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Russell, Mango, Pirozhkova among champions crowned at U.S. Open
Kellen Russell (in blue) downed Jordan Oliver in the U.S. Open freestyle finals Friday night. Larry Slater photo.
LAS VEGAS – Being unseeded didn’t appear to faze Kellen Russell.
Russell had to go through the qualifying tournament on Thursday and then knocked off the No. 2, 3 and 4 seeds on Friday to win a U.S. Open freestyle title at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Russell, a two-time NCAA champion for Michigan, capped his improbable two-day run by downing two-time NCAA champion Jordan Oliver 0-1, 2-2, 1-0 in the finals at 66 kg/145.5 lbs.
Russell won three matches in the qualifying tournament on Thursday while the top eight seeds sat out. He then won four more matches Friday in the championship tournament to earn the U.S. Open title.
“I liked having the matches yesterday – I didn’t mind it at all,” Russell said. “I’ve put in a lot more time working on freestyle and it is good to see the hard work paying off. I felt good out there. This is Step 1 and Step 2 is the Trials.”
Russell has now earned a spot in the final-round series of June’s U.S. World Team Trials in Stillwater, Okla.
National Team member and past Junior World champion Dom Bradley rallied past World bronze medalist and Olympian Tervel Dlagnev 0-4, 3-0, 1-0 in the freestyle finals at 120 kg/264.5 lbs.
Bradley scored on a pushout in the closing seconds to earn the upset over Dlagnev, who placed fifth in the 2011 Worlds and fifth in the 2012 Olympics.
“I trained with Tervel last year and I’ve never beaten him, not even in a practice or a simulation or anything,” said Bradley, a U.S. training partner at the Olympics in London. “Tervel is the man, but I trained hard for this and I believed in my conditioning.”
National Team member Keith Gavin won his first U.S. Open title by defeating past NCAA runner-up Clayton Foster 1-0, 1-1, 2-1 in the freestyle finals at 84 kg/185 lbs. Gavin was second in this event in 2009 and 2011.
Two-time Olympian Spenser Mango earned his fifth U.S. Open title in downing Max Nowry 3-0, 1-0 in the Greco-Roman finals at 55 kg/121 lbs. Mango beat Nowry in the Olympic Trials finals in 2012.
Mango scored on a throw in the first period and then defended in par terre in the second period to prevail over Nowry, a 2012 University World champion.
“My focus is always on the Worlds and the Olympics,” Mango said. “What happens along the way is just a bonus. What really is on the line is coming home with a gold medal at the World Championships and the Olympics.”
John Wechter captured his first U.S. Open crown by downing Ryan Halsey 1-0, 0-1, 1-0 in the Greco-Roman finals at 96 kg/211.5 lbs.
World champion and Olympian Elena Pirozhkova captured her fifth U.S. Open title after sweeping Erin Clodgo 1-0, 3-1 in the women’s freestyle finals at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. Clodgo won this event in 2010.
“Every year is a new year,” Pirozhkova said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a World champion last year. You have to get on the mat and prove you are No. 1 again. Every time you win a national championship it’s exciting. I want another chance at Worlds and I want to start being consistent at the World Championships.”
2012 World bronze medalist Alyssa Lampe looked strong in sweeping past Junior World champion Victoria Anthony 3-0, 5-2 in the women’s freestyle finals at 48 kg/105.5 lbs.
Lampe headlocked Anthony to her back late in the first period and nearly gained a fall. She jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second period en route to the victory. Lampe earned her second U.S. Open title after also winning this event in 2010.
The top seven finishers in each weight class qualify for June’s U.S. World Team Trials in Stillwater, Okla.
The three-day U.S. Open will conclude on Saturday in Las Vegas.
66 kg/145.5 lbs.
Kellen Russell (New York AC) dec. Jordan Oliver (Titan Mercury WC), 0-1, 2-2, 1-0
84 kg/185 lbs.
Keith Gavin (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Clayton Foster (Grit Athletics/Cowboy WC), 1-0, 1-1, 2-1
120 kg/264.5 lbs.
Dom Bradley (Sunkist Kids) dec. Tervel Dlagnev (Sunkist Kids), 0-4, 3-0, 1-0
48 kg/105.5 lbs.
Alyssa Lampe (Sunkist Kids) dec. Victoria Anthony (Sunkist Kids), 3-0, 5-2
63 kg/138.75 lbs.
Elena Pirozhkova (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Erin Clodgo (Sunkist Kids), 1-0, 3-1
55 kg/121 lbs.
Spenser Mango (U.S. Army) dec. Max Nowry (New York AC), 3-0, 1-0
96 kg/211.5 lbs.
John Wechter (Minnesota Storm) dec. Ryan Halsey (No Mercy School of Wrestling), 1-0, 0-1, 1-0