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

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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.

MORE WRESTLING: Three 2012 U.S. Olympians earn Rio berths Saturday

U.S. beats Japan in Olympic baseball qualifier, may still need help

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The U.S. handed Japan its first loss in the Premier12 global Olympic baseball qualifier, at the Tokyo Dome no less, but now the Americans must root for the host nation.

The Americans, with a roster mostly of Double-A and Triple-A players, won 4-3 over a Japanese team that includes some of its domestic league’s biggest stars like two-time Central League MVP Yoshihiro Maru and veteran shortstop Hayato Sakamoto.

Outfielder Jo Adell, MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked prospect on the U.S. team, starred by reaching base four times with a home run.

Japan is already qualified for baseball’s Olympic return as the host nation.

The U.S., meanwhile, has a sense of urgency at Premier12, the first of a possible three tournaments in which it could clinch an Olympic spot.

At Premier12, the top-ranked nation from North and South America qualifies for the Olympics. The tournament is at the super-round stage of the final six teams, and two are from the Americas: the U.S. and Mexico.

The top four nations after each has played five games advance to gold- and bronze-medal games.

Mexico already beat the U.S. and ran its super-round record to 3-0 on Tuesday, clinching a spot in the medal round.

The U.S. moved to 1-2 in the super round on Tuesday and must at least get into the same medal-round game as Mexico to keep its hope of finishing as the top team from the Americas.

Japan could help, since it plays Mexico on Wednesday. If Mexico beats Japan, the Mexicans clinch a spot in the gold-medal game, which would put more pressure on the U.S. to win its last two games (vs. Australia on Wednesday and Chinese Taipei on Friday). Even then, South Korea would get into the gold-medal game if it wins out.

If the U.S. is not the top team from the Americas at Premier12, it can still earn an Olympic berth in March. But then it faces trying to come up with a roster at the end of MLB’s spring training rather than during the offseason. MLB teams may be less inclined to release minor leaguers.

“That’ll be a delicate dance,” U.S. general manager Eric Campbell said before Premier12.

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MORE: AL MVP nixes unretirement for Olympic baseball qualifying

College gymnast dies after practice accident

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An accomplished gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University has died following a serious spinal cord injury suffered in a training accident.

Melanie Coleman, 20, of Milford, Connecticut, was training Friday at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden when she was injured, said her mother, Susan Coleman.

She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and died Sunday.

Coleman was a former All State gymnast at Jonathan Law High School in Milford and was captain of the school’s gymnastics team. She was named a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American this year.

Her former club coach, Tom Alberti, said she attained a level 10, the highest level in the USA Junior Olympics Program.

She was a junior studying nursing, following in the footsteps of her two older sisters, her mother said.

“She’s from a very large, loving family; there’s seven of us, we were the Coleman seven,” Susan Coleman said. “We spent every day together for the past 20 years.”

She volunteered at the gym where her accident occurred.

Her coaches and professors described her as a special young woman who excelled in both the classroom and gym, college President Joe Berolino said in a written statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss,” he said.

People the family has met by traveling to gymnastics events around the country are giving support that is “holding us up,” Coleman’s mother said.

She described her children, which also include two sons older than Melanie, as “inseparable.”

“We’re going to leave an empty space in our photos for her” from now on, Susan Coleman said.