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The life of the Olympic wrestling training partner



While everybody is focusing on the 16 star athletes that will represent the United States in next week's wrestling competition, there is another team of world-class wrestlers who are also in Sydney - the training partners. These are top athletes who did not make the team, but are here for one reason: to assist the Olympians in any way in their quest to win the Olympic gold. In some cases, these are the No. 2 athletes in the weight class. In other cases, they are athletes who placed somewhere at the Olympic Trials. They have been selected by the Olympic athletes and their coaches for their ability to work hard on behalf of the man on the team - a person who just a few weeks ago was their rival on the mats. T.C. Dantzler is one of these unsung heroes for the Greco-Roman team. A competitor at 76 kg, T.C.'s main job is to help prepare Matt Lindland for battle. He also assists with Quincey Clark's training at 85 kg. Actually, his job is to do whatever the Olympic athletes and coaches ask. The training partners do not have access in the village, so they are housed in apartments and hotels near the competition venue. The quarters are tight, four to a room with no closet. This location will be perfect during the Games, as it is a short walk to the arena, but during this training cycle, there is a long commute to get to practice. The athletes and the additional coaches get up before 7:00 a.m. and meet at about 7:20 a.m. They take a 25 minute walk to the closest train station downtown, then travel a half an hour to the Lidcombe train station. There, they hop a bus for Sydney volunteers to the edge of the Village on Fariola Street, where the USOC's High Performance Center is located. The whole deal takes about 1 hours, one way. After this commute, it is their job to work out with the Olympians, who come in fresh from a short walk from village housing. The focus of the workout is on the Olympians. It is a different job than a normal workout, when these outstanding athletes are usually working on their own needs. They help warm up the Olympians, and serve as drilling partners. When it is time for live wrestling, they are there to push the Olympian to reach his best. Afterwards, they offer advice and provide support, including assisting the wrestler in their weight control. When it's over, the Olympians go back to the village, and the workout partners and extra coaches take their buses, trains and walks back to the hotel. There, they have additional duties, helping with video study, assisting with whatever needs the team has in coordinating the effort of the Olympians. In this morning's workout, Dantzler warmed up with Lindland and served as the partner for Matt's technique drills. Lindland went a few matches today, so Dantzler was the opponent for the first match, fighting hard and offering a good struggle. When Lindland wrestled another training partner, Chris Saba, in the next bout, Dantzler was on the side, encouraging Lindland and pumping him up. After the session, Dantzler and Lindland discussed the day's training. Dantzler is excited to be here, and understands his role. "My job is to make sure Matt and Quincey are ready. If I have to get up early, take long trips, help in any way, that's OK. As long as they win a medal, that fulfills everything. I'll do whatever it takes," he said. The reason that Dantzler is here is because he and Matt have been friendly rivals for a long time. When T.C. first joined the resident program in Colorado Springs, Lindland was also there and was helpful in his transition. "Matt always helped me. He'd say that I need to do this, or do that. Not a lot of people do that for you. When you are the new guy in the room, you're usually just meat. To help Matt in any way is my way of giving back. Even though we have been competitors, we are real good friends. I know he would have done the same for me," he said. Dantzler also knows what switches to turn on to push Lindland. "We have wrestled so many times. I know what he does. I know when he is going hard and when he is not. He can't fool me. I know how to get the most out of him," he said. He also knows that he can help the athletes mentally deal with the challenge. "I help keep up the morale. I'm telling them that they look good, that they are going to medal. This is especially important when they are getting their weight down. They want to know how they are doing. I tell them they are looking good; it helps keep them up," Dantzler said. T.C. will help warm Matt up for his matches and will be a sounding board for scouting advice. "I've wrestled many of the guys in the tournament. I could say that, for instance, Kazakhstan pummels to the right, share that kind of information," he said. Dantzler says sometimes the training partners don't feel important, as the focus is always on the Olympians. They are on 24-hour call, to work out, move boxes, sit in the sauna, talk wrestling or talk about anything but wrestling. For Greco-Roman, some of these partners include Jeff Cervone, Mike Ellsworth, Chris Saba, Mujaahid Maynard, Corey Farkas, Dave Surofchek and Dan Henderson. Additional coaches include Anatoly Petrosyan, Pavel Katsen, Ike Anderson, Momir Petrovik and Roman Wrowclawski. Freestyle has its own team of training partners and additional coaches, all who are currently in Canberra with the team at their private training camp. They are truly the team behind the team, those people who are here working hard so others can achieve success. "If they get the medal, it is all worth it," said Dantzler. "It is not easy; this is work but it is worth it. I know they would have done the same for me. I'm speaking for all the guys here."
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