By Mike Finn
(Editor’s Note: This is the seventh of 11 weekly previews of the of this summer’s Olympics in London. In last week’s WIN eNews, we looked at the 132-pound weight class in men’s freestyle after first examining the 121-pound weight class and all the women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman classes in previous weeks. Next week, WIN will preview the fourth of seven men’s freestyle weight classes — 163 pounds — before the start of the Games on August 5. A complete preview of America’s entries in London can be found at https://www.win-magazine.com/2012-olympics-preview)
66 kilos / 145.5 pounds (Competition held August 12)
U.S. Entry: Jared Frayer, 33, Norman, Okla.
Not only will this former Oklahoma University All-American try to win a medal at the London Games, he will also try to do something no American has done at this weight class since the 2007 World Championships: win a match.
Since Doug Schwab finished fifth at the 2007 Worlds in Baku, Azerbaijan, the U.S. team has not had a 145.5-pounder seen his arm raised in victory in five straight matches at this level of competition:
• in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, Schwab finished 0-2, losing to eventual silver medalist Andrey Stanik of Ukraine and bronze medalist Sushil Kumar of India;
• in the 2009 Worlds, Trent Paulson lost his only match to eventual bronze medalist Leonid Spiridonov of Kazahkstan;
• in 2010, Brent Metcalf dropped his only Worlds bout to Otar Tushishvili of Georgia;
• during the 2011 Worlds, Teyon Ware also lost to the Ukrainian Stanik in his only match in Istanbul, Turkey, last September.
In Frayer, the U.S. does not feature an Olympic or World veteran, but instead a veteran wrestler who spent a collegiate and post-graduate career just falling short of his yearly goal; finishing as high as second at the 2001 NCAAs at 149 pounds for Oklahoma … and settling for the runner-up spot at the 2006 and 2009 World Team Trials.
But the current Sooner assistant coach put it all together this April, when he first defeated Teyon Ware in the semifinals of the Olympic Trials before he defeated Iowa crowd favorite Brent Metcalf in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Frayer also has held his own against international competition since the Trials, winning three of five matches at the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, May 12-13, earning a bronze medal … before scoring an exciting five-point move to defeat Russia’s Dzalaludin Kurbanaliev during the “Beat The Streets” Gala in New York City’s Times Square on June 7.
• Mehdi Taghavi, Iran — This level of international competition has been a hot and cold experience for the 25-year-old Iranian. In the 2008 Olympics, Taghavi finished 10th in his first year on the Senior level, winning just one of three bouts. In the next three years, he won two World championships — in 2009 and 2011 — but was forced to settle for 11th place in the 2010 Worlds, where he lost in the quarterfinals to Cuba’s Geandry Garzon, who defeated him in the 2008 Olympics. Among his victories in six matches in the 2011 Worlds were wins over 2008 Olympic gold medalist Mavlet Batirov of Russia and Japan’s two-time World medalist Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu in the championship bout.
• Sushil Kumar, India — This will be the third Olympic experience for the 29-year-old Indian, who first made a name for himself at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he first defeated American Doug Schwab en route to claiming a bronze medal. (In 2004, Kumar split his two Olympic bouts in Athens.) Then in 2010, Kumar won his first World championship in Moscow, where he defeated Russian Alan Gogaev in the championship bout. Unfortunately, Kumar fell back in the pack during the 2011 Worlds, where he lost to 2008 Olympic silver medalist Andrey Stadnik of Ukraine in a second-round bout.
• Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu, Japan — Since taking over the spot on the Japanese team since the 2008 Olympics, the 26-year-old has earned two World medals: claiming a bronze medal in 2009 in Herning, Denmark, where he defeated India’s Sushil Kumar for third place; and securing a silver medal in the 2011 Worlds, where his only loss in five bouts was to Iranian Mehdi Taghavi. It should also be noted that Yonemitsu did not medal in the 2010 Worlds in Moscow, after losing a first-round match to Cuba’s Geandry Garzon, a four-time World medalist who also finished fifth in the 2008 Olympics.
• Yabrail Hasanov, Azerbaijan — The 2009 Junior World gold medalist also competed in the Senior-level Worlds that year and finished seventh in Denmark. Since then, the 22-year-old Hasanov has captured bronze medals in the last two Worlds: losing only to India’s Kumar in the semifinals (after beating former Oregon State wrestler Heinrich Barnes, representing his native South Africa) in 2010; and last September when he lost a quarterfinal bout to Japan’s Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu but came back to win two consolation bouts.