CENTENNIAL, Colo. (2/4/13) -- Colorado Army National Guard Soldier and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program earned a bronze medal at the Dave Schultz Memorial International wrestling tournament Jan. 31 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Pfc. Joe Betterman, a 60-kilogram (132-pound) Greco-Roman wrestler and three-time champion of this event, lost his first match of the tournament at the U.S. Olympic Training Center to the eventual silver medalist, Feihu Wan of China.
Once a wrestler loses a match, he or she must compete in the bronze medal bracket.
“I didn’t win gold, which is always the goal,” said Betterman. “Sometimes, unfortunately you have to lose to learn from your mistakes. My high school coach always told me a true champion comes back to win third.”
Displaying the heart of a champion, Betterman, had to wrestle more matches than anyone else in his weight class due to an early round loss. He wrestled in seven matches -- six against international opponents -- all in one day.
“Betterman battled like the true warrior he is,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Kuntz, fellow Colorado Army National Guardsman Soldier and WCAP wrestling coach. “Seven matches at a potential six minutes a match is 42 minutes of live action -- sometimes only getting 15 minutes between matches. If it sounds hard, doing it is at least four times harder.”
After six matches and splitting the first two periods against Shuhin Li of China in the bronze medal match, the score was tied 1-1 with 30 seconds remaining. Betterman and Li went to the par terre position to decide the match.
Betterman had the choice of top or bottom. The wrestler on the bottom wins the period if the top wrestler fails to turn the bottom wrestler in the final 30 seconds. Wrestlers typically chose to defend on bottom, but in an unorthodox move, Betterman chose the top.
“I was more secure in the aggressive position,” he said. “I didn’t get him turned right away. I had to set it up and kept inching until I got what I wanted, then I finally got the turn and the win.”
Betterman completed the seven-match marathon to win the bronze medal only four days after going unbeaten and being named outstanding wrestler in the Jack Pinto Cup, which was also held at the Olympic Training Center just a few days prior to this event.
“I gained a lot of international experience -- 10 matches in less than a week,” he said. “This will help me going into the World Championships and the Olympics in 2016.”
“One of the advantages of WCAP is being able to prepare the wrestlers for this kind of grind,” said Kutz. “He wrestles against Olympians every day -- in weight classes above and below him. He knew it was going to be a battle, but he showed his warrior spirit.”
This tournament had extra special meaning for Betterman. His wife, Deanna, wrestled for the first time since giving birth to their now four-month-old son Mason.
“We are a wrestling family, so it was great to see her back on the mat,” said Joe. “Having our son there gave us both a little extra fire.”
Deanna, a freestyle wrestler who is also a three time champion of the Dave Schultz Memorial, won her first match but lost her second to the eventual silver medalist, Geeta Geeta from India.
“(Joe) Betterman has been reenergized recently,” said Kuntz. “He is going through a maturation process both in his wrestling and his personal life. In the last year, he has started a family and joined the Army National Guard and the WCAP. It is easier to focus on wrestling when you know your family will be taken care of.”
Betterman hopes to continue his recent success in the next tournament the Hungarian Grand Prix Feb. 23-24 in Budapest, Hungary.