Jim Gruenwald took a big step toward making his third straight Olympics by beating Joe Betterman 5-0, 6-3 for the U.S. Greco-Roman championship at 132 pounds Friday night at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
It might have helped that Gruenwald is also Betterman’s coach.
“Whether you are an athlete or a coach, you can’t stop learning,” Gruenwald said. “You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to learn in life. If you stop learning, you won’t get better.”
The 38-year-old Gruenwald will have to go through his pupil again at the Olympic trials, also here from June 13-15. He said he won’t hesitate to give Betterman some pointers anyway.
“I take being a coach very seriously and will continue to do so,” Gruenwald said.
The final round at nationals featured six of the seven members of the Greco-Roman world team that won the title last summer in Baku, Azerbaijan. T.C. Dantzler, Justin Ruiz and Dremiel Byers claimed national titles.
Because they each finished in the top five at worlds at least once in the last three years, they earned spots in best-of-3 trials.
Dantzler beat Andrew Bisek 2-2, 3-2 at 163 pounds for his third straight national title and a place in the trials.
Ruiz beat R.C. Johnson 4-1, 1-1 at 211.5 pounds, while Byers was victorious 2-1, 4-0 against Russ Davie at 264.5.
The biggest upset of the championship round came in the first match when Spenser Mango beat veteran and world team member Lindsey Durlacher 1-3, 3-0, 7-0.
• NOTE — Britain Longmire of Cimarron-Memorial High School finished sixth in the Western Junior Regionals. The 112-pounder won his first five matches before falling into the fifth-place bout, where he was pinned by Michael Nakagawa of Hawaii in the first round.