- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

BEIJING | Brad Vering tried to be politically correct. He wanted to say not winning an Olympic medal wouldn’t be the end all. He wanted to say just making the Olympics is an accomplishment. He wanted to say all the right things about his competition in the 185-pound division of Greco-Roman wrestling.

And he was modest … for a moment.

“It’s not the most important thing - of course, I want to do my best,” he said.

But then a pause and a laugh.

“I really want it bad,” he said. “There’s nothing else I’ve focused on the last few years. But I can’t say that right off the bat.”

A silver medalist at last year’s world championships, Vering, 30, is expected to contend for Olympic gold in his weight class. The six-man U.S. team, the winner at worlds, also will be in contention.

Vering’s tie to the area is American University wrestling coach Mark Cody, who coached Vering at Nebraska. Two years ago, Vering joined the staff at AU as a volunteer assistant coach. Once a month, he would come from his home in Colorado Springs and spend a week with the team, chiefly Josh Glenn, who last year became the school’s first Division I national champion.

Up until that point, Vering’s international resume didn’t have too many highlights. He was a world team member three times and was fifth in 2003 and an Olympian in Athens. But while coaching Glenn and other Eagles wrestlers, Vering found himself improving.

In addition to blogging during the Olympics (can be found at www.bradvering2008.com) he also keeps a journal. During practice, he would get pointers from Cody. After practice, he would return to Cody’s house and write down his thoughts about training. He quickly discovered that he was giving tips he - and not just the athletes - should be following.

“Going to AU really helped me out,” he said. “When you’re coaching someone, it helps you out because you say things to motivate and help out and then you sit back and say, ‘I need to that,’ or ‘Why haven’t I been doing that?’”

Vering’s performance following his trips to the District were so impressive that after a few weeks his coaches would joke, “When you going back there?”

What wasn’t a joke was Vering’s performance at last year’s world championships.

Two years after not placing in the event, he advanced to the final match before losing to Russia’s Alexei Mishin.

“I broke through, and it was a long time coming,” he said. “I had been close in the past, but I needed to take that next step and put five, six solid matches together in one day.”

Mishin is a gold medal contender, but the weight class is in a constant state of flux - Vering said there have been 13 different world champions in as many years. The two have met just once.

“I’ve wrestled all their number 2s and 3s and beat them,” he said. “He’s probably been the most dominant guy, but he hasn’t won. I may not have to face him because he’s lost plenty of times, too.”

U.S. coach Steve Fraser said all six Americans should be considered medal favorites. And it’s an interesting group, from T.C. Dantzler (owns his own business) and Adam Wheeler (works at 24 Hour Fitness) to Jake Deitchler (first prep wrestler to make the U.S. team in 32 years) and Vering.

Vering grew up in Howells, Neb., (population: 632; his graduating class: 25). Up until last week, he sported a mountain-man-like beard that easily would have won Redskins tight end Chris Cooley’s preseason beard contest. Vering has since trimmed it, more out of necessity to protect old cuts under his chin.

Although this may not be his last Olympic shot, the fire he has displayed has been noticeable.

“Brad is on a mission,” Fraser said. “As long as I’ve known him he’s been a hard worker, but especially the last few years, he’s been focused on doing what he has to do to get ready. I know he wants this more than anything.”

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