USA Wrestling Names Four With ASU Ties as Olympic Coach Finalists
Nov. 4, 2003
TEMPE, Ariz. - USA Wrestling announced the nominations of 16 men and women for the position of head coach of Team USA at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, next summer. Among the list of finalists for the three disciplines are four candidates with ties to Arizona State. Those nominees are Bobby Douglas, Zeke Jones, Townsend Saunders and Tricia Saunders.
Douglas, the former coach of the Sun Devils that guided ASU to its only NCAA championship in the sport, is currently the head coach at Iowa State. While with the Sun Devils, Douglas guided teams to nine Pac-10 crowns and 10 Top 10 NCAA finishes. In Ames, Iowa, he also made a name for himself as he mentored Cael Sanderson to an undefeated collegiate record of 151-0 and four NCAA titles. Douglas has been the Team USA coach numerous times, including the 1992 Olympic team and as recent as the 2003 U.S. Freestyle World Team. Douglas also has served on two other Olympic teams (1988 and 1992) and competed in the 1968 and 1964 Olympics, placing fourth in his first appearance.
'I have always considered it an honor to represent America as an athlete and a coach,' Douglas told the selection committee. 'The year have given me the discipline of experience. I consider this a chance of a lifetime and, if selected, will give the same effort that the team is giving.'
Jones was a three-time All-American and four-time Pac-10 Champion while competing for the Sun Devils. He also was a member of the Douglas-coached squad that captured NCAA gold. Currently serving as an assistant coach at West Virginia, Jones led the 2003 Pan Am Games Team to the team title and four individual gold medals. Though he has not served on an Olympic team in a coaching capacity, he has competed for Team USA in the ultimate tournament. A silver medalist at the 1992 Olympics, Jones also has added medals as World Championship meets including gold in 1991 and bronze in 1995. He also proved to be one of the top Americans as he won six U.S. National titles and represented his country in the World Championships seven times.
'It is an honor to be nominated,' Jones said. 'I would like to thank the committee members for having faith in me. It's an important job to help prepare our athletes to compete in Athens.'
Townsend Saunders also is no stranger to the Games as he secured silver in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was a member of the 1992 squad. A two-time All-American for the Sun Devils, Saunders recently served as the head coach of the 2003 U.S. Women's Freestyle World Team that placed second as a team with seven medalists including one gold. As a competitor, Saunders participated in four World Championships and won gold at the 1991 and 1995 Pan Am and 1994 Goodwill Games. Prior to his World Team duties, Saunders served as an assistant coach for the Sun Devils under Thom Ortiz and helped the team to a Pac-10 title and fifth in the nation last year. He also helped Eric Larkin go undefeated (34-0), win an NCAA individual title and secure the top honor in collegiate wrestling today; the Dan Hodge Award.
'I think this is a tremendous opportunity,' Townsend Saunders said. 'We have a chance to make history. It is phenomenal that I was selected for a chance to be part of it. I am hoping Trish and I both get on the staff and we can make it a family affair.'
Tricia Saunders is one of the most successful female wrestlers in the U.S. She won four gold medals at the World Championships (1992, 1996, 1998 and 1999) and silver in 1993. Upon her completion of international competition in 2001, Saunders stood undefeated against American competitors and won a record 11 U.S. National titles. Considered a pioneer for women's wrestling, she was selected as the 1997 USA Wrestling Women of the Year, the first to earn the honor. Another first for Saunders came in 2003 when she guided the first-ever women's team at the Pan Am Games. The U.S. women also won all available gold medals in the competition.
'Townsend and I are both interested in the same thing,' Saunders said. 'We'd like to see the team do well at the Olympics. We both want to be part of getting the team to the top of the podium at the Olympics. I owe a lot to those who helped me at the World Championships all those years. It's time for me to give back. It is exciting to be in the coaching capacity as it was being an athlete. I did not know that until now.'
The final selections of the head coaches, as well as the coaching staff for each of the three teams, will be made in mid-December.