A ceremonial presence for U.S. wrestlers

U.S. wrestlers (from left to right) Jake Deitchler, Ben Askren, Henry Cejudo, Adam Wheeler and Randi Miller.

BEIJING -- The Olympic wrestling tournament doesn't begin for more than a week, and doesn't end until shortly before the closing ceremonies.

But unlike some other U.S. teams, whose athletes will begin filtering into China well after the Games have begun, the Greco-Roman, women and freestyle wrestlers are planning to participate in Friday's opening ceremonies en masse.

"Every one of our teams wants our guys to get that experience," said Gary Abbott, a spokesman from USA Wrestling. "They're real excited."

That's partly because this U.S. wrestling team, with just two of its sixteen members having competed in a previous Olympics, is among the least experienced in recent history.

Among the first-time Olympians is Greco-Roman specialist Jake Deitchler of Ramsey, Minn., who is the first high school wrestler to make a U.S. Olympic team in 32 years.

Another first-time Olympian is freestyler Henry Cejudo, who was born in Los Angeles. He said after years of watching the Olympic opening ceremonies on TV, he's looking forward to taking part in them.

And his coach isn't worried about his wrestlers losing focus.

"I don't think we'll have trouble reminding them this is a business trip," said coach Terry Brands.

-- Kevin Baxter

Photo: U.S. National Wrestling Team members (from left to right) Jake Deitchler, Ben Askren, Henry Cejudo, Adam Wheeler and Randi Miller at the Sports Museum of America in New York City on June 20. Credit: Jonathan Fickies / Getty Images

U.S. Greco-Roman squad lands in Beijing

T.C. Dantzler celebrates after winning a Greco-Roman match on June 14 at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

T.C. Dantzler was a little groggy from the 12-hour flight from San Francisco to Beijing but USA Wrestling reports that the 37-year-old athlete was "all smiles" as he walked through Beijing Capital International Airport late Saturday afternoon.

Dantzler and the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestlers and coaches were the first American wrestling team to arrive in Beijing, according to USA Wrestling. The men's and women's freestyle teams are due in town next week.

"Man, it's very exciting to be here and everybody is excited about bringing home that gold medal," Dantzler said. "Now that I'm here in Beijing, I can't wait to get out there and compete. I'm ready to go."

Olympian Brad Vering Brad Vering, 30, competed at the 2004 Athens Games but suffered a first-round loss. Last year he won a World silver medal at the 185-pound weight, and led the U.S. to its first-ever Greco-Roman team title.

"It's rejuvenating to get here," Vering told USA Wrestling. "It's been a long trip, but it's everything we've been expecting and more since we got here. It's just beautiful. Now is when you start really realizing you're an Olympian and this is it."

The Greco-Roman team will hold its first practice in Beijing on Sunday afternoon at Beijing Normal University. The U.S. team is coached by Olympic champions Steve Fraser (head coach) and Momir Petkovic (assistant).

The squad will compete Aug. 12-14 at the China Agriculture University Gymnasium.

-- Greg Johnson

Photos: T.C. Dantzler celebrates after winning a Greco-Roman match on June 14 at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The win put him on the U.S. Olympic team. Credit: Marlene Karas/US PRESSWIRE

Insert: Brad Vering wrestles Venezuela's Eddy Bartolozzy during the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro on July 24. Credit: Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press

U.S. women win wrestling title in Greece

Stephany Lee won a gold medal to lead the U.S. to the women's freestyle team title tonight at the University World Championships in Greece.

Lee, who competes at 105.5 pounds, was a three-time high school champion in Hawaii and won the freestyle gold in 2004 as well. Sara Fulp-Allen, who went to Menlo College in Northern California, won a silver medal at the same weight division.

Americans Alaina Berube of River Falls, Wisc., and San Diego's Othella Lucas each won bronze medals. Berube competes at  138.75 pounds and Lucas wrestles at 130 pounds.

The Greco-Roman competition is scheduled to start Saturday.