The 2022 college wrestling national championships are over … but the great...
Greco’s Ruiz continues his journey to 2012 Olympics
By Jason Bryant
It wasn’t quite the storybook ending Justin Ruiz was looking for, but it was an ending that showed promise.
Amidst the defeated faces of the 2010 U.S. Greco-Roman World Team after they finished competition with no medals in Moscow at Olimpiyskiy Sports Complex, Ruiz started putting things into motion.
Following the competition, Ruiz had a simple note in his blog.
“I will use this competition to build on the next two years. I see it as being useful to help me reach my ultimate goal of winning the Olympic Games,” he said.
Prior to 2010, Ruiz’s best finish at the World Championships was a bronze medal at the 2005 championships in Budapest, Hungary. That was followed by a 12th place finish in Guangzhou in 2006 and a 13th place finish in Baku in 2007.
Ruiz is still reaching for the chance to wrestle under the Olympic flame. A World Teamer in 2003, Ruiz was beaten for the spot in 2004 by Garrett Lowney, then again in 2008 by his 2007 training partner Adam Wheeler, who went on to earn a bronze in Beijing.
The search began with a return to competition after taking a year off after the Olympics and moving to Boise, Idaho to train with former USOEC head coach Ivan Ivanov.
Ruiz won his opening-round match before falling to the eventual finalist, Tsimafei Dzeinichenka of Belarus in the second round.
The match wasn’t without its share of questions.
In the third period, Ruiz drove in high on a high dive, Greco’s equivalent to a double leg, and drove Dzeinichenka out of bounds. Prior to stepping out, the Belarussian countered, tossing Ruiz to his back. The U.S. team immediately challenged, insisting the attack was Ruiz’s with the contention the three points should go to Ruiz and two to Dzeinichenka for the counter.
The review, however, was unsuccessful, so the scoring on the mat stood, handing Ruiz a 0-1, 2-0, 0-4 loss.
“They reviewed it and gave him three, but I didn’t feel like it was three,” recalled Ruiz. “The situation, I had to score so I didn’t have to go into par terre. I though he was done for and I thought I had him out of bounds.”
Then came the wait. The wait wasn’t as brutal as waiting for the 2012 Olympics, but it was a wait.
With the first day of competition slowly moving forward, Ruiz waited until Dzeinichenka made the finals, then won two matches in the repechage to meet returning world silver medalist Jimmy Lidberg of Sweden.
“I felt good going into the match,” said Ruiz about his match with Lidberg. “In the first period, I got a lock but couldn’t get a turn, it just wasn’t there. Second period, he had a couple good attempts and I fought them off, but the mistake was I was preparing for another attempt and that’s when he caught me going the other way when I should have kept the pressure on.”
“Overall, I just wanted to wrestle,” said Ruiz. “It’s been a while since I’ve been at this level at the World Championships. I was excited for every match and I just wanted to wrestle. I wasn’t really thinking about the end result or places or medals.
“I know I’m one of the best wrestlers in the world at this weight class and I know that any given day, if we wrestle this again, I could beat those guys who beat me,” he said.
U.S. Greco-Roman coach Steve Fraser echoed those sentiments.
“Justin wrestled hard all day,” said Fraser. “I feel bad for him, because he was very very close. He gave a great effort and lost very close matches. We’re proud of him. Fifth is nothing to be ashamed about.”
Fraser pointed to minor tweaks Ruiz has to make and capitalize on in the future.
“He lost a very close one to Belarus, who was in the finals. Take away that one mistake he made in the last period, Justin might have been in the finals,” said Fraser.
“He made some mistakes that he can fix, but he keeps going like he’s going. Training with that focus, you’ll see him back.”