IOWA CITY, Iowa — Helen Maroulis still had her arms around Kelsey Campbell’s legs when the whistle blew, ending their second championship match at the Olympic Wrestling Trials. Campbell tumbled to the mat, and they both remained there for about 10 seconds, crying for different reasons.
Campbell had never beaten Maroulis, the three-time U.S. Open champion from Rockville, Md., until Saturday night, and the timing left Maroulis crushed. Campbell won their best-of-three final, two matches to none, to make the women’s freestyle Olympic team at 55kg/121 pounds. Campbell pounded the mat with both hands to celebrate while Maroulis took a knee and cried into her hand.
“I was just my own worst enemy today,” said Maroulis, 20. “I just kind of doubted myself. I didn’t trust my ability. It showed, and it got the best of me.”
Even 20 minutes later, Campbell still couldn’t believe she won. Campbell finished third behind Maroulis at last December’s U.S. Open, where Maroulis won the outstanding wrestler award. Campbell frequently competes at 59 kg/130 pounds, where she finished fifth at the 2010 world championships, but dropped down because 59kg isn’t contested at the Olympics.
“It’s crazy,” said Campbell, of Milwaukie, Ore. “I have to keep asking myself, did this just happen? Did you all see this happen? It’s unreal. Words cannot describe.”
In the Trials championship best-of-three format, each match is divided into three periods. Unless decided by a pin, a wrestler must outpoint her opponent in two of the three periods to win. In their first match, Campbell lost the first period 2-0 before rallying to win, claiming the third period 2-1 on a one-point takedown.
The second match also came down to the last two minutes after Maroulis and Campbell split the first two periods, Maroulis winning the second, 1-0. With 29 seconds left, Campbell scored on a takedown for the only point — just enough.
“I thought Helen came out and wrestled well. She really did,” said Kevin Black, her coach with the New York Athletic Club, while Maroulis stood next to him. “She knows she’s really, really good. She just made a couple of decisions that hurt her.”
A Trials session record crowd of 13,750 watched that match and eight others Saturday night; according to USA Wrestling, it represented the most people to watch women’s wrestling anywhere in the world. That mark fell with Sunday’s early session (13,784).
Earlier, Campbell rolled through the challenge tournament without allowing a point or losing a single period, winning all three matches by decision and besting Katherine Fulp-Allen of Half Moon Bay, Calif., 1-0, 1-0 to reach the championship series.
The challenge field thinned when Leigh Jaynes, who lost to Maroulis in last year’s U.S. Open final, chose to move up to the 63 kg/138.75 pounds weight class. And two-time world championship bronze medalist Tatiana Padilla, who missed most of last season with injuries, did not compete.
In other weights, Naval Academy graduate John Cox lost both challenge tournament matches in Greco-Roman 66kg/145.5 pounds. Brent Jones (Fairfax Robinson High School/University of Virginia), after a first-round loss to Trevor Brandvold of River Falls, Wis., in freestyle 96 kg/211.5 pounds, reached the second round of the consolation bracket before being eliminated.
In Sunday’s challenge tournaments, Nicole Woody (Arundel High School) made the quarterfinals in women’s freestyle 48kg/105.5 pounds, where Jessica Medina of Pomona, Calif., beat her. Mack Lewnes (Mount St. Joseph High School) lost in the first round in men’s freestyle 84kg/185 pounds and won one consolation bout by pin.