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U.S. Nationals preview at 48 kg/105.5 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling

There are many changes in the field at 48 kg/105.5 lbs. this year in women's wrestling, as a number of top athletes have switched weight classes and the field should be considerably different than last year.

In fact, the two top-ranked wrestlers in the weight class going into Las Vegas this year both competed at 112.25 pounds last year. The wrestler who won the World Team Trials at this weight class last year has moved up to 112.25 pounds. Confused?

Ranked No.1 in the most recent rankings is veteran Stephanie Murata of the Sunkist Kids, who was a member of the 2005 U.S. World Team at 112.25 pounds. For the first time in her long career, Murata has dropped down to the lowest weight class. In previous seasons, she has wrestled in events at weights as high as 121 pounds. The move down has seemed to work very well for her, as she has won a number of tournaments since the switch in weight.

Murata won gold medals at the FILA Golden Grand Prix in France, a prize-money tournament that featured many of the world's top athletes. She also claimed titles at the New York AC Holiday Championships and the Dave Schultz Memorial International. She also has a silver medal at the Ivan Yarygin International at this division, and a bronze medal at the Klippan Golden Grand Prix in Sweden.

Murata has won eight national titles, including a streak of seven in a row (1996-2002). She was second at the 2001 World Championships, and was fourth in the World Championships two other times. She has more experience than any of the women competing on the national level, yet has not yet won the coveted World title that she continues to pursue.

Returning to 105.5 pounds this year is Mary Kelly of the USOEC/New York AC, who lost to Murata in the World Team Trials at 112.25 pounds. Kelly had a superb year last year at the higher weight class, including winning a bronze medal at the World University Games. She competed a number of years down at this weight. This year, Kelly, in her first event at 105.5 pounds, she won a bronze medal at the Dave Schultz Memorial International. She wrestled at 112.25 pounds in two tournaments early in the season. Kelly has won numerous World-level medals at the age-group levels, but has yet to make her first U.S. Senior World Team.

The returning U.S. Nationals champion at this weight class is Sara Fulp-Allen of Menlo College, who had a strong performance last year, winning her first Senior national title. Fulp-Allen entered the year ranked No. 2 in this division, after losing in the World Team Trials finals to Jenny Wong of the Sunkist Kids. Wong has since moved up a weight class to 112.25 pounds, where she competed most of her career. Fulp-Allen has not wrestled much in recent months, with her top performance of the season being a bronze medal at the Sunkist Kids International.

Wong isn't the only former 105.5-pounder who is now up in weight. 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Patricia Miranda of the Sunkist Kids returned to the mats this winter, but for now is competing at 112.25 pounds. Don't be surprised to see her come down in weight prior to the next Olympic Trials.

One of the wrestlers who could seriously battle for the title this year is veteran Clarissa Chun of the Gator WC, who was third at the World Team Trials last year. Chun has won gold medals at three international events, the Sunkist Kids International, the Clansman International in Canada and the Vehbi Emre Golden Grand Prix in Turkey. She also wrestled very well at the Klippan Golden Grand Prix in Sweden, where she won a silver medal and scored a win over Murata. However, she lost to Murata at the Ivan Yarygin International in Russia, and also lost to Kelly at the Dave Schultz Memorial. Chun has been second at the U.S. Nationals four times, and would like nothing better than to win her first U.S. Nationals title this year.

After Chun, the field drops off a little bit in relation to past success on the national and international level. Hana Askren of the Santa Monica WC, who actually did her college wrestling at McGill Univ. in Canada, placed fourth at the World Team Trials last year. Placing fifth at the World Team Trials was college wrestler Laura Felix of the New York AC, who wrestles on the men's team at Cal-State Bakersfield. Felix has been successful on the age-group levels.

Training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center has been Rachel Holthaus of Hi Flyers, who was a Junior Nationals champion while in high school. Holthaus placed sixth at last year's U.S. Nationals, and has the potential to move up in the standings as she continues to improve.

There are a number of competitors who are currently in college who could challenge for a spot in the medal rounds at Las Vegas. Jessica Median of the Univ. of the Cumberlands had a strong college season this year, but moved up to 112.25 pounds for the Women's College Nationals this year. Capturing that tournament was Tabitha Ramsey of Missouri Valley College, with Aquila Hills of the Univ. of the Cumberlands in second and Tanya Miyasaki of Missouri Valley College in third.

Liz Short of the USOEC program at Northern Michigan has been nationally ranked for a number of years and remains competitive. Another USOEC athlete, Sadie Kaneda, has shown potential at this weight class. Another wrestler on the college level, Amantha Hordagoda at Cal-State Bakersfield, has been competing on the national level for a number of seasons.

There could some high school students who make a big impact at this division. Last year, a high school wrestler was second at the U.S. Nationals at 105.5 pounds, Caitlyn Chase of the Gator WC, but she moved up to 112.25 pounds at the World Team Trials.

Last year's Junior Nationals champion at 102 pounds, Joey Miller of the New York AC, who lives in Oklahoma, has numerous age-group national honors and has begun to test herself on the Senior level. The Junior Nationals champion at 95 pounds, Nicole Woody of Maryland, is also capable of winning matches on this level. Many people are excited about Alyssa Lampe of Wisconsin, who placed second in the boys high school state meet this winter and won a bronze medal at the Junior Nationals last year. Numerous other high school wrestlers could make an impact if they decide to test the waters in Las Vegas this year.

This weight class promises to be interesting this year, with some different athletes competing than in recent years. With the decision by Stephanie Murata to drop to this division, and the return of Mary Kelly to the weight, there could be very competitive matches. Each year, some young athletes often make an impact at the U.S. Nationals at 105.5 pounds.

1st - Sara Fulp-Allen, El Granada, Calif. (Menlo College) pin Caitlyn Chase, Hanover Park, Ill. (Gator WC), 0-2, 1:20
3rd - Hana Askren, Los Angles, Calif. (Santa Monica Bay) pin Katie Kunimoto, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC), 2-0, 1:22
5th - Laura Felix, Bakersfield, Calif. (Cal-Bakersfield) dec. Rachel Holthaus, Little Falls, Minn. (High Flyers), 1-1, 3-0
7th - Liz Short, Lombard, Ill (USEOC) dec. Jessica Medina, Pomona, Calif. (Cumberland College), 1-0, 1-0

1. Stephanie Murata, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
2. Mary Kelly, Mahomet, Ill. (USOEC/New York AC)
3. Sara Fulp-Allen, El Granada, Calif. (Menlo College)
4. Clarissa Chun, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
5. Hana Askren, Los Angeles, Calif. (Santa Monica WC)
6. Laura Felix, Bakersfield, Calif. (New York AC)
7. Jessica Medina, Pomona, Calif. (Cumberland College)
8. Liz Short, Lombard, Ill. (USOEC)
9. Joey Miller, Woodward, Okla. (New York AC)
10. Sadie Kaneda, Honolulu, Hawaii (USOEC)
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