Sports

Former Arlington High wrestler makes U.S. Olympic Team

Tervel Dlagnev already is a star in Kearney, Neb., where he went to college.

He could become one in his adopted hometown of Arlington by the end of the Olympics.

Dlagnev, an Arlington High School graduate, secured his spot on the U.S. Olympic Team on Sunday. He won the freestyle division at 264.5 pounds at the U.S. Team Trials in Iowa City, Iowa, earning the right to compete in the London Games.

"I'm excited," Dlagnev said by phone before boarding a flight back to Columbus, Ohio, where he trains. "I didn't sleep [Sunday night]. I just kind of laid awake in bed.

"One of the coolest things about the tournament was, I just remember it felt really real. At some of the past events, the implications of the event kind of turned it into a haze, it all happened so fast. This one, I was in the process; I was in the moment. It was very real. It hit me right away."

It was appropriate that Dlagnev's berth in the Olympics had to go through Les Sigman, who was 9-0 against Dlagnev when the two were at rival colleges in Nebraska.

But Dlagnev had no problem beating Sigman when it mattered most. He won 3-0, 1-0 and 1-0, 2-0 in a best-of-three final. The friendly rivals now are 5-5 all time in freestyle.

"We've gone back and forth," Dlagnev said. "He's a great wrestler, and he's fun to wrestle.... I'm just glad I came out on top."

Dlagnev, the top seed, did not allow a point against three opponents.

"I expected it; I wanted it; all that stuff," Dlagnev said. "That's what I wanted to do. I don't ever like getting scored on. ... Every tournament, it's, 'don't give up any points and don't go to any punches.' [Sunday] I went to one punch. I didn't quite get that.

"It can get better, but it was a good performance."

Dlagnev, whose family moved from Bulgaria to Arlington when he was 4, didn't begin wrestling until his sophomore year of high school. Colts coach Henry Harmoney recruited Dlagnev out of a PE class.

Dlagnev was fourth at the state tournament in 2002 and third as a senior in 2003. He went on to Nebraska-Kearney, where he set the school record with 167 career victories and won two Division II titles as well as helping Kearney win its first national team championship.

Dlagnev, 26, still is celebrated there.

"Kearney, Neb., in the middle of the United States, a town of 30,000 people, I doubt there has ever been an Olympian associated with us," said Nebraska-Kearney coach Marc Bauer, who drove a busload of 30 fans from Kearney to Iowa City to root on Dlagnev. "The people in our community follow him like you would not believe. It will be unbelievable for us to have an Olympian to follow and to cheer on."

Dlagnev will take a day off before returning to training. He leaves for the World Cup next week.

This is not the be-all and end-all for Dlagnev. He wants the gold medal.

"I'm excited, but I also know there's a lot more to do," Dlagnev said. "I want to be an Olympic champion."

Charean Williams

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