Charlie Neibergall Associated Press United States wrestler Jake Varner, left, exults after his win over Valerii Andriitsev of Ukraine in their gold-medal match. Varner needed a comeback semifinal victory.

Bakersfield wrestler grabs gold

Published: Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 - 1:57 pm

LONDON – Jake Varner learned to wrestle in Bakersfield. From his father, Steve. From his cousin, Andy, who coached Jake to two California high school championships and who still coaches at Bakersfield High School.

"It's in my blood," said Varner, who now has something Steve and Andy don't have.

An Olympic gold medal.

Varner, 26, tripped up Valerii Andriitsev of Ukraine 1-0, 1-0, in Sunday's 96-kilogram freestyle final at the Excel Centre on the final day of Olympic competition.

For the first time since 1996 in Atlanta, the U.S. team won two gold medals in men's wrestling. New Jersey's Jordan Burroughs won Friday.

This is the first Olympics where medalists get an extra cash prize from a foundation called "Living the Dream Medal Fund" that was established in 2009 and offers Olympic wrestling gold medalists $250,000.

"It's not about the money," Varner said. "It's about the pride."

Varner had advanced to the gold-medal match by coming from behind in the semifinals to beat 2008 Olympic bronze medalist George Gogshelidze earlier Sunday.

In 2004, Varner defeated Elk Grove's Chris Drake for the state 171-pound championship.

The next season, on his way to the 189-pound state title, Varner beat Bella Vista's Sheldon Page for one of his six pin victories in that tournament. Varner is the only wrestler in state tournament history to manage that feat.

Men's marathon – Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda surged ahead late in the race to win in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 1 second and capture the first medal for his country at these Games. Kenya's Abel Kirui (2:08:27) and Wilson Kipsang (2:09:37) were second and third, respectively.

Meb Keflezighi (2:11:06) of the United States was fourth and Brazil's Marilson dos Santos (2:11:10) fifth.

Medals count – Most medals, most gold medals. The United States got what it wanted from these Olympics.

So did Britain, riding the wave of home-field advantage for its best Olympic showing in a century. Some of that may have come at the expense of China, which finished only five medals ahead of Russia.

The final numbers: 104 medals for the United States, 46 of them gold, its highest total at a "road" Olympics. China won 87 medals (38 gold), down from what it did in Beijing in 2008.

Britain won 29 golds, third-most of any nation, and 65 overall – fourth in that category behind Russia (82 medals, 24 gold).

Anti-doping efforts lauded – Even before the flame was out, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said efforts to fight doping were a success.

Through Sunday morning, only one athlete tested positive for a banned substance on the day of competing at the London Games.

Seven more were caught in doping controls conducted since the official testing period for the Games began July 16. One of the seven competed in London before her test result was known.

"I think that is a sign that the system works," Rogge said.

Men's volleyball – Russia won its first men's volleyball gold in 32 years by rallying past Brazil in five sets.

Second-ranked Russia dropped the first two sets and faced two match points before putting together an impressive comeback in a 19-25, 20-25, 29-27, 25-22, 15-9 victory.

Men's water polo – Croatia won its first Olympic gold in men's water polo, pulling away from Italy for an 8-6 win. The United States lost 10-9 to Australia to drop to eighth place.

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