There's a chance that all the hoopla over the trials 200 will cause one or both to forget that their primary aim is Sydney and to risk injury pushing for a win in Sacramento. While Johnson is a veteran with two Olympic and six world championships individual gold medals, he's also hypercompetitive. Greene has three world golds since '97 and thrives on reducing many of his races to mano a mano battles. Asked whether he would remind Greene that beating Johnson at the trials is not his ultimate goal, Greene's manager, Emanuel Hudson, said, "I tell him, 'If you win the trials and don't make it to September because you're hurt, nobody will remember.' "
U.S. Wrestling Trials
Lone Star's Lone Star
Brandon Slay was eight and living in Amanita, Texas, when the 1984 Olympics were held in Los Angeles. Most wrestling matches at those Games were televised at on tape-delay, so Brandon and his grandmother, Dorothy, would go to bed early, set their alarms for 2 a.m. and wake up to watch wrestlers such as Bruce Baumgartner and Dave Schultz compete for Olympic gold. With no college programs in Texas, the TV was as close as the Slays could get to big-time wrestling.
Now Slay is right in the thick of it. He won the 76-kilogram (167.5-pound) weight class at the Olympic trials last Saturday in Dallas's Reunion Arena, becoming, it is believed, the first Lone Star State native to make a U.S. wrestling team. "This is a dream I've had since I was little," says Slay, 24. "When I was growing up, people all over Texas would ask me, 'Are you going to the Olympics?' and I always said, 'Yes, ma'am,' or 'Yes, sir.' Maybe now more kids will believe that a Texan can be an Olympian."
There was little doubt on Saturday. Under the trials format Slay, as national champion in his weight class, was given a bye to the final, where he faced the winner of a challenge tournament in a best-of-three series. Before a home crowd of 9,434, including Dorothy, 73, and a few hundred others from Amarillo, Slay beat Brian Dolph, his former assistant coach at Penn, 5-2 and 3-1.
Slay has limited international experience, but the U.S. freestyle team, which is ranked second in the world, includes five former world championship medalists, and should match their five-medal haul from 1996. (The U.S. Greco-Roman trials were also held in Dallas, with all eight berths going to first-time Olympians.)
Slay was a three-time state champion at Tascosa High, where his coach, Johnny Cobb, created the Pit Bull Award, to honor Slay's ferocious style. Though recruited by several major colleges, Slay paid his own way to Penn, where he was a two-time NCAA runner-up while earning a degree from the Wharton School of Business.
After graduating in May 1998, Slay moved to the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs. While training six hours a day, he worked 16 hours a week as an investment adviser for Charles Schwab. In April he won the national tide, knocking off Joe Williams, who had placed fourth at the '99 worlds, in the finals and earning the meet's outstanding wrestler award.
"I love Brandon's all-out fight on the mat," said Kevin Jackson, a 1992 Olympic gold medalist and now a coach at the training center, last weekend, "but what I like most of all is the intelligence he shows."
In the first match against Dolph on Saturday, Slay worked like a chess master for more than three minutes to set up a double-leg snatch and gain the advantage. He won his second match on strength, bulldozing Dolph for a double-leg takedown. Afterward Slay saluted the crowd as God Loves Texas blasted from the arena's speakers.