Story and photo by Andrea Sutherland
In the wrestling room in the building of the World Class Athlete Program, athletes stretched, jump-roped and rode stationary bikes, fitting in final workouts before what will arguably be the biggest competition of their careers.
“We’ve been training for this for years,” said Marcel Cooper, WCAP assistant wrestling coach.
Eighteen Soldier athletes travel to Iowa City, Iowa, April 20-22 to compete for a slot on the Olympic wrestling team.
“We have a few guys that can make the team,” said Shon Lewis, head coach. “They just need to suit up and get it done.”
Lewis said the team, made up of 14 men and four women, trained six hours a day, five days per week, all in preparation for the Olympics.
“This is the big one,” Lewis said. “This is our mission.”
WCAP has trained past Olympic hopefuls, including Dremiel Byers and Oscar Wood who competed in the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing, China.
“We have three guys ranked No. 1 on paper,” said Cooper. “First place goes to the Olympics. … After this, if they don’t make it, they’ll start training for the next Olympics.”
“This is just another tournament,” Lewis told his athletes. “The larger you make it, the higher you have to climb.”
Spc. Marco Lara said he was excited for the opportunity to compete.
“I’m not nervous,” he said. “I’m just happy. I’m happy and excited to put my training to the test.”
Lara, who has wrestled for 15 years, will compete in the 60 kilogram weight class. He took third in the last world team trials.
“Hopefully we’ll change that this time,” he said.
The athletes received a special visit Wednesday from Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, who met with the wrestlers during their practice to wish them luck.
“We’re thrilled to have you guys here on Carson,” he said, addressing each wrestler. “We’re very proud of you. … You guys have a lot of heart to make it happen. Good luck.”