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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By CHRIS BREWER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Clarissa Chun is from Hawaii. She trains in West Virginia and Colorado, won a World Championship in Japan, and earned an Olympic bronze medal in London.
She has traveled the country and conquered the world, but when it comes to wrestling, Chun admits there are few places like Iowa City.
“It’s a big dream come true for me. Iowa is my favorite program in the whole world. I’m happy to be here training. I was jealous that the team got to come in 2012 and I wasn’t a part of it, so to be here now, I’m really happy about it.”
Randy Miller, Team USA
“I love that the people of Iowa City know wrestling and are behind wrestling,” Chun said Tuesday before a University of Iowa wrestling practice. “It’s just a great atmosphere here.”
Chun’s United States women’s freestyle team held a training camp this week in Iowa City as guests of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. It is her third trip to Iowa City. She accompanied the team to a similar training camp in advance of the 2012 Olympic Wrestling Team Trials and returned to Iowa City on April 22, 2012, to win the 48 kg bracket and earn a spot on the United States Olympic team.
“The next day I went out to eat breakfast and the people of Iowa City just knew,” Chun said. “They would say ‘congratulations, I just saw you.’
“It was amazing how many fans came and how many people knew wrestling. It took me by surprise.”
A record 54,766 fans attended the Olympic Trials at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in 2012. As a result, USA Wrestling announced last spring that the 2016 event would return to Iowa City on April 9-10.
“There is no place like the University of Iowa and Iowa City,” said national women’s team coach Terry Steiner, a 1993 NCAA champion at Iowa. “Maybe it’s just me and I’m biased, but I think (the team) would say the same. There is a certain feeling here. It’s very hard to describe what it really means to a wrestler and wrestling enthusiast.”
Steiner is leading 36 women through a five-day training camp that began Monday and concludes Friday with a public wrestle-off to determine four roster spots for the Pan-American Games.
Among the women competing for a chance to qualify the United States’ weight class at the 2016 Rio Olympics is Randi Miller, an Iowa fan wrestling at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the first time.
“It’s a big dream come true for me. Iowa is my favorite program in the whole world,” Miller said. “I’m happy to be here training. I was jealous that the team got to come in 2012 and I wasn’t a part of it, so to be here now, I’m really happy about it.”
The United States’ Pan-American Games roster will be determined through a best-of-three series. Match one is Friday morning. The second is at 6:30 p.m. (CT) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena prior to the Iowa-Purdue NCAA wrestling dual. The third match, if necessary, will follow the dual, which begins at 8 p.m.
Doors open at 6 p.m., and a Team USA autograph session will be held on the concourse at approximately 7:15. A ticket to the Iowa-Purdue dual gains admittance to the special wrestle-off.
“We pride ourselves in supporting that wrestling is a sport for everyone,” Steiner said. “I want my team to understand that what they do is appreciated. Wrestling is appreciated in not only the state of Iowa, but Iowa City, and at the University of Iowa. I want them to feel that. Let the public get to know them a little bit.”