Calling it a "storybook ending" wouldn't do it justice, even though it seems like it could only be fiction. The term "Hollywood ending" doesn't do the trick either, even though it would make a great movie. No, slapping any labels on what transpired in the 167.5-pound finals of the Olympic Wrestling Trials at Reunion Arena in Dallas would almost be an insult to the participants. "I've been involved in the sport for about 30 years now and about 16 as a coach," Penn wrestling coach Roger Reina said. "And I've never experienced anything like this." On June 24, Reina watched as two of his most successful pupils -- 1998 Wharton graduate and former All-American Brandon Slay, and Quakers assistant coach Brian Dolph -- competed in a winner-take-all, best-two-out-of-three match for the right to represent the United States in their weight class in the Olympics. "If you heard a loud snap during the match, that was my heart," Reina told reporters at the time. As the reigning national champion, Slay, 24, had an automatic bye to the finals. Meanwhile, Dolph, 33, had to win three matches in a row in the round robin elimination tournament just to have the chance to face his training partner and former pupil. "Clearly, Brandon and Brian deserve great credit in helping each other get to this point," Reina said. "All the hours they put in together really paid off, and they competed extremely hard -- with great physical intensity. It's really a great credit to the program and to both of them." After Slay had defeated Dolph 5-2 early in the day and then 3-1 seven hours later, the two embraced and Dolph congratulated his friend and partner. "Neither of them could've been any more gracious," Reina said. While the matchup between the two was gut-wrenchingly emotional for all parties involved, it was not entirely unexpected. "We'd sort of planned on [Dolph and Slay meeting in the finals]," Reina said. "It was something we were hoping for." Whether he was hoping for it or not, Reina's emotions were mixed, to say the least. "It was very odd," Reina said. "I didn't really know what to expect. It was the strangest thing I've ever experienced." Dolph's road to the final match was not an easy one. He had to beat Joe Williams, a man who was fourth in the world last year and whom Dolph had never beaten. "Dolph had a great run, especially in beating Joe Williams," Reina said. "He wrestled a great tactical match against a tough opponent." Reina surely must have helped him with his tactics in that match, as he sat in Dolph's corner through every match -- except, of course, for the final one, during which Reina remained strictly a spectator. "I'm obviously very loyal to both of them," Reina said. "I cornered Slay in the national tournament and Dolph before the finals, but I wasn't going to sit in either one's corner [during the finals]." So Reina watched from the sidelines as Slay secured one of the 16 spots on the U.S. Olympic team. Reina is very optimistic about the chances for success for Slay -- the Olympic team's youngest member -- and his teammates in Sydney. "As long as they're healthy and well-trained, they've got to be the favorites," Reina saidComments powered by Disqus
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