This will be my last wrestle on American soil, says top US Olympic contender ahead of trials
Friday, 20 April 2012
April 20 - The United States Olympic Team Trials for wrestling are set to take place in Iowa City this weekend, with Beijing 2008 gold medallist Henry Cejudo (pictured) looking to return to the Olympics and defend his title.
Up to 15,000 fans could visit the Carver-Hawkeye Arena over the weekend for the trials, with competitors looking for freestyle and Greco-Roman spots at the Games.
At 21, freestyle 55kg wrestler Cejudo was the youngest American wrestling champion in Beijing and despite being out of action for three years since, is optimistic of a return to the ring in London.
"I haven't been this motivated in a long time," Cejudo told USA Wrestling.
"This is the last time I will ever wrestle on American soil.
"I'm extremely strong and extremely fast.
"I'm stronger than I've ever been and I have my weight under control.
"I'm ready to go, I'm extremely confident.
"It will be a tough tournament – the weight class is very tough."
One of Cejudo's toughest opponents will be Nick Simmons, the US number one for the weight category.
"If I lose, I will accept it," Cejudo said.
"But if I do lose, the guy who beats me has to have trained his butt off and wrestled really well to beat me.
"I'm not afraid to fail.
"I'm the underdog, but I know I am ready to compete with anybody."
If Cejudo can qualify and then win gold this summer, he would be only the fourth US wrestler – following in the footsteps of George Mehnert, Bruce Baumgartner and John Smith – to achieve such a feat.
Home favourite Brent Metcalf (pictured above, left) will also be confident of success at the weekend, having picked up a gold medal at the Olympic Games test event last year.
Another strong contender is Jordan Burroughs (pictured above, right), a two time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion who won 74kg freestyle gold last year at both the Pan American Games and the World Championships.
US wrestling freestyle coach Zeke Jones believes Burroughs has all the ingredients to be a success this summer.
"He's got world-class blazing speed," Jones said.
"He has great set-up routines.
"He's got unbelievable confidence.
"He can attack from multiple directions, he can cover multiple distances, he can do things most guys can not.
"Do not discount the other guys in the weight class, but he's special.
"I've wrestled with Bruce Baumgartner, John Smith, Dave Schultz, Kenny Monday, Kevin Jackson, Tom Brands, Terry Brands - they've all been my teammates - and Burroughs has what they had."
Clarissa Chun will be hopeful of going to her second successive Olympic Games and improving on her fifth place from Beijing.
Another one to watch is 40-year-old Rulon Gardner, who pulled off a major shock at Sydney 2000 beating Russian champion Alexander Karelin, who had been 15 years without defeat in international competition prior to their fight.
This weekend will not be the last chance for American wrestlers to qualify for London; there will be an Olympic qualifier in Helsinki next month, as well as a yet to be confirmed wrestle off.
May 2011: Cejudo set for New York comeback
March 2011: Cejudo aims for gold again in 2012