|By Tim Hipps
IMCOM Public Affairs
Two U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program wrestlers over the weekend qualified their Greco-Roman weight classes for Team USA to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games.
U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program Greco-Roman wrestler Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers (right) turns Ramon Garcia of the Dominican Republic en route to a 2-0, 1-0 victory in the semifinals of the 120-kilogram/264.5-pound division of the 2012 FILA Pan American Olympic Games Qualifying Tournament on April 24 at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Fla. Byers won the gold medal and qualified the weight class for Team USA for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps, IMCOM Public Affairs
Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers and Sgt. Spenser Mango accomplished their mission by reaching the finals at the FILA Pan American Olympic Games Qualifying Tournament March 23-25, at Silver Spurs Arena.
The tournament featured wrestlers from 17 nations who had not qualified for the 2012 Olympics. The top two finishers in each weight class qualified their country for the London Olympic Games in August.
BYERS SWEEPS GOLD
Byers, 37, a 2008 Olympian from Kings Mountain, N.C., won the 120-kilogram/264.5-pound division with three consecutive victories without allowing his opponents to score a point.
"I came out and just did what I had to do," said Byers, who noted that he felt "sluggish" throughout his matches. "[I] didn't try anything fancy; just stuck to the basics and got it done. That's all that matters."
Byers defeated Canada's Sunny Dhinsa, 1-0, 3-0, and Dominican Republic's Ramon Garcia, 2-0, 1-0, before sweeping Venezuela's Andres Ayub, 2-0, 2-0, for the gold medal.
"You're always pushing for the perfect performance that you're probably never going to have, but taking into consideration the pressure on this tournament, this is just tactics and getting the job done,"
"It might not be pretty, but qualify the weight class for the Olympic Games. That's big pressure, so I'm just proud that Byers and Mango both got it done," said WCAP wrestling coach Shon Lewis.
MANGO TAKES SILVER
Mango, 25, a 2008 Olympian from St. Louis, Mo., took the silver medal at 55 kilos/121 pounds. He defeated Ecuador's Mayea Figueroa, 5-0, 1-0, and Colombia's Andres Taborda, 1-0, 1-0, before losing to Javier Gonzalez of Cuba in his final match of the round-robin format.
"That guy is a true talent; he's gifted," Byers said. "He might not have won, but he still got it done, and that's all we came here to do."
"He wrestled OK," Lewis added. "There are some things we have to improve and keep getting better at, but we have five months to get that done. Both Soldiers accomplished the mission, and in three weeks we lace them right back up and see who makes the Olympic team."
Byers and Mango will be joined by most of their WCAP teammates at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling April 20-22 at Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, where Team USA will be determined for the London Games.
"I'm going to the trials, and I'm sitting out the mini tournament," Byers said of the qualification rounds that lead to the best-of-three finals. "Two matches, and let two matches determine -- it better not be three. Just let it fall where it's going to fall. I'm going to put my best effort forward. I have my teammates behind me and my coach pushing me. Let's go get some medals."