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Drop in weight helped Mocco gain Olympic berth
2008 Summer Olympics: Wrestling

By Matt Patterson Published: July 29, 2008

's still carries some of the same tricks with him two years later. Beyond that, it was a break from wrestling. Mocco's college wresting career ended with a loss to Minnesota's Cole Konrad in the NCAA finals at the Ford Center. It wasn't the way he wanted to go out.

"It was a good way to keep in shape and have a mental break from day-to-day wrestling,” he said. "It was a good opportunity to spend a lot of time in the weight room and get stronger. I think it helped me a lot. It helped me focus on what was important to me.”

That paid off against Rowlands. The two wrestled 16 times during their college careers, see-sawing for supremacy. Rowlands was favored when they met in the trials with Mocco narrowly winning the best-of-three series.

"We had a really good rivalry,” Mocco said. "He's a tough competitor, a great athlete and he competes hard. I knew I would have to wrestle hard to beat him.”

The 120 kg field is clearly defined with known obstacles. Bilial Mahov of Russia and Fardin Masumi of Iran are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 internationally by Intermat.

"Steve knows exactly who he's got and who he needs to beat in order to win,” Smith said. "There won't be any surprises for these guys.”

Mocco almost had some familiar company with him for the opening ceremonies in Beijing next month. His sister Katie nearly made the U.S. Olympic judo team.

As the games draw nearer, the butterflies in his stomach match the pace.

"From the time I was young, I've always dreamed about going to the Olympics and winning a medal,” he said. "Now I have an opportunity to do it.”

The Steve Mocco file
•Age: 26

•Born: North Bergen, New Jersey

•College: Two-time heavyweight national champion (2003, 2005) at Oklahoma State and Iowa.

•Road to the Rings: Mocco defeated longtime rival Tommy Rowlands from Ohio State 2-1 in their best-of-three series at the Olympic Trials in June.

•Rest of the field: Fardin Masumi (Iran) and Bilial Mahov (Russia) are the highest ranked wrestlers in the field. Masumi won gold at a pre-Olympic event last summer.

•Up next: Mocco will take the mat Aug. 21.

By Matt Patterson

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