Wrestling coach Jackson calls for program 'overhaul'
After winning wrestling gold for the USA in his first Olympics in 2000, Brandon Slay left the sport and now is in real estate in Dallas. Cael Sanderson won the Olympics in his first try in 2004, retired from the mat and now coaches at Iowa State.This week, Russia's Bouvaisa Saitiev won his third Olympic wrestling gold and Mavlet Batirov won his second.
"Our Olympic champions, Brandon Slay, Cael Sanderson, one (Olympic) cycle in them. "¦ That's not conducive to beating guys who are on this circuit continuously, "U.S. national freestyle coach Kevin Jackson said after a disappointing finish by his squad.
Seven U.S. freestyle wrestlers combined for one medal, albeit a gold by Henry Cejudo.
Daniel Cormier, the only team member who had been to the Olympics before, didn't wrestle Thursday after being hospitalized because of dehydration from weight cutting.
U.S. Greco-Roman wrestlers won a bronze, as did the women's freestyle team.
"We've got to make an overhaul of our whole system. We have to allow our guys to be able to compete in two or three cycles, "Jackson said.
He wants enhanced financial incentives for top wrestlers to train full time at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and to stay in the sport.
Cejudo, 21, has been at the center since high school, skipping college. Jackson said heavyweight Steve Mocco has been the only other member of this Olympic freestyle team based there.
Other wrestlers work as college assistant coaches and train at college-based clubs. "It doesn't work, "Jackson said.
For a U.S. wrestler, an Olympic gold medal was worth bonuses totaling $65,000 this year.
The financial incentives to train in Colorado Springs? Over the course of a year, "there's none, "Jackson said.
"A guy like Henry Cejudo "¦ that's a single man, it's $24,000 to house and feed him, "Jackson added.
He said a club sponsorship can mean another $600 to $1,000 a month, plus a six-month training stipend of about $500 to $1,000 a month.
"So for a single guy like (Cejudo) "¦ it's about 50 grand, "Jackson said.
If a wrestler has a family? "Now, I've got to win the gold medal every time, "Jackson said, referring to bonuses for world and Olympic medals. He said USA Wrestling has been in discussions about developing and funding a new system.
Terry Brands, assistant national freestyle coach, puts emphasis elsewhere.
"We've got to be tigers on the mat and ferocious in our competitions. And that's the bottom line, "Brands said.
Brands acknowledged, "You've got to be able to support yourself. "But referring to Mocco, he added, "That's not what it's about for him. "¦ You can't put a price tag on a gold medal."
Brands won't give any nation an edge because of how it finances wrestlers.
"It doesn't give them an advantage, "he said. "Why am I going to admit my competition has an advantage? "¦ We've got to work harder."
The U.S. freestyle team won three medals (gold and two silvers) in Athens in 2004. Jamil Kelly won a surprise silver. "One cycle in him, "Jackson said.
Russia won three golds in freestyle, three in Greco-Roman and a total of 11 medals in all from wrestling.
"We have to rethink our whole system, "Jackson said.