Hawkeye Daniel Dennis grapples for Olympic gold

This Friday in Rio de Janeiro, former University of Iowa wrestling stand-out (2010 NCCA national runner-up) Daniel Dennis will compete for Olympic gold in the 57kg men’s freestyle event.

Back in April, in front of a crowd of over 11,000 fans at the US Olympic trails in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Dennis’ hand was raised the victor following a 10-0 technical fall culminating a best-of-three 57kg championship match against fellow Hawkeye Tony Ramos. The heavy favorite, Ramos was a two-time national freestyle champion, and had never lost to another American in this event. The shock of losing to his teammate led to Ramos leaving the Iowa program for North Carolina. But perhaps the person most surprised with the Olympic trial outcome was Dennis himself.

Dennis’ journey to the Olympic trials is one that sportswriters live for — an underdog story, the rise of a reluctant hero. Daniel Dennis, twice a runner-up for the Illinois state high school championship. Daniel Dennis, the man who settled for silver following a heartbreaking loss in the NCAA national championship. He left the sport he loved in 2013 and headed west in his truck for some soul-searching, rock climbing and high school coaching. Three years later, he’s in the Olympic spotlight.

“Daniel’s really bringing it all home,” said Hawkeye wrestling enthusiast and Iowa City resident Barb Farnsworth. “And a gold medal for Daniel would be a gold medal for Iowa City.”

Coverage of the 57kg freestyle events will run all day Friday.

Dennis is the 18th wrestler in Hawkeye history to earn Olympian status. He is joined in Rio by another University of Iowa alum Diane Nukuri-Johnson, who ran for the nation of Burundi in the women’s 10,000 meter event.

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