LONDON Kings Mountain wrestler Dremiel Byers spent four years training for Monday.
And it still wasnt enough.
Byers, the best heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestler in America, won his first Olympic match but then lost his second to a Turkish wrestler who was 15 years younger than Byers and had won the world championship in 2011.
That loss knocked Byers out in the quarterfinals exactly the same round where he had faltered in his first Olympic appearance in Beijing in 2008.
Same result, Byers said with a hint of disgust as sweat streamed off his bald head.
Byers, however, did not seem as upset as he was when he lost in the Olympics in 2008. In that tournament, he thought he had been beaten by an inferior competitor because he didnt try hard enough. As he memorably put it at the time, his soul wasnt gasping for air when he finished.
This time, however, Byers was just beaten by a better wrestler.
It hurts, Byers said. It didnt work out the way I needed it to. I tried to leave it out there, just came up short. The guy is talented.
Byers, 37, used part of his brief post-match comments to say thank you to a lot of people.
The effort I put into it was far greater this time, he said. I gained a lot of hometown love and support. Thats been the fuel behind a lot of this for me. So Im appreciative of all of Kings Mountain and everybody in North Carolina and the Army (where Byers is a Sergeant 1st Class) for supporting me the way they have.
Byers got a very difficult draw. He had to face Turkeys 22-year-old Riza Kayaalp in the quarterfinals. Then, if he had beaten him, he would have had to wrestle five-time world champion Mijain Lopez of Cuba in the semifinals.
Dremiel lost to a tough opponent, USA wrestling head coach Steve Fraser said. This Turk is very great at pushing.
The main difference between Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling which is also an Olympic sport is that you cant go for the other wrestlers legs in Greco-Roman. So when the heavyweights wrestle, it can remind you of an offensive guard and a defensive tackle trying to get some push on a running play.
In the critical part of the match, Kayaalp got leverage on Byers and pushed him out of bounds to score. Byers was unable to score on Kayaalp, and that ended things.
Thats what he does, Byers said. Thats what I trained for. Im supposed to have been able to stop that. I didnt.
Lopez, the Cuban, ultimately beat Kayaalp in the semifinals and successfully defended the 2008 gold medal he had won. By wrestlings convoluted rules, if Kayaalp had beaten Lopez and made it to the final, Byers actually would have gotten to wrestle again in a consolation tournament that awarded the bronze medal to the winner.
Since Kayaalp was beaten 30 minutes after he beat Byers, however, Byers second Olympic experience ended only about 90 minutes after it began.
While obviously disappointed, Byers wasnt utterly forlorn. When asked what he thought about Rio in 2016 the Olympics are going to be held in Brazil he even made a small joke.
Its a great place, he said.
But would he stick around for four more years and try to become a three-time Olympian at age 41?
Byers, who won a North Carolina high school wrestling title in 1993 and now lives and trains in Colorado, didnt give a complete answer. All he said was: Im not scared. Im not scared.