While the Harvard wrestling team saw unprecedented success this year—thanks to the efforts of co-captain Jesse Jantzen—there are a few other Crimson wrestlers who hope bring home more than just a National Championship.
Assistant coach Jared Frayer, former captain Dawid Rechul ’02 and Danielle Hobeika ’01 have all qualified for the U.S. Olympic team trials, which begin today in Indianapolis. Though there are two styles of Olympic wrestling, all three wrestlers will be competing in the freestyle competition. This type of wrestling is more similar to collegiate wrestling than Greco-Roman, the other Olympic style.
And while Rechul (96 kg.) and Hobeika (55 kg.) are considered long shots to make the American team, Frayer (60 kg.) stands as one of the favorites after placing third at the U.S. Nationals tournament in Las Vegas last month.
Jantzen had originally planned on competing in the Las Vegas trials, but was unable to participate due to scheduling conflicts with schoolwork. And though he tried to petition to get into the Olympic trials, his bid failed and he has been forced to wait at home.
“Every other year besides the Olympic year the two NCAA finalists would be invited to the World Team trials,” Harvard coach Jay Weiss said. “But in an Olympic year, that doesn’t come into play.”
66 kg., 145.5 lbs.
Key Opponents: Jamill Kelly, Chris Bono
Frayer—an NCAA finalist and two-time All-American who won the Wade Shalls Award for the most pins in the country during his senior year at Oklahoma—has entered one of the most talented weight brackets in the field.
“It’s such a deep-loaded weight class,” Frayer said. “It’s pretty neat sometimes, but it also sucks sometimes because I have to beat all those guys.”
Favored to win the bracket is Jamill Kelly. Though not a standout at the collegiate level, Kelly made a name for himself at the Olympic level and won the National Tournament last month. Other stiff competition will come from Chris Bono, a veteran wrestler who won the U.S. Nationals in 2003.
But Bono has been susceptible to some of the younger, up-and-coming wrestlers like Frayer, Erik Larkin and Jared Lawrence. Frayer defeated Bono earlier in the year, but lost to Kelly in the semifinal bout of the U.S. Nationals 5-3. Frayer also scored two victories over Larkin in this tournament, which included a pin in the third-place match. Back in college, Frayer lost to Lawrence in the 2002 National Championship match but has since defeated him in competition.
“I’m willing to give them a beating if it comes to that,” Frayer said.
For training, Frayer has been working out with wrestlers on the Harvard team, but particularly Jantzen, whom Frayer beat when the two wrestled during the NCAA tournament. Frayer has also been traveling to various training centers, spending time at a camp at the University of West Virginia and at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
On top of that, Frayer has been competing in other tournaments, winning the NYAC Christmas Invitational Open and placing third at the Henri Deglane Challenge.
“He’s just been traveling here and there, but mostly he’s been working with Jesse,” Weiss said.
Of course, making the Olympic team could prove to be the ultimate goal for Frayer, whose future plans for wrestling remain hazy. Though he is unsure whether or not he will continue wrestling competitively if he doesn’t make the Olympic team, Frayer said that he “will be done” with competitive wrestling if he does make it to Athens. The retirement will allow him to focus on other goals in his life—a coaching career or family.
96 kg., 211.5 lbs.
Key Opponents: Daniel Cormier, Dean Morrison
A former All-American and three-time NCAA qualifier, Rechul qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials after winning the East Regional. While he is unlikely to join his countrymen in Greece, Rechul did beat Melvin Douglas—who came in fifth at the U.S. Nationals—earlier in the year.
Though he wrestled at 275 lbs. in college, Rechul’s drop to a lower weight bracket in the international competition has better suited him, considering his natural weight is only 225 lbs.
“I never considered myself a true heavyweight when I was in college,” Rechul said. “I think I’m more in my element wrestling at 211 than at heavyweight in college.”
Regardless of what happens in Indianapolis, Rechul plans to continue training in Colorado Springs for at least another year, and try and make the World Team in 2005. He has one year left on a scholarship which allows him to study at a branch of the University of Phoenix in Colorado Springs.
55 kg., 121 lbs.
Key Opponents: Tina George, Tela O’Donnell
Though Hobeika normally competes at the 112 lb. category—she recently took third at the U.S. National Championships in this bracket—this is not an Olympic weight class, and she has had to move up to 121 lbs.
And while Hobeika admits that the gain in weight has eliminated the pain from competing, the step up to the larger weight class has made it so that all of her competitors are bigger as well, and Hobeika admits that her chances of making the Olympic team are slim.
“I’d be happy with a top six or eighth [place finish],” Hobeika said.
Though she was training at the Olympic training center with Rechul, she was recently hired as a coach at Pacific University in Oregon. Hobeika qualified for the US Olympic trials after winning the Western Regional.
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.