MARQUETTE— Two athletes with ties to the United States Olympic Education Center and Northern Michigan University won bronze medals at the Olympic Summer Games in Beijing: Adam Wheeler in Greco-Roman wrestling and Randi Miller in women’s freestyle wrestling. The former USOEC resident athletes joined current USOEC Greco-Roman wrestler Spenser Mango in making their first Olympic team.
Wheeler (Lancaster, Calif.) won the United States’ first wrestling medal with a victory over Han Tae-Young (Korea) in the 96 kg weight class. He previously defeated 2005 World silver medalist Lajos Virag in his first match and hometown favorite Jiang Huachen in the quarterfinals. Wheeler qualified for the bronze-medal match after a close loss in the semifinals to Mirko Englich (Germany) 2-1, 2-1.
“I was just trying to score and unfortunately I wasn’t able to turn him,” said Wheeler. “I think I got a little over-aggressive.”
Miller (Arlington, Texas) claimed the second U.S. medal in wrestling in women’s freestyle. She defeated three-time World silver medalist Martine Dugrenier (Canada) at 63kg.
“I really wanted a gold medal today, but I’m very happy with a bronze,” said Miller. “She [Dugreneir] was a very tough opponent.”
In Miller’s first match, she pinned Haiat Farac (Egypt) in about 40 seconds. Farac lost consciousness and required attention from the medical staff. Miller defeated Yuliya Ostabchuk (Ukraine) in the second round before being pinned in the quarterfinals by 2004 Olympic champion and five-time World champion Kaori Icho (Japan). Icho won her next match and became a gold-medal finalist, which allowed Miller to be pulled back into the repechage round.
In the repechage match, Miller defeated her opponent Olesya Zamula (Azerbaijan) by pin early in the second round, putting Miller in contention for the bronze.
“This is my first Olympic medal,” said Miller. “Will it be my last? Who knows.”
Mango (St. Louis, Mo.) won his first match at 55kg against Virgil Munteanu (Romania).
“He was someone I’ve wrestled a couple of times already,” said Mango. “I knew what I had to do against him, so I went out there and got the job done.”
USOEC Greco-Roman head coach Ivan Ivanov was in Beijing to support Mango.
“Spenser did great,” said Ivanov. “In his first match, he had a younger guy and he knew him well. He wrestled well to win.”
Mango lost to Park Eun-Chul (Korea) in the quarterfinals and was eliminated from medal contention after Park lost in the semifinals.
“He [Park] is pretty tough, he placed second in the World last year,” said Mango. “I was right there with him in the first period. I scored, but I also got scored on.”
Ivanov said Spenser’s experience in Beijing will motivate him. “He showed that he could be with the top three in the world,” said Ivanov. “His road to London starts here in Beijing. I see a potential medalist or World champion next year."
The Olympic Games will conclude with the closing ceremonies on Sunday, Aug. 24.