Tervel Dlagnev at a press conference prior to the Olympic Games (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Tervel Dlagnev did it the right way.
Dlagnev's remarkable journey as an elite wrestler now has a fitting final chapter.
When it was announced this week that Dlagnev is expected to be awarded a bronze medal for the 2012 Olympic Games, the news was met with an abundance of positive responses in the United States and beyond.
And with good reason.
There is nobody more deserving of an Olympic medal than Dlagnev. He's truly one of the good guys in the sport who relied on a strong work ethic and determined approach in his pursuit to be the best.
He didn't cheat. And he didn't take any shortcuts. He did it the right way.
Dlagnev likely will move into the bronze-medal spot for the 2012 London Games after Uzbekistan's Artur Taymazov tested positive for a prohibited substance during a re-analysis of his sample. Taymazov had beaten Dlagnev in the semifinals en route to winning Olympic gold in 2012.
Taymazov earlier lost his 2008 Olympic gold medal after a 2017 re-analysis of the drug tests from that Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
While wrestlers continue to be stripped of medals for failed drug tests, there are guys like Dlagnev who should be celebrated for doing it the right way.
Many of you already know his remarkable story. He was born in Bulgaria and moved to the United States with his family when he was 4 years old.
Dlagnev didn't start wrestling until he was in high school in Arlington, Texas. He went out for wrestling to lose weight and ended up placing third and fourth in the Texas state tournament.
He was recruited to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, an NCAA Division II school.
The first time I saw Dlagnev compete, he was a freshman in college. I was covering the 2005 National Duals in Cleveland for the Omaha-World Herald newspaper.
UNK coach Marc Bauer told me before the tournament that he was excited about his new heavyweight. He said Dlagnev was a little small for the weight class, but he was athletic and mobile with a big upside.
Dlagnev faced a huge challenge the first time I saw him wrestle. He stepped on the mat to face Nebraska-Omaha junior Les Sigman, a two-time national champion.
Dlagnev surprised the heavily favored Sigman by taking him down with a duck-under to start the match. But Sigman quickly took control and earned a 9-2 victory.
Sigman dominated the series with Dlagnev in college, never losing to his in-state foe. Sigman beat Dlagnev 1-0 in the 2006 NCAA DII finals to win his fourth national title.
It was those matches with Sigman that drove Dlagnev in his quest to improve and reach a high level.
Dlagnev came back to win two NCAA titles of his own before leading UNK to its first national team title.
The best was yet to come.
Tervel Dlagnev gets in on a low single at the 2016 Pan American Olympic Qualifier (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Dlagnev flourished internationally. He also become bigger and stronger. He was a tough matchup while standing 6-foot-2 and being explosive for his size. He was lethal shooting in on low single-leg attacks. He also could match up with powerful opponents like Taymazov.
Dlagnev made his first U.S. World Team in 2009 and made an immediate splash by winning a world bronze medal in Herning, Denmark.
He added a second world bronze medal in 2014 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Dlagnev also made two Olympic teams, falling in the bronze-medal match in 2012 and 2016.
He had two more fifth-place finishes at the World Championships, including 2011 when he won an epic battle against Taymazov in Istanbul, Turkey.
Tervel Dlagnev wrestling at the 2016 Olympic Games (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
Dlagnev was hampered in 2015 and 2016 by back injuries that kept him off the mat for a majority of those seasons. He was very limited in his training before the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He started strong in Rio, but his back gave out again, and he lost in the bronze-medal bout.
It was the final match of his competitive career, and it was a frustrating way for him to finish.
Dlagnev has gone on to excel as an assistant coach for Ohio State and as the head freestyle coach for the Ohio Regional Training Center. He has been in the corner coaching Kyle Snyder, who now owns an Olympic gold medal, two World titles and a World silver medal.
Dlagnev's wrestling resume speaks for itself, but it's the person he is off the mat that is most impressive.
Tervel Dlagnev coaching Kyle Snyder at the World Championships (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
He's a devoted family man with a strong faith. He's always represented himself in a first-class manner. He was well-liked by his peers and teammates. And he was always known by his coaches as someone who was great to work with.
He's one of the nicest guys I've ever worked with in three-plus decades as a sportswriter. He was always gracious with his time, win or lose, and that speaks volumes about his character.
Dlagnev thanked his supporters in a tweet sent out Wednesday.
Well crazy news yesterday. Thank you to everyone who reached out! It's wild to feel this much support for something so long ago. Thank you all. God bless.�" Tervel Dlagnev (@TervelDlagnev) July 24, 2019
He would be the first to tell you that his career wasn't solely defined by medals or awards.
There is so much more to his remarkable story.
But seeing Dlagnev receive an Olympic bronze medal is a fitting finish to a superb career.
He's definitely someone who did it the right way.
If anyone deserves an Olympic medal, it's Tervel Dlagnev.
Craig Sesker has written about wrestling for more than three decades. He's covered three Olympic Games and is a two-time national wrestling writer of the year.