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Douglas loves the progress USA?Wrestling made in London

August 25, 2012
By SETH STASKEY - Times Leader Sports Editor , Times Leader

Regardless the sport, it was a Summer Olympics to remember for the United States.

Whether it was the gold-medal performances of Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte in the pool; the 'Fab 5' and Gabby Douglas in gymnastics; Alyson Felix on the track; Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings in beach volleyball or LeBron James and Sue Bird in USA Basketball, United States sports fans had plenty to cheer during the two-weeks in London.

While those aforementioned sports have been good for quite some time to the United States, the American wrestling team enjoyed a bounce-back Olympic showing as four members of the team won a medal, including Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner, who captured freestyle golds.

Bridgeport High product and American wrestling icon Bobby Douglas once again played a role for the American team, marking his 10th Olympic Games since 1964.

"Our performance in Beijing wasn't good and we were obviously disappointed, but we came back strong," Douglas said. "It was an outstanding performance. Actually, it was one of the best of all time, considering the circumstances. This was one of the toughest Olympic tournaments I've seen, but America came back."

As for what sparked the turnaround, Douglas gave most of the credit to head coach Zeke Jones.

"He's provided the necessary leadership for us to move forward," Douglas said. "He's got an excellent plan and he's executing the plan according to the best method for getting results."

Part of the plan is the ongoing development program, which is exactly where Douglas has a lot of influence in USA Wrestling.

"We're catching up to the rest of the world," Douglas said. "I believe the development program will take us to the 2020 games and by then, we'll be dominating again."

Douglas believes the development program will allow wrestling to model its program after the gymnastics model, which was once again extremely successful in an Olympic Games. The United States women won the team gold medal and Gabby Douglas was the individual all-around gold medalist.

"We need to get younger in USA Wrestling," Douglas said. "I really think gymnastics is the road map for all of our sports. Wrestling is a little late in getting there, but we're catching up."

Many of the wrestlers - both men and women - in London earlier this month were younger than the majority of the USA delegation, which is something that Douglas thinks will start to change.

"Our athletes are a bit old for Olympic competition," Douglas offered. "If you look at the rest of the world, they're going down to the elementary school level and starting to identify athletes to begin the process of preparing for the Olympic program. Quite simply, the future of American wrestling lies in the development program. The sooner we get that going, and everyone on board, the sooner we'll get back on top."

Douglas was with the Olympic team for three weeks. The team had a 10-day training camp in Belarus and then converged on London for 10 days.

"It was a pretty tough trip," Douglas said.

A 1964 and 1968 Olympic competitor, Douglas served the coaching staff in more of an advisory role, but he did have several official assignments in London.

"I had coaching and scouting assignments," Douglas revealed. "A lot of it was prior to the actual Olympics. Working at training camps is where I am best."

Since earning a spot on the 1964 team, Douglas has missed only two Olympic Games. He wasn't in Beijing in 2008 and he missed Sydney in 2004.

"I think I have one more in me," Douglas answered when asked whether or not he'd make the trip to Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Douglas also paid close attention to the women's competition in which the USA pocketed a gold medal in freestyle.

"The Japanese are so far ahead of everyone else in the world when it comes to women's wrestling, but we have some talented young female wrestlers, who will have an impact in the future," Douglas said. "The women's program is making progress, but we just don't have the development program (for women) in freestyle right now. Plus, we're waiting until after college to begin to get women ready and the rest of the world is getting them ready right after high school."

The emotions fans feel whenever they see an American athlete receiving his or her medal and then hearing the Star Spangled Banner when a Team USA member has claimed gold is even more magnified when you're in the venues, according to Douglas. On the flip side, however, the emotions when an athlete comes up short of his or her goals is also much tougher.

"When they start flying the colors, it's a great feeling," Douglas admitted. "It takes an exceptional person and a lot of hardwork to be an Olympic champion. We have a lot of people who have that mentality and ability, but we have to train them better and earlier. We have the most talented athletes on the planet."

Continuing the quest to find those future Olympic champions is what drives Douglas. That's why he's planning on remaining involved with USA Wrestling as it continues to lay the groundwork for further development programs and sites.

"We're putting together combines for wresting, mixed martial arts and football, so we can attract a bigger group of athletes," Douglas said. "There are some football skills that are related to wrestling, so we're going to do some testing, training and recruiting."

And so the quest for Rio begins for Douglas and USA Wrestling.

SETH'S SCOOPS

The Patriots are the premier program in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference and in West Virginia and were faced with an opening after Paul Jackson stepped down.

After gaining the recommendation of Principal Tom Eschbacher and Athletic Director Rick Leach, the board approved Donna Dixon as its new head coach at a board meeting last week by a 4-1 vote.

The Parkersburg News And Sentinel reported that Dixon is the first female wrestling coach in the state of West Virginia.

Dixon teaches science at South High School and intends on keeping the entire coaching staff together.

 
 

 

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