Shungnak wrestler Spencer Woods didn’t make the Olympic team at this weekend’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Texas, but he finished fourth overall and came close to clinching a spot on the national team.
Woods, 22, on Friday became the first Alaskan to wrestle in the Greco-Roman division at the U.S. Olympic Trials. He lost a close quarterfinal-round match in the 87-kilogram (192 pound) weight class and then roared back in Saturday’s wrestlebacks.
Woods scored an 8-5 decision in his first consolation-round match and won his consolation semifinal by forfeit. That put him in the third-place bout, where he scored an injury default victory three minutes into the match.
Woods then advanced to what’s called the “true-second” match, which pits the winner of the consolation round against the runner-up from Friday’s winner’s bracket competition. At stake was a spot on the U.S. national team, a coveted position that comes with financial support, increased competitive opportunities and health insurance.
He faced Patrick Martinez of the New York Athletic Club. Woods lost, 2-0.
He will land in a nice safety net. Woods recently finished basic training with the U.S. Army and is a member of its World Class Athlete Program, which provides him a solid avenue for training and competition.
Woods is still quite young for Greco-Roman wrestling — his first-round opponent on Friday was 36-year-old Jonathan Anderson, an Army major who’s also part of the World Class Athlete Program. Despite his youth, his aspirations are ambitious.
“I’m not embarrassed to say that I want to win an Olympic gold medal because, even if I’m the only person in the world who believes that, I have the confidence that it can happen if I believe in myself,” Woods said last month in an interview with fivepointmove.com.
“It may not be 2020 or 2024, but I am in this for the long run. (The World Class Athlete Program) definitely gives me that confidence that I’m in the right spot in the world to have all of these crazy endeavors — which to me, doesn’t seem crazy. It seems like in due time.”
A former Alaska state high school champion, Woods was seeded seventh among the eight men who competed at 87 kg for a chance to go to the championship finals. John Stefanowicz of the U.S. Marines prevailed to face Joe Rau, who received an automatic spot in the finals. Stefanowicz and Rau faced off Saturday night in a best-of-three series to decide which man will go to this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
In his match against second-seeded Anderson, Woods forged a 4-0 lead but Anderson rallied late to take a 5-4 victory.
On Saturday, Woods beat sixth-seeded Terrence Zaleski 8-5 and then picked up a forfeit over top-seeded Alan Vera. His injury default victory came against fifth-seeded Barrett Stanghill. His shot at a spot on the national team was spoiled by the No. 3 seed, Martinez.
Woods finished fourth overall behind Rau, fourth-seeded Stefanowicz and Martinez. The top three all earned spots on the national team.