2012 Olympic Preview: Varner looks to follow Sanderson’s lead 211.5 pounds

Updated: July 18, 2012

By Mike Finn

(Editor’s Note: This is the tenth of 11 weekly previews of this summer’s Olympics in London. In last week’s WIN eNews, we looked at the 185-pound weight class in men’s freestyle after first examining the 121-, 132-, 145.5- and 163-pound weight class in men’s freestyle and all the women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman classes in previous weeks. Next week, WIN will preview the final of seven men’s freestyle weight classes — 264.5 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)


84 kilos / 211.5 pounds (Competition held Aug. 12)

U.S. Entry: Jake Varner, 26, Bakersfield, Calif.

Perhaps no American has grown more in this sport — literally — than the former two-time NCAA champion (2009 and ’10) and four-time finalist, who competed at 185 pounds during the 2008 Olympic Trials but has since dominated this heavier weight class in the U.S. Except for the 2010 Worlds, where he was beat out by J.D. Bergman, Varner competed in both the 2009 and 2011 Worlds; highlighted by his bronze medal performance last September in Istanbul, Turkey, where he lost a quarterfinal to eventual silver medalist Serhi Balci of Turkey but came back to win two consolation bouts for third place. In the 2009 Worlds, Varner finished ninth in Herning Denmark, where he won his first two matches before losing to Saeed Abrahimi of Iran.

In some people’s minds, Varner is a clone of 2004 Olympic champion Cael Sanderson, who coached him at Iowa State and eventually brought Varner to State College, Pa., where he trains with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.

Before starting his college career, Varner won two California state championships for Bakersfield High School and later earned the Junior Schalles Award as the best prep pinner.


Top Medal Challengers

• Khetag Gazumov, Azerbaijan — He was 25 years old when he earned the 2008 Olympic bronze medal. He added another third-place finish at the 2009 Worlds and a championship in the 2010 Worlds. Last year, he failed to place after losing to Belarus’ Rouslan Sheikov in the second round.

• Khadshimourad Gatsalov, Russia — Became the top Russian at this spot since the 2008 Olympics by winning a World championship in 2009 and silver medal in 2010. In 2011, he failed to medal when he lost to Kazahkstan’s Taimuraz Tigiev in the quarterfinals.

• Reza Yazdani, Iran — After settling for bronze in his first Worlds in 2006 and 2007, the 28-year-old Iranian won the 2011 World championship. He also competed in the 2008 Olympics where he split two matches and failed to place.

• Serhat Balci, Turkey — A two-time World medalist since 2008 Olympics, he earned a bronze in 2009 and silver in 2011.