Dunn undaunted, looks ahead
BY JOJO SANTO TOMAS • PACIFIC DAILY NEWS SANTOTOMAS@GUAMPDN.COM • AUGUST 18, 2008 BEIJING — After years of training to qualify to battle against the best wrestlers in the world, the Olympics are over for 63-kilogram wrestler Maria Dunn.Dunn lost her opening match to Bulgarian Elina Vaseva, who won the first round in convincing fashion and pinned Dunn in the second.
About 40 seconds into the two-minute opening round, Vaseva scored a two-point takedown against Dunn, who sprawled at the last moment to avoid exposing her back.
The grapplers restarted at the center of the mat with less than a minute to go in the round. Vaseva immediately shot for Dunn’s legs and scored again but couldn’t finish before time was called.
“When I first got on the mat, I was just slightly overwhelmed, but my mindset was doing what I came to do, which is what I know,” said Dunn. “Everything I know was just laid out on the table, that’s what I wanted to do.”
Dunn fell behind early in the second as the more experienced Bulgarian took control of Dunn’s legs and mounted. She positioned her weight over Dunn’s face and shoulders and the match was over.
“I tried to bail out but she had a leg trapped with her arms. I did everything I could to get out of it, to get in better position,” she said.
The Bulgarian lost her next match, eliminating Dunn’s hopes of a second fight.
“You always have to have hope, You never think it’s over until it’s fully over and, in this case, it wasn’t over until that match was done,” she said.
Kaori Icho of Japan won the gold medal in women’s 63-kilogram wrestling late yesterday.
Dunn’s coach Neal Kranz was proud of his wrestler, who broke down after the match.
“Of course we would have liked to see it turn another way, but we are extremely proud of the effort she’s given here to get ready and do everything she could to make it happen,” Kranz said. “I think a little bit more offense and we could have been a little bit stronger, but I think that she gave everything she could and that there’s really nothing to hang your head about when you do that.”
Though all the wrestlers made weight, body shape varies. For instance, U.S. wrestler Randi Miller is built and walks like a bodybuilder, and others are built similarly.
Dunn is strong but does not have muscle definition like that.
Kranz said that Dunn is a true 63-kilogram wrestler and because there are fewer weight classes for women, heavier wrestlers will cut weight just to be able to participate.
“She has more room to grow and put more weight and cut some more off,” said Kranz. “I’m not encouraging that, it’s all about technique and just improving your game. But, yes, you do see some very large ladies here.”
Guam teammates Chris Duenas and Derek Mandell were there with the rest of the crew cheering her on.
“It was exciting and cool. We actually stayed to watch the rest of it,” said Duenas. “I never expected wrestling to be like that. It’s pretty hardcore. Maria did a good job, so hats off to her.”
Mandell, who’s focused on training for his event on Aug. 20, was nervous for her.
“I was trying to put myself in her position because I haven’t gone yet,” he said. “She did her best. You can’t really expect too much after that.”
Fuel to fire
Dunn said that her Olympic experience has only added fuel to her gas tank. She will continue to train with the 2012 Olympics in her sights.
“Just the experience of getting out there and going for it and doing it, knowing that I can’t stop, I’m just gonna keep going and keep doing until I get what I want,” she said. “This is in the past already, so now I have to look ahead for the tournaments that are coming up, and do what I can do to prepare for the next four years.”
Dunn thanked everyone for supporting her, especially her coaches, Kranz and Mike Duroe, who traveled from Iowa to help her train.
Breaking news: Olympic wrestler Maria Dunn loses her opening match at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
PACIFIC DAILY NEWS • NEWS@GUAMPDN.COM • AUGUST 17, 2008
Olympic wrestler Maria Dunn lost her opening match today in China. Against Bulgaria’s Elina Vaseva, Dunn lost the first round on points and in the second, the Bulgarian scored 7 points while keeping Dunn scoreless for the win.
“I did the best I could despite the result. I tried my hardest,” Dunn said.
Vaseva scored 2 points in the first round on a takedown and three points for a near fall a little later in the round.
At this time, the Olympics are not necessarily over for Dunn. Qualifications continue and if the Bulgarian continues to win, she can push Dunn into the loser’s bracket.
Perseverance pays off for Dunn: After 11 years of wrestling, Dunn ready for Olympics
BY JOJO SANTO TOMAS • PACIFIC DAILY NEWS • AUGUST 6, 2008
At an age where many girls are putting away their dolls and starting to contemplate how to ask mommy for makeup, Maria Dunn wanted to learn how to wrestle.
Not the wrestling you see on late-night cable, mind you. Dunn wanted to learn the sport of warriors.
“I first started wrestling when I was roughly 11 years old. Mr. Bob Anderson, my 6th grade P.E. teacher, decided to go over some basics with us. I guess he saw some potential in me, because I was so enthusiastic and energetic about the sport,” she said. “From there he introduced me to Neal Kranz, the head coach of the Guam National Wrestling team. It was pretty amusing, because he thought I was way too young! So for about two weeks, I sat around and watched the men practice, and finally, Neal gave in and taught me some moves. Perseverance pays off!”
Wait pays off
Now 22 and faced with the biggest challenge of her life, Dunn says the decade-long journey has already been worth the wait. Dunn will represent Guam in the 63-kg division in women’s freestyle wrestling at the Beijing Olympics. Everything will be determined for her on Sunday, Aug. 17.
“This journey, although it is nowhere near over, has been a very exciting one. There have been a lot of smiles, and a lot of tears. There’s sweat, blood, doubt, fear … and there’s joy, triumph and victory. And I have learned that once you are victorious, all the pain you experienced seems to fade into the distant background,” she said. “I have learned that in order to accomplish anything, you have to believe that you can. I never compare myself to others, because this is my journey. At the end of the day, I’m the only person I have to face.”
Dunn qualified for the Olympics by winning gold at the 2007 Oceania Championships, though her test in Beijing will be the ultimate. She’s the first female wrestler to qualify for the Olympics for Guam, and she’s one of just 64 female wrestlers overall in four different weight classes. She has moved away from Guam to focus on training and most recently, spent much of her time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
She admits that at times, she’s been lonely but she always relies on her family, friends and training team to get her motivated again.
Dream come true
“Going to the Olympics has been my only dream since I was 11. Now, 11 years later, here I am on my way. Sure it took some time, but speed was not my goal,” she said. “The only difference now is that I dream to win the gold medal for Guam. I envision myself on the medal stand with the Guam anthem blaring in the background. The mind is so very powerful, when it is set on pleasing one’s heart.”
Dunn said she has many people to thank, especially her mother Luu Yen Ngoc, of Yigo.
“She is quite the sneaky lady. When we are face to face, she tells me she wants me to quit wrestling and become a model. Yet when I am gone, she tells everyone how proud she is,” said Dunn. “My coaches too, Neal Kranz, Alex Gutierrez and Mike Duroe, who take so much of their time teaching me how to be a better wrestler, and never really knowing that they are actually making me a better person. My team, friends and family — all of you burn in my heart when I am away. Your support is monumental in my progression.”
Aiming for London
After Beijing, Dunn said she will continue to train and aim for a spot on Team Guam for London in 2012.
Clip from 2007 Female Wrestling World Championships