McMann, Marano, Miranda fall at U.S. Olympic wrestling trials

Updated: June 13, 2008, 11:54 PM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- Sara McMann and Patricia Miranda won America's first two Olympic women's wrestling medals in 2004. Neither will repeat in 2008.

On a bad day for female wrestling's 3Ms -- McMann, Miranda and Kristie Marano -- the U.S. Olympic wrestling team took on a new look Friday. It wasn't one that favored the favorites or its original members.

Patricia Miranda, a 2004 bronze medalist, was heavily favored at 105½ pounds only to lose successive best-of-three matches to Clarissa Chun, who had beaten her only once previously.

A Bitter Journey

Back in May, ESPN the Magazine profiled the hardships of then-Olympic hopeful Sara McMann. While Olympic stories are supposed to be heartwarming tales of triumph packaged into three-minute TV tearjerkers, sometimes happy endings can be hard to come by. Lindsay Berra

"I knew I could do it. I just had to grit my teeth and do it," said Chun, a 23-year-old from Honolulu who lost to Miranda in the 2004 trials finals.

McMann, who sobbed for nearly an hour after losing a late lead in the 2004 Olympic gold medal match in Athens, was dry-eyed this time after losing in consecutive matches at 138 3/4 pounds to Randi Miller, who also defeated her two months ago in the U.S. nationals in Las Vegas

McMann had three easy victories in the Friday morning challenge tournament that gained her a win-and-go-to-Beijing rematch with Miller, but the Northern Michigan wrestler wasn't intimidated by McMann's reputation or bullied by her strength.

"I think we're about equal strength," said the 25-year-old Miller, who was second nationally in 2006 and 2007. "It's a good feeling, but I've got other goals."

Namely, Beijing in two months.

It was a day of smiles and tears for coach Levi-Weikel-Magden, who is married to Miranda and coaches her but also coaches Miller.

"The outcome definitely stings," said Miranda, who took a year off from wrestling after Athens to graduate from Yale Law School. "But I've still got my health and my life and my family."

One favorite had no problem: Marcie Van Dusen, who defeated Sally Roberts in consecutive matches in the 121-pound finals. Van Dusen scored the biggest win by a U.S. wrestler in years in January, beating previously unbeaten Olympic champion Saori Yoshida of Japan, and she used that as a springboard to national and Olympic trials titles.

However, the Olympic trials and tribulations of Marano continued.

Marano, a nine-time world medalist and the most successful American women's wrestler, failed again to make the Olympics when she was pinned in the 158½-pound challenge tournament by longtime rival Katie Downing. Downing went on to lose in the finals to Ali Bernard, who followed up her national championships victory.

"It's kind of hard to beat her because I love her so much and she deserves it so much but I've got to take my shot, too," Downing said of beating Marano.

It was the second successive trials letdown for Marano, a two-time world champion.

"It's extremely disappointing," said Marano, a single mother at age 29 who likely won't stay around for another chance at the Olympics in 2012.

In 2004, Marano missed weight at Indianapolis by less than a pound and was forced to move up nearly 20 pounds to 158½. She reached the finals but couldn't beat a much bigger Toccara Montgomery, who didn't medal in Athens.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press