IOWA CITY - In the minutes after his loss at the U.S. Olympic wrestling trials, Jordan Holm said the emotions of the day hadn't really sunk in yet. He had made it to the finals in the 84-kilogram Greco-Roman weight class, where he was defeated Saturday night by fellow Minnesotan Chas Betts.
The Northfield native was back in the city where he was accused, tried and convicted of third-degree sexual abuse in 2003 -- a crime he insists he did not commit. He had spent nearly seven years in prison, much of it in a tiny cell in nearby Anamosa, Iowa. Though he held out hope he might wrestle again, Holm could not have dreamed he would reach the brink of making the U.S. Olympic team before more than 13,000 people at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Betts ended Holm's first Olympic trials experience by sweeping the first two matches of their best-of-three championship series. It may not be his last. After the finals, Holm said he plans to continue wrestling, moving forward in the sport he rejoined when he was released from prison two years ago.
"Right now, it's really hard to summarize it all,'' said Holm, 30, who wrestled with aggression and confidence in his quarterfinal and semifinal victories. "It's very painful to lose. I expect to win, because that's how you need to approach a tournament like this.
"At this point, I don't see myself quitting. I'm grateful for the opportunity to wrestle, and whatever door opens up, I'll continue to pursue.''
Holm lives in Minneapolis and has done much of his training with coaches Dan Chandler and Brandon Paulson of the Minnesota Storm club. They welcomed him back to the sport when he sought them out less than a week after his release from prison.
Holm defeated 2011 world team member Cheney Haight in the quarterfinals, then swept Zac Nielsen of Zimmerman 2-0, 2-0 in the semifinals. He said he was close to scoring some points in his second match of the championship series, but he could not finish. Betts won the first match 1-0, 0-3, 2-0, then took the second 2-0, 2-0.
Holm said he expects to continue training in Minnesota for the time being. A former pre-med student, he plans to re-enroll in college this fall.
"My job right now is to try and be my best every day and see where it leads,'' he said. "I don't know exactly where that will be.''
Carver-Hawkeye Arena is known as one of the best wrestling venues in the U.S., in large part because of its knowledgeable and enthusiastic crowds. They turned out in droves Saturday, crushing the attendance record for a U.S. Olympic wrestling trials.
The early session Saturday drew 13,520, easily surpassing the record of 9,437 set in Dallas in 2000. That didn't last long, as the evening finals drew 13,750.