Jake Varner, Kyle Dake reach U.S. Olympic Trials finals

Jake Varner
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Olympic champion Jake Varner is one step from returning to the Games. Four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake is close to his first Olympics.

Varner and Dake each won their three U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying matches to move into Sunday night’s best-of-three finals in Iowa City (7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Live Extra).

Varner will face Kyle Snyder in the freestyle 97kg finals in the first matchup of reigning Olympic and World champions at a U.S. Olympic Trials since 1988.

Snyder, an Ohio State sophomore, upset Varner at last year’s World Championships Team Trials before becoming the youngest American to win a World title in September.

Dake will face University of Missouri rising senior J’Den Cox in the freestyle 86kg finals. The winner of that match must qualify for the Olympics at an international tournament later this spring.

“J’Den’s a good competitor, you know what I mean, he’s strong, he’s big,” Dake, with a bloody cut near his left eye, told media Sunday afternoon. “We’ll just see how good his freestyle savviness is.”

Other Sunday night finals include Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs against Andrew Howe in 74kg, a rematch of the 2012 Olympic Trials finals.

Howe advanced through three qualifying matches Sunday to face Burroughs, who had a bye into the finals as a reigning World medalist.

World champions Helen Maroulis and Adeline Gray are in the women’s 53kg and 75kg finals.

The biggest upset on Sunday morning came in Dake’s division, with top seed Jake Herbert falling in his first match to Cox.

Later, Dake defeated two-time NCAA Wrestler of the Year David Taylor to reach the finals. Dake and Taylor were the top two challengers to Burroughs before leaving Burroughs’ division in the last year.

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