By Tim HippsJune 23, 2008
LAS VEGAS - LAS VEGAS Aca,!" Staff Sgt. Dremiel Byers secured an Olympic berth by defeating U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program teammate Spc. Timothy Taylor in the Greco-Roman heavyweight finals of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling
Three other Soldiers reached the finals of their respective weight classes but fell short of earning spots on the U.S. Olympic Team during the three-day tournament at the University of Nevada, Las VegasAca,!a,,c Thomas & Mack Center.
Byers, the 2002 Greco-Roman heavyweight World champion, defeated Taylor in their first match, 1-1, 4-0, but lost the second bout of their best-of-three series, 2-5, 2-1, 1-1.
Aca,!A"Taylor is pretty good at being a wall when he wants to,Aca,!A? said Byers, 33, a native of Kings Mountain, N.C., who is stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., where he trains daily with Taylor. Aca,!A"I really donAca,!a,,ct have any tricks for him. He knows what IAca,!a,,cm going to do every time.
Aca,!A"HeAca,!a,,cs a fast learner, a quick study, and his bodyAca,!a,,cs coming together,Aca,!A? Byers said of Taylor, a 2007 Armed Forces champion who finished second in the U.S. Nationals and third in the U.S. World Team Trials last year. Aca,!A"That first match, I saw it.
And in that second match, I really saw it Aca,!" this guy is coming and heAca,!a,,cs defending hard.
Aca,!A"I knew it was time to take it up a notch and do what IAca,!a,,cm supposed to do.Aca,!A?
In the decisive third match, Byers dominated the first period, 4-0. In the
second period, he scored five points with a high-amplitude throw of Taylor that ended the match and tournament in dramatic fashion.
Aca,!A"I just felt that if I worked my under hooks it would pay off, and right there in a clutch moment, it paid off Aca,!" just like I had hoped,Aca,!A? said Byers, who was interviewed mat side by his former training partner and archrival, MSNBC color analyst Rulon Gardner, who struck Olympic gold at the 2000 Sydney Games and bronze in the 2004 Athens Games.
Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs been a long road. ItAca,!a,,cs been a real long road,Aca,!A? said Byers, who thanked a long list of supporters Aca,!" including All-Army coach Staff Sgt. Shon Lewis Aca,!" that helped him along the way. Aca,!A"Some of it was luck and a lot of it was hard work. IAca,!a,,cm very fortunate to be here right now.
Aca,!A"I think life starts now.Aca,!A?
Byers said he plans to fulfill the promise of winning an Olympic medal for his late grandfather, Theodore, in Beijing in August.
Aca,!A"He probably would have asked me why I lost that one match,Aca,!A? said Byers, who won his spot on the Olympic team on FatherAca,!a,,cs Day. Aca,!A"Coming out that tunnel, and every time I looked up, I said: Aca,!EoeI know youAca,!a,,cre watching. I know youAca,!a,,cre watching.Aca,!a,,c
Aca,!A"I wish he could be here.Aca,!A?
Taylor made sure Soldiers would be represented on the U.S. Olympic Team by reaching the 264.5-pound finals against Byers with a 3-0, 0-3, 1-1 victory over Russ Davie of New York Athletic Club.
Aca,!A"I knew whoever won the first period was winning the match, regardless of what happened,Aca,!A? said Taylor, 25. Aca,!A"I had to get the first period Aca,!" got the first period. Tried to stand up in the second period and he kept me down, so I just stopped moving. Third period, same situation: if I donAca,!a,,ct get turned, I win.
Aca,!A"Coach has been always saying that you have to have heart with 30 seconds left to win the match,Aca,!A? said Taylor, a proud, new father of 11-week-old Makyla Aleece Taylor. Aca,!A"Being FatherAca,!a,,cs Day, I was thinking about her. Reached down, thought about her, stood up Aca,!" and once I stood up, there was no way he was getting a point.Aca,!A?
Several other Soldiers competed gamely in the Olympic Trials.
WCAP Spc. Aaron Sieracki wrestled through longtime nemesis Jacob Clark, a former Marine, and WCAP teammate Sgt. Brad Ahearn, who grappled with a broken hand, before losing 6-0, 3-0 in the 84-kilogram Greco-Roman finals to New York Athletic ClubAca,!a,,cs Brad Vering, a two-time Olympian and four-time World Team member.
Aca,!A"I wrestled well, overall Aca,!" just wish I had stepped it up a little more for the finals,Aca,!A? Sieracki said. Aca,!A"I just made a couple of mistakes, and if you make a mistake here, itAca,!a,,cs going to cost you.Aca,!A?
Nothing stung Sieracki, however, quite like seeing his older brother, Keith, leave his boots on the mat, signaling the end of a brilliant Army wrestling career.
Aca,!A"Wow, thatAca,!a,,cs tough to talk about,Aca,!A? said Aaron, who buried his head in his sweatshirt to absorb the tears of disbelief. Aca,!A"HeAca,!a,,cs the one who drove me. HeAca,!a,,cs why IAca,!a,,cm where IAca,!a,,cm at. I canAca,!a,,ct believe heAca,!a,,cs retiring. It just wonAca,!a,,ct be the same without him.Aca,!A?
Staff Sgt. Keith Sieracki, an Olympic Trials winner in 2000 and 2004, lost to NYACAca,!a,,cs Cheney Haight in the 74-kilogram Greco finale of the challenge tournament. Walking off the mat for the final time gave Sieracki a bittersweet sense of relief.
Aca,!A"I was hoping to do it at the Olympics, but I knew this was my last go-around,Aca,!A? Keith said. Aca,!A"If you donAca,!a,,ct have the fire, mentally, itAca,!a,,cs hard Aca,!" youAca,!a,,cre on auto-pilot. I gave it everything I had. I just didnAca,!a,,ct have anything left. DonAca,!a,,ct get me wrong, I wanted to make the Olympic team, but when itAca,!a,,cs all said and done, IAca,!a,,cve been in the top two (in the United States) for the last 13 years.
Aca,!A"The Army has given me the opportunity to wrestle this long. I canAca,!a,,ct say enough good things about the Army. I never in my life thought I would get such a privilege. I get to be a Soldier and I get to wrestle for the Army and honor these guys. ItAca,!a,,cs amazing.Aca,!A?
Sieracki lost his 2000 Olympic spot in a legal battle with Matt Lindland, who Keith defeated on the mat in the U.S. Olympic Trials at Reunion Arena in Dallas. He also made the 2004 team that failed to qualify the weight class for the Athens Games.
Aca,!A"Yep, IAca,!a,,cm (the answer to) a trivia question,Aca,!A? said Sieracki, 36, an 18-year Army veteran who will be remembered as a two-time U.S. Olympic Team member who never graced a mat in the Games. Aca,!A"But now the pressure is gone. IAca,!a,,cm so tired of carrying that weight on my shoulders of hearing Aca,!Eoethis is your year.Aca,!a,,cAca,!A?
WCAP Staff Sgt. Glenn Garrison made it to the 60-kilogram Greco-Roman finals but lost back-to-back matches to NYACAca,!a,,cs Joe Betterman.
Aca,!A"I feel like I wrestled good in my last match Aca,!" thought I took it to him,Aca,!A? said Garrison, 34, a five-time Armed Forces champion from Portland, Ore. Aca,!A"In my first match, I made a couple of mistakes that really cost me. I just didnAca,!a,,ct come out hard enough.Aca,!A?
WCAP Pfc. Jeremiah Davis finished third in the same weight class with a 6-4, 6-0 consolation victory over C.C. Fisher.
WCAP Spc. Faruk Sahin, 32, a two-time Turkish national champion, lost 2-3, 7-5, 3-0 to Minnesota StormAca,!a,,cs Jake Deitchler in the 66-kilogram Greco finals. Sahin was leading 5-0 in the second period before the bottom fell out.
Aca,!A"I guess I wasnAca,!a,,ct pumped up enough to win, but that was a great match,Aca,!A? Sahin said. Aca,!A"He just goes, goes, goes, goes Aca,!" thatAca,!a,,cs his advantage Aca,!" but I did my best. IAca,!a,,cm happy with my performance. Now, IAca,!a,,cll get ready for the CISM World Championships.Aca,!A?
En route to his Olympic Trials finale, Sahin eliminated 2004 Olympian and All-Army teammate Sgt. Oscar Wood from the challenge tournament semifinals.
Aca,!A"He is the epitome of a warrior,Aca,!A? Lewis said of Wood, who defeated Deitchler, 8-0, 8-0, earlier this year at the Sunkist Invitational. Aca,!A"He just leaves it all on the mat. We have a little saying that some people wrestle to the death and some people are scared to death. HeAca,!a,,cs definitely a wrestle-to-the-death kind of guy. Every single time, he brings it, and I donAca,!a,,ct know what it is about the Olympic Trials, but he wrestled his butt off. I was getting excited for him to be a back-to-back finalist in the Olympic Trials.Aca,!A?
WCAP Staff Sgt. Marcel Cooper, 37, also left his boots on the mat after losing to Gator Wrestling ClubAca,!a,,cs Harry Lester in a Greco-Roman 66-kilo consolation bout. This was CooperAca,!a,,cs second retirement from the sport.
Aca,!A"I left my shoes out there four years ago at this same tournament,Aca,!A? said Cooper, who then was wrestling for the Marines. Aca,!A"I just have too many injuries. My body canAca,!a,,ct hold up any more. IAca,!a,,cve been doing this for a long time. Guys are just younger and stronger. I just canAca,!a,,ct compete at that level no more. ThatAca,!a,,cs not the way I wanted to go out, but I have no excuses. I had a good career.
Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs time to let it go,Aca,!A? added Cooper, who began wrestling at age 5. Aca,!A"I have a bunch of surgeries IAca,!a,,cve got to get. My body was really telling me four years ago to let it go. But I have no complaints. IAca,!a,,cd do it all over again. I gave it my best, but I want to be able to walk after all this is over.Aca,!A?
Lewis, a 13-time Armed Forces champion on the mat, paid Cooper an ultimate compliment.
Aca,!A"We went at it several times and I always had utmost respect for him because he was one of the only guys I knew in the United States who could stop my gut wrench,Aca,!A? Lewis said.
Three Soldiers competed in the womenAca,!a,,cs freestyle tournament.
Sunkist KidsAca,!a,,c 17-year-old Tatiana Padilla pinned WCAP 1st Lt. Leigh Jaynes with 14 seconds remaining in a 55-kilogram freestyle semifinal.
Aca,!A"I just made a technical error,Aca,!A? Jaynes said. Aca,!A"You need to be on your game at all times, and she stuck me in the last 20 seconds. ItAca,!a,,cs heartbreaking, but sheAca,!a,,cs a fighter and I knew better to tie up with somebody who didnAca,!a,,ct have anything to lose at that point.Aca,!A?
In the same weight class, 2nd Lt. Tina George, a two-time World silver medalist and seven-time U.S. World Team member, lost to Gator Wrestling ClubAca,!a,,cs Sally Roberts in the semifinals before wrestling back to take third place with a consolation victory over GWCAca,!a,,cs Sharon Jacobson.
WCAP Sgt. Iris Smith, a 2005 World champion and four-time U.S. Nationals champ, lost 1-0, 0-2, 3-0 in the womenAca,!a,,cs 72-kilo challenge tournament semis to NYACAca,!a,,cs Kristie Marano, a two-time World champ and nine-time World medalist (the most among U.S. women). Marano prevailed with a takedown in the final 20 seconds of the match.
Aca,!A"Iris definitely had the momentum going and Kristie was tired,Aca,!A? Lewis said. Aca,!A"That takedown really was a tough one for me. I expect my world champions to get it done, but when you lose, you canAca,!a,,ct say anything but weAca,!a,,cve got to get better.Aca,!A?
Lewis realizes the end is near for a few more All-Army wrestlers.
Aca,!A"The gladiators are going to get moved out by the younger gladiators one day, and thatAca,!a,,cs really whatAca,!a,,cs happening,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"Over my 20-plus-year career in wrestling, I have never seen so many people retire at the same tournament. ItAca,!a,,cs a changing of the guard, and thatAca,!a,,cs the way itAca,!a,,cs supposed to be.Aca,!A?