USA Greco

Best Quotes from Olympic Trials Champs

adam coon, 2024 olympian
Adam Coon -- Image: USA Wrestling

On Saturday, April 20, six athletes survived till the end to become members of the 2024 United States Olympic Team. They are, in weight class order, Dalton Roberts (60 kg, Army/WCAP), Ellis Coleman (67 kg, Army/WCAP), Kamal Bey (77 kg, Army/WCAP), Payton Jacobson (87 kg, Sunkist/NTS), Joe Rau (97 kg, TMWC), and Adam Coon (130 kg, NYAC/Cliff Keen WC).

not all roads lead to gold, parent edition, jim gruenwald

In a unique development from the tournament, each of the six competitors had required advancing through their respective challenge brackets before appearing in the best-of-three finals. For three of the Trials winners, there is still work to do before leaving for Paris. Next week, Roberts, Coleman, and Bey will take the mat in Istanbul, Turkey in effort to qualify their weight classes for the Olympic Games. While a daunting task, it is also one that is certainly doable for all three, especially when taking into account their prior experience as top Senior-level athletes and general competitive abilities.

Post-OTT Soundbites

The aftermath of any major event for those who have triumphed is often filled with emotion. Wrestlers, shortly after having their hands raised, breathlessly answer questions from various journalists before sufficiently cooling down. That said, it is something to which they are by and large accustomed. Jacobson could be likened to an exception insofar that when he prevailed last Saturday night, he did not just make the Olympic Team, he had made the first Senior-level Team of any description for the first time in his career. Meanwhile, Roberts had won two Trials previously, Coleman five, Bey three, Rau four, and ’18 World silver Coon, three.

Matthew 20 Graphic v2

Below are several quotes from each member of the ’24 US Olympic Team following their individual series victories on Saturday, April 20. You may notice that Roberts’ section is not quite as long as the others. That is likely due to a) Roberts not being quite as naturally verbose as his Olympic Teammates; or b) because there was simply a lack of questions from the press pool.

In addition, each section of dialogue has been edited for clarity as well as to remain in accordance with the 5PM style guide.

Dalton Roberts — 60 kg, Army/WCAP

On once again having to face Ildar Hafizov in a Trials final
“He is a heck of an athlete, heck of a teammate, friend, and mentor on top of that. He has helped me with so much. I can’t say much more… There’s no end to what I can say about Ildar. He’s the man. We’ve had a heck of a rivalry. Maybe it continues. I hope it does. If not, then I hope that he can be in my corner helping me to my goals, as well.”

On what he has done throughout the past season to prepare to make the Olympic Team
“It is little things. Just daily dedication and structure. I try not to fall out of my game plan with visualization, things like that.”

On how he has changed as a wrestler
“I’m just gritty. I kept telling myself that whole match (Match 3 vs. Hafizov), ‘Be a champ, be a champ, be a champ.’ Like Rocky (Balboa) was saying, ‘Come on Rocky, you gotta go!’ That second match, I dislocated my finger. Was kind of struggling with that, it kept going in and out. I kept saying ‘It’s got to get done regardless. Finger or not, I’ll get the job done.’ That was the plan.”

Ellis Coleman — 67 kg, Army/WCAP

On persevering through adversity to win the Olympic Trials
“It’s nothing short of a miracle if you believe in them. If you don’t, then know the truth that it is Jesus Christ. It’s a blessing.

“I’m just grateful to be here, honestly. I thought I was done. It hurts every single day that I wake up. I’m in pain. I told coach that I’m going to give this last one a grind and work as hard as I can to quit drinking, to do everything I can to make this Team. Now it is about qualifying the weight. I made the Team, now I have to qualify the weight.

“I put everything into it. I kept my faith strong. My family, my kids, my wife, my mom… It is a lot of support from my coaches, the World Class Athletes Program, the Army… They provide me with a lot. They give me a lot of resources to be able to take care of myself, to take care of my body because I’ve been doing a lot of rehabbing and struggling with a lot of injuries. Even today. I’m 32-years-old. The last time I made a(n) (Olympic) Team, I was 20-years-old. So, 12 years ago. Over a decade ago. I’m still here, breathing, and working hard. Grateful.”

On why he returned to competition
“Honestly, I didn’t have a choice initially. I put my shoes on the mat and I’m in the Army. You’ve got a contract. Can’t just leave when you decide you want to leave. It doesn’t work that way.

“But then I got suspended by USADA amidst that. It was a two-year suspension and I was already off the mat for a year because my coaches were going to let me heal up. But I was prescribed concussion medication. I was taking concussion medication through the Army. They tried to suspend me for four years. I fought it, they ended up giving me two years because I wasn’t completely at fault. And then after the two years, USADA. That is who pushed me. I was okay with walking away and being done when the time was up, but USADA making me look like a bad athlete, an unclean athlete, when it was just me battling some injuries. I felt like I had something to prove to them. I just wanted to be able to get a win and earn the platform to throw it in USADA’s face, actually.”

On the influence of Coach Mike Powell (formerly coach of Oak Park/River Forest High School, now Executive Director for Beat the Streets-Chicago)
“Oak Park was amazing. Coach Powell, he pretty much helped my brother… He helped all of us with everything. He taught us what it meant to be a man. He taught us that everything is about the journey, that it doesn’t get bigger than the journey, and to be grateful for everything. When I won my first Olympic Trials, Coach Powell was there and I broke down crying after the weigh-ins. He walked up and said ‘Be grateful that you’re here and every time you get on the mat, just say I’m thankful for the opportunity to be here, and that they are going to love me no matter what, whether I win or lose. He means a lot. He has done a lot for me. Still to this day I call him. He helps me out. He gives me advice about things. I would never, ever, ever hesitate to call him for anything.”

Kamal Bey — 77 kg, Army/WCAP

On who had helped him the most leading up to the Olympic Trials
“Right now, Coach (Jermaine) Hodge. He’s the women’s freestyle coach for the WCAP program but he is like a father figure. His words just hit me deep in my heart and I knew that I could do anything. Today I was kind of struggling because we finished extremely late the other night so, you know, having to gear back up and lose all that weight for Day 2, Hodge was there with me in the fitness room of our hotel helping me to cut the weight. I was in there bawling my eyes out because a lot of stuff in my heart was just building up. It was very emotional.”

On carrying heartbreak from personal loss since the beginning of 2024
“I ended up making a clean sweep on all of the Greco awards for the end of the year. And on that same day, it was my birthday, and I ended up losing my little sister Star (Estrella Dorado Marin). For me, being a leader, it kind of hits a lot harder because you have to be accountable for all of your siblings. She was a hard worker. She was a beautiful girl. Still, just too soon, you know? If I could go back, I would in a heartbeat

“After that, I ended up losing one of my friends, Gerald (Flores). He was a referee in Colorado. Super huge. I used to work with him all the time. He used to make me laugh. So that one struck and then I ended up losing my uncle a month ago when I was training in Croatia on my first day out there. So, a lot of loss, unfortunately. But, once again, family and teammates are the reason I was able to pull through.”

On Illinois’ impact on developing wrestlers and having (like Coleman) attended Oak Park/River Forest High School)
“Illinois is just a pool of talent. So many young dudes are there, just super-athletic, super-talented, and really intelligent. And they all sharpen each other. I was fortunate enough to have one of the best rooms being Oak Park/River Forest. We were the #1 team in the country and everyone in there was ranked top-10 in the country. Practices were always hard and super-intense but it was fun because it was with your bros, with your team. Everybody was beating each other up and then you’d go play basketball or something afterwards. But Illinois does a great job of just raising raising its kids to be good civilians and just good in the community.”

Payton Jacobson — 87 kg, Sunkist/NTS

On the immediate feeling of having won the Olympic Trials and to whom he gives credit
“It’s God’s plan. It has been planned for a while now. With Bill Kahle, I started wrestling full-time Greco after my sophomore year of high school. I bypassed folkstyle and started focusing on Greco. Not a lot of guys do that. It’s not the most popular thing to do. But if you want to become an Olympian in Greco, that’s what you do. You go win (overseas) medals, you leave folkstyle early, and go straight to Greco.”

On how he was able to prepare as a full-time Greco-Roman athlete while in high school
“It was called the Topper Wrestling Club. We went overseas three times my junior year and then I moved down to Ringers (with Kahle) and then as part of Combat with Lucas Steldt. Bill Kahle, Andy Bisek… They’re working on something special.”

On his three-match victory over Spencer Woods
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Going into that second match, I don’t know. I was just having too much fun. I think I was smiling going out there. I was real excited. But for that third match I really had to get in the zone. I prayed before the match with my coaches. All glory to God.”

On the benefit of moving up from 77 to 87 kg
“It allows me to eat to my full potential, to be strong. To work on wrestling and not cutting weight. Plus, I used to be a 60 kilo. I’ve moved up from 55, 60, 63… I’ve hit all of the weight classes. I used to be a small guy always. I’ve got that quickness to me and that helps me with the big guys. I’ve been trained through ETS. It’s a big strength program. It got me super-strong. I’ve always been super-strong but they helped me out a lot with that.”

On the Northern Michigan-National Training Site’s value
“We’ve got some dogs up there. Andy Bisek, he is the guy. Him and Parker (Betts) are working on something real special up there. We have Benji Peak, Max Black is going to be in the picture soon, David Stepanyan, and we have a bunch of young guys, as well. We’re a family up there. It’s a brotherhood. It really takes a community. I couldn’t do this without any of my teammates. They’re all helping me, they’re all pushing me to my limits. It’s truly amazing.”

Joe Rau — 97 kg, TMWC

On becoming a full-fledged Olympian
“I’ve really hit this tournament from all angles, you know? Winning it, but not having qualified (’16); qualifying it (the weight), but not winning it; and now being the guy who comes in and tries to steal the spot. And that is the bittersweet thing because I love Alan (Vera) and I know what that feels like, too.

“So really, I kind of came into this tournament this year just knowing that anything could happen, but I had to fight to get my soul back. I retired but my wife and I talked a lot and I wasn’t happy. I don’t think I ever was until I really came back and saw what my destiny was.

“And I was talking to myself, telling myself, that this would come true, you know? And, actually, the year that it was supposed to be here (’20), I dropped my wife off at the airport after we got married, I drove to Penn State, and I told myself ‘This is where I’m gonna make the Olympic Team’ — and then the Olympic Trials weren’t here (laughs). So it was true what I told myself, it was just going to take four years.”

On what he and Vera said to each other on the mat after Match 3
“I was just telling him, ‘Sorry, I know what it feels like’, and how I didn’t want to make an Olympic Team at the expense of him not making one. It is just that he’s one of the best guys in the sport, literally. Anytime you beat him — I never did until now — but I’ve heard every time that somebody has beaten him, the first thing he says is ‘Let me know if you need anything, if I could help’. And that’s the kind of guy he is, and he’s such a good person with like such a crazy story coming from Cuba, and just a phenomenal wrestler. And you know, I’ve never been able to freaking score on the guy. He’s so good and such a hard matchup for me. But we were just basically telling each other that we love each other and he told me I deserve it, and and I just told him ‘Sorry, I didn’t want to take it from you’.”

On rebounding from Match 1 loss and what his coaches told him in between rounds
“I was so upset. I think that if it were not for Brian Graham and Bryan Medlin, the two ‘Brian coaches’ in my corner, I don’t think that I would have gotten my head out of my butt because, you know? After the last (Olympic) Trials and having a really bad first match, I couldn’t get my head back in it. It was almost like dealing with a traumatic experience for me, coming back here and gutting this out. But it was something I had to do. But they really kind of talked me through it and, for once, I listened. I’m really freaking stubborn. I was listening to what Medlin was saying and what Brian was saying because I can just get into a real spiral of ruminating. Like, ‘I screwed up, I screwed up, I’m an idiot, I hate myself…’ And they were like, ‘No, you’re fine. It didn’t go your way but whoever wins the second match is going to make the Olympic Team.’ They were telling me all of these positive things — and I didn’t want to be positive. But I’m getting older. I’ll take advice from people I trust. That’s a work in progress.”

Adam Coon — 130 kg, NYAC/Cliff Keen

On the tactics and strategy used to defeat Cohlton Schultz
“He got the best positions in the first match and early on in that second match I was able to battle back. In the last match, I was able to really hold position. We got into a little brawl there, but that’s to be expected. It’s the third match, we’re both trying to make the Olympic Team. It’s going to get ugly at times.

“Win it one match at a time, win one position at a time, win one second at a time — and that’s the same mindset I went in with this one. Win one position and just keep going at it. And that just developed over two matches.”

On comparing himself as a wrestler now to when he made the World final in ’18
“I have no idea. I’m just a different wrestler. I don’t know how much better I am, I don’t know what position I am. I just know that I’m a different wrestler. I got some great coaching that’s been helping me develop into a new fighter. And, you know, I’m looking forward to testing that at that high level again to see exactly where I’m at.”

On being USA Teammates once again with Dalton Roberts as they are both from the same hometown of Fowlerville, MI
“I love it. I love it. Obviously we were on the wrestling teams in high school going through and we were on that 2018 (World) Team together. We always take pictures all the way through. We were Fargo bookends at the same time. We are always taking pictures, him and I standing next to each other. He was a lot shorter back in the earlier days, but we always want to make a poster that says ‘Anybody can wrestle’ with the two of us standing next to each other because it’s just a great photo.”

On what had motivated him to return to Greco-Roman wrestling competition
“Just wanting to go to the Olympics. It has been a dream since I was a little kid. I want to go to the Olympics and that has been pushing me to go. I left the sport for a little bit and I felt like I had unfinished business. So I came back literally for this moment. This is what I came back here for. Now I got this part settled. Now let’s go win some medals.”

five point move podcast, latest episodes banner

Listen to “5PM57: Kamal Bey and David Stepanyan” on Spreaker.

Listen to “5PM56: Rich Carlson and Spencer Woods” on Spreaker.

Listen to “5PM55: Recapping Final X with Dennis Hall with words from Koontz, Braunagel and Hafizov” on Spreaker.

iTunes | Stitcher | Spreaker | Google Play Music

Notice: Trying to get property 'term_id' of non-object in /home/fivepointwp/webapps/fivepointwp/wp-content/themes/flex-mag/functions.php on line 999

Recent Popular

To Top