Sunday, the final day of the 2011 Worlds.
Want to know more? For more detailed coverage of Saturday’s action — including quotes from some of the wrestlers, and a link to a video interview with Sanderson — visit TheMat.com. For coverage centered on Sanderson, check out this article in USA Today… and video of a tearful Sanderson after the 2011 Worlds posted at MMANation.com.
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