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Utahns inauspiciously absent from US wrestling team

Utahns inauspiciously absent from US wrestling team



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Team USA has plenty of wrestlers on it, but for the first time in nearly a decade, something is different about America's Olympic wrestlers.

Normally when we cover the Summer Olympics, lots of Utah hopes are pinned on wrestlers. But, not here in Beijing. For the first time this millennium, there are no Utahns going for gold in the Olympic wrestling tournament. Over the past eight years, this event has taken us through an amazing run of raw emotion with Olympic highs and lows.

After losing in the Olympic trials finals four years ago, Taylorsville's Justin Ruiz was devastated again. He was stunned in the finals again after he dominated his weight class for 4 years. His Olympic dream crushed.

After losing the match Ruiz, a five-time U.S. national champion said, "I felt I was giving it everything I could at that moment. I would have liked to have won."

Star Valley, Idaho's Rulon Gardner lifted wrestling to new heights in 2000 when he upset the legendary and undefeated Russian Bear, Alexander Karelin, in Sydney. But four years later Gardner was unable to grab the lightning again. He retired after winning the bronze medal in Athens.

Gardner is now commentating for NBC and when asked if he misses the competition, Gardner replied, "Not really. It's fun to be able to come here and be the voice of it, be the voice of and see these guys still working for their Olympic aspirations, that's what makes it fun."

But Greece was still golden for Heber Valley hero, Cael Sanderson. After going unbeaten through out his 4-year college career, Sanderson won gold in his first Olympics.

He says, "When you're thinking about it for 20 years, it's a little crazy so it's pretty neat."

Cael is now coaching at his alma mater Iowa State. Rulon's doing color commentary for NBC and Justin Ruiz is still planning to work hard for the 2012 games in London. By the way, the wrestler who beat Ruiz in the Olympic trials finals, Adam Wheeler, just won the bronze medal.

E-mail: tkirkland@ksl.com

Tom Kirkland

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