Bryan’s Blog: The emotions of the Olympics can be so raw for others to watch

By Bryan Van Kley

And now for most everyone, it is time to celebrate.

Jake Varner completed his journey of achieving his ultimate goal in winning gold for the U.S. today at 211.5 pounds. Following in the footsteps of his coach from start to finish, Varner went to Ames, Iowa, because he knew Sanderson was the best one for him in regards to helping him reach his Olympic dream.

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Bryan Van Kley

That trail took him from Ames, to State College, Pa, and now to the Olympic mats in London, England. Varner’s two-period win in the finals helped the U.S. team end on a very high note.

For me, in glancing over the articles that have been circulated through our home page, it’s great to see the medalists — Clarissa Chun, Coleman Scott, Jordan Burroughs and now Jake Varner — smiling and so excited. It’s great to see them going home with Olympic hardware after so many years of tireless work.

But in covering our U.S. teams, you know there’s 13 other athletes leaving London very, very disappointed. And like is very typical in wresting, it’s sometimes those searing losses that stick with you as a wrestler, coach and even media person more than the mountain-top wins.

Your heart is torn out of your chest to see how wrestlers like Jake Herbert and Tervel Dlagnev lost in falling short of Olympic glory. Both are former World medalists who are certainly not in the mood to celebrate tonight. Many of the wrestlers, like Jared Frayer today, talked about feeling bad for their families and coaches who have put so much time and made so many sacrifices for them along the way. They feel like they somehow let them down.

As a writer covering these guys and gals, that hurts big time. You know the disappointment goes far deeper than just the athlete or the head Olympic coach. But I guess that’s a reflection of life … and is the very nature of sports.

For me, I’m going to remember the 2012 Games as one of the most amazing experiences of my life. As I wrote about in my earlier blog, I’ve got to witness some incredible things over the past nine days. Being around the best athletes in the world in their particular sports, and seeing the passion and work that they’ve put into it is something truly special. And inspiring.

But one of the biggest highlights for me of the entire trip happened in area called the “mix zone.” It’s corridor where the athletes transition from the competition floor to the warm-up area before leaving the arena each day. It’s set up for reporters and broadcasters to get some interviews with athletes and coaches after match is are complete.

As you can imagine, interviewing guys like Varner and Burroughs fresh off the medal platform with that gold medal around their neck is truly a delight. Interviewing a guy like the 33-year old Frayer who definitely just wrestled his last match is probably the worst thing you ever have to do as a reporter in the wrestling world. Frayer has waited years for this opportunity, and knew full well it would be the only one of his career.

And now he’s done, with a sour taste in his mouth about not performing up to his own personal expectations. But I was impressed about him having the maturity to already be looking ahead at how this loss and disappointment will help him be a better coach and prepare future athletes on the college and Senior level for battle.

But you can still see it in his eyes, and in the eyes of others like him. They put their life into this, and fell short.

But the other highlight for me came in talking to U.S. freestyle coach Zeke Jones. Taking over as the top freestyle coach four years ago, Jones was under tremendous pressure to return our country to the top as a freestyle power. And in 2010, America failed to have any freestyler finish higher than ninth and people were really questioning Jones’ and the staff’s plan. We’re certainly not there yet and finished in a tie for third place with three medals. Russia and Georgia beat us, and we tied Iran.

But you could tell Jones was really pleased with the way his team fought here at the Games. He too would have liked to won a few more of the critical matches and had more athletes reach the podium. But you could tell there was great satisfaction in his eyes and relief in his voice that the new plan to help the U.S. to return to wrestling prominence internationally really took shape this weekend.

And to that goal of contending for World freestyle titles, you know thousands of hours of time and effort were put to that as well. And now Jones said it was time to go and celebrate. And to Jones and company, I say well done. The wrestling community is moving forward into the next four-year cycle with optimism and a lot of energy. There are a number of hunger youngsters waiting in the wings for their shot at World and Olympic glory.

For me I’ve got one last event to take in before boarding a plane first thing in the morning and heading back to the states: the Closing Ceremony. It’s customary for the International Olympic Committee to set aside seats for media members who want to go the event and it’s a tremendous opportunity.

For me, it will be a fitting celebratory end to an exciting nine days in London. But like so many of us as U.S. wrestling media here covering the U.S. teams, it’s been a lot of work and long days here in London as well. And it will be great to get home.

Thanks again for following the Olympics through WIN. If you’re not currently a subscriber, it’s time to subscribe. By clicking on the link below, you’ll get comprehensive coverage of the Games and a lot of insider information in our Souvenir Olympic Edition, to be mailed Aug. 22,  which you’ve not seen on our website. And with what looks to be an another exciting season of college and high school wrestling coming up, WIN will make sure you don’t miss a minute of it.

Enjoy the Closing Ceremony if you have a chance and have a good late summer and early fall. The wrestling season will be here again before you know it.

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