For two soldiers, it’s a return to the grandest stage in athletics. For another, it’s his first chance at his sport’s highest honor. For a fourth, all of that was just out of reach.
Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers and Sgt. Spenser Mango did what was expected of them over the weekend in Iowa City at the Team USA Olympic wrestling trials, winning their weight classes with 2-0 sweeps of their respective best-of-three championship finals. Byers had a bye to the 120-kilogram final and was without his highest-profile competition after Rulon Gardner decided not to weigh in, stalling his comeback before it even started. Mango earned a pinfall in the first round of the 55-kg final, the only pin in a championship match all weekend. It will be the second Olympics for both grapplers, but the first for Mango as a soldier.
Spc. Justin Lester will wrestle in his first Olympics thanks to a win over C.P. Schlatter in the 66-kg final. It won’t be his first time on the world stage, though — Lester won bronze at the 2006 and 2007 world championships.
The trio of Greco-Roman Olympians punched tickets to London on Saturday. On Sunday, the only soldier to reach the final was less fortunate — Sgt. Aaron Sieracki lost the 74-kg final to 21-year-old Ben Provisor 2-1 after winning the first fall and having a point taken away on a scoring challenge in the final fall. Sieracki, 37, who also finished second in the 2008 finals, announced his retirement after Sunday’s match, expressing interest in a coaching position with the Army wrestling squad. See more about the battle of Wisconsin-born grapplers here and here.
For more about the event itself, check out comprehensive coverage from our good friends at the Des Moines Register here or a roundup of Saturday’s action from TheMat.com. Greco-Roman wrestlers take to the mats in London beginning Aug. 5.