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Jake Varner has made a wrestling career of nearly duplicating that of his coach Cael Sanderson. At approximately 2:48 today (London time), the native of Bakersfield, Calif., has a chance to add to his similar resume — and join his coach as both an NCAA and Olympic champion — in the ExCel Arena when he competes for the gold medal in the 211.5-pound weight class
Varner, who like his college and freestyle coach Sanderson won multiple college championships for Iowa State, earned a shot at Olympic gold when he won three matches in the final day of competition of the 2012 Games.
And the most important of those victories came in the semifinals, where Varner lost the first period, 2-0, to Georgian Georgi Gogshelidze, but battled back to win the next two periods and the match.
Varner benefited from the Georgian drawing his ball in the second period when Varner native hit a high crotch right off the whistle for a takedown to set up the tie-breaking third period.
In the third period, Varner countered an inside trip move by the Georgian and earned a push-out 39 seconds into the third period. The four-time World/Olympic medalist pursued hard the rest of the period, but Varner did a good job of defending and won the period.
CAEL SANDERSON AND JAKE VARNER SPEAK ABOUT SEMIFINAL WIN
Sanderson, who trains Varner at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club in State College, Pa., where Sanderson is the head coach at Penn State, instructed Varner to open up in the second and third periods.
“(Sanderson) just basically said to go out there and finish it,” Varner said. “ ‘Get your shots going, move the guy around and the opportunity will be there to score and it was. It was a good thing I listened to him.”
“The (Georgian) had a really good game plan for him, grabbing his shoot hand,” said Sanderson, who won a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics. “It was a little closer than we thought. You don’t to go to the ball grab in the second period.
Earlier in the day, Varner defeated Uzebekistan’s Kurban Kurbanov, 1-0, 0-1, 1-0, and then Canada’s Khetag Pliev, 1-0, 1-0, in the quarterfinal
Against Kurbanov, Varner got a quick point off a throw-by just under a minute into the third period for the 1-0 win and it was enough to win the three-period bout.
Against Pliev, Varner won with two nearly identical periods as he got an ankle pick for a point at the :32 mark in the first period. Then in the second, Varner used a throw-by for the critical first point just under 30 seconds into the match, and the one point held up for the win, sending Varner to the semis.