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London Olympics: Bakersfield's Jake Varner grabs wrestling gold

August 12, 2012|By Diane Pucin
  • Jake Varner celebrates winning his gold-medal match.
Jake Varner celebrates winning his gold-medal match. (Yuri Cortez / AFP / Getty…)

LONDON — Jake Varner, a graduate of Bakersfield High School who now trains under U.S. wrestling great Cael Sanderson at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club in State College, Pa., won an Olympic gold medal Sunday at the ExCel Center. He  beat Valeri Andriitsev of Ukraine.

Varner, 26, had advanced to the gold-medal match by coming from behind in the 211.5-pound class of freestyle wrestling to beat 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Giorgi Gogshelidze of Georgia in the semifinals.

It was expected that 2011 world champion Rez Yazdani of Iran would be in the finals, but Yazdani had to be taken off the mat during his semifinal because of a leg injury against Andriitsev and was unable to continue.

Varner had been beaten by Yazdani at a World Cup meet in May. He'd never wrestled Andriitsev, who was second in the European Championships this year and is a former junior world champion.

Varner was a two-time NCAA champion at Iowa State where he was also coached by Sanderson, who was a 2004 Olympic gold medalist.

This is the last day of wrestling and Varner's medal was the fourth for the U.S. program, which had settled for three in 2008.

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