Audio Interview: Shawn Bunch
Shawn Bunch (Columbus, Ohio/Gator WC) qualified the United States to compete at the 2012 Olympic Games at 60 kg/132 lbs. in men's freestyle by placing third at the World Olympic Games Qualifying Tourmament in Taiyuan, China on Friday, April 27 in his weight class.
At this event, an athlete must place in the top three of their weight class to qualify their nation for the London Games. Only athletes whose weights were not yet qualified for the Olympics were eligible to enter the tournament.
Bunch won five of six matches during the day to emerge with the true-third place in the tournament. He defeated Bazar Bazarguruev of Kyrgyzstan in the third-place match to qualify the United States for the Olympics. 1-0, 0-1, 1-0. Each period was scoreless and went to the ball pull. Bunch won the first period from the offensive position in the clinch and Bazarguruev won the second period from the offensive clinch position. In the third period, Bunch won the ball pull, secured the leg and scored the winning point.
Bunch opened against John Pineda of Canada, winning a 2-0, 2-0 shutout. Pineda represented Canada at the last three World Championships.
In his second match, he scored a dominant 7-0, 7-0 technical fall over Radouan Ouled Bentle of Morocco.
Bunch lost in a tough three-period match in the quarterfinals to Seung-Chul Lee of Korea, 0-2, 1-0, 2-3. Lee's top achievement was his third place in 2010 Asian Championships.
When Lee reached the championship finals, Bunch was pulled back into the repechage, where he was eligible to wrestle back for the true third place and the Olympic qualification.
Bunch rallied back with a 2-0, 1-0 win over Muenir Recep Aktas of Turkey, who had placed second at the 2011 Olympic Test Event in London, England. He next defeated Feng Gao of China, 3-0, 0-1, 1-0 to win his repechage pool. Gao was third in 2010 Asian Games. The victory over Gao earned Bunch a spot in the true-third match against Bazarguruev with the Olympic spot up for grabs.
"Shawn had a really good day," said National Freestyle Coach Zeke Jones. "He was 20 seconds away from winning in the quarterfinals, but got head butted. Shawn was in a front headlock, and the Korean hit his chin and was able to get behind to score. Shawn wrestled a great tournament. He was on task. He was incredibly tough under pressure. I am very proud of him."
Bunch is ranked No. 2 at 60 kg/132 lbs. on Freestyle Team USA. He placed second in both the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2011 World Team Trials. He was a member of the 2009 U.S. World Team and has won two U.S. Open titles. He was a two-time All-American for Edinboro and hails from Leavenworth, Kan.
Now that the USA has qualified at this weight class, there will be a Secondary Olympic Trials at 60 kg/132 lbs. in men's freestyle at a date and location to be determined. As the athlete who qualified the USA for the Olympics, Bunch moves directly into the best-of-three Championship Series for the Olympic berth. There will be a preliminary match between 2011 U.S. World Team member Reece Humphrey (Columbus, Ohio/New York AC), and 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials champion Coleman Scott (Stillwater, Okla./Gator WC) to determine which athlete advances to the Championship Series against Bunch.
It took the USA three tries to get the 60 kg/132 lbs. division qualified. Humphrey placed ninth in the 2011 World Championships, but only the top six athletes qualified their nations from that event. Bunch was third in the 2012 Pan American Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Florida, but only the top two athletes qualified their nation from that event.
The U.S. has now qualified in 17 of the 18 weight classes for the London Games and there is only one weight classes left to be qualified.
2005 World bronze medalist Justin Ruiz (Orem, Utah/New York AC) will wrestle at 96 kg/211 lbs. in Greco-Roman. Ruiz will weigh in on Saturday, April 28 and will compete on Sunday, April 29.
If the USA does not qualify at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. in Greco-Roman in China, the final opportunity will be in Helsinki, Finland, May 4-6. At that event, an athlete must place in the top two of their weight class to qualify their nation.