Lucas at Large: Davis no stranger to Olympic trials

Two seconds.

One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two ...

"Two seconds,'' Barry Davis said, "cost me the gold medal.''

Davis was guilty of one mistake - a two-second lapse - that put him in a hole and it turned out to be the difference in his 1984 Olympic freestyle wrestling match against Japan's Hideaki Tomiyama.

At the end of the first period, Tomiyama took advantage of Davis on the mat and scored two points to take a 3-1 lead. "Now I had to chase him,'' Davis said. "You have to take more risks.''

Tomiyama, by contrast, could pick his spots, which he did in holding off Davis and winning, 8-3. Tomiyama left Los Angeles with the gold in the 125.5 pounds weight class. Davis took home the silver.

"I actually lost more my Olympic year than I probably did my whole college career,'' said Davis who had a record of 162-9-1 (.945) during his illustrious career at the University of Iowa.
That includes three NCAA championships, the last of which Davis collected upon his return to the Hawkeyes following his "redshirt year'' with the U.S. Olympic team.

"I was a much better wrestler my senior year,'' Davis said.

There was a different qualifying standard for the Olympic redshirt when Davis was a collegian.

"You had to be at the national tournament or you couldn't compete; that was a good criteria,'' said Davis, who just completed his 18th season as Wisconsin's head coach.

"I wouldn't say it was tougher back then, but it should be tough to qualify. You just don't want to let anybody in the tournament. You can't water down the (Olympic) games.''

Davis is okay with the current redshirt criteria that include student-athletes who earn a top three finish at the NCAAs and a top two finish at the university national championships; or a top eight finish at the Senior World trials.

Past NCAA champions and Senior World and Olympic team members also qualify for the redshirt.

Davis said the Olympic redshirt can be an invaluable stepping stone in preparing for the competition at the trials from the standpoint of gaining experience in a particular discipline.

"Whenever you travel overseas and wrestle in another country,'' he said, "you become better and more worldly because you've got to make changes because you're not in the U.S. environment.

"It makes you more mature all the way around.''

The Badgers will be well-represented at this weekend's Olympic Trials in Iowa City.
Joining the Olympic redshirts - Andrew Howe, Tyler Graff and Travis Rutt - will be Jesse Thielke, a future UW wrestler, who spent the year at the national training center.

Two of Davis' assistants - Ryan Morningstar and Trevor Brandvold - will also be competing. Davis will be rooting them all on knowing how difficult it gets when you reach this point in the process.

"At this level, it's the guy who can make the fewest mistakes,'' Davis said. "It happens so much quicker - the speed and the explosion. The technical skills are so tight; I'm talking so tight.

"One mistake could cost you a spot on the team.''

Or a gold medal.