|U.S. Nationals preview at 60 kg/132 lbs. for men's freestyle wrestling|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Former Oklahoma standout Michael Lightner shot to the top of the 60 kg/132 pound weight class last year by winning the U.S. Nationals and going on to make his first U.S. World freestyle team.
Lightner was hampered in previous seasons with injuries, but put it all together in 2005. He has moved to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in an effort to improve his skills and to prepare for the years ahead.
Lightner, who competes for the Sunkist Kids, will have plenty of challengers as he tries to stay on top at the U.S. Nationals.
The top-ranked Lightner lost a tough final-round bout to No. 3 Mike Zadick of the Hawkeye Training Club in the finals of Dave Schultz Memorial Open in early February. Zadick beat Lightner 1-0, 0-3, 2-1.
The hard-nosed, aggressive Zadick, a three-time All-American at Iowa, has been in the top three in this weight class the past four years but has yet to breakthrough and make a World or Olympic team. Zadick was second at the 2003 World Team Trials and 2004 Olympic Trials before finishing third at the 2005 World Team Trials.
This could be Zadick's year, as evidenced by his silver medal performance at the FILA Golden Grand Prix in Uzbekistan.
Another top contender in this weight class is Iowa State All-American Nate Gallick of the Sunkist Kids. Gallick lost to Lightner in the finals of the U.S. Nationals and the World Team Trials last year, but beat Zadick in the challenge tournament finals at the World Team Trials.
Gallick, fresh off winning the NCAA title at 141 pounds, scored a major international achievement by capturing the University Worlds last year and is considered a promising prospect in freestyle.
2004 Olympic silver medalist Stephen Abas is injured and not expected to wrestle this year. Abas moved up a weight class after the Olympics, and competed in last year's U.S. Nationals, falling to Lightner in the quarterfinals.
Former Cornell NCAA champion Travis Lee of the New York Athletic Club is ranked fourth. The dangerous Lee always has been superb wrestling on his feet and is very difficult to take down.
Next in line is former Cyclone NCAA champion Zach Roberson of the Sunkist Kids. Roberson, third in Vegas last year, also is regarded for being very slick on his feet.
Look for the explosive Lee, who has shown a penchant to deliver when the stakes are highest, to be right in the mix to win this weight class. Lee beat Roberson in the finals of the New York Athletic Club tournament. Lee also beat Abas 2-5, 1-0, 1-0 in the Sunkist Kids meet in October, and captured a silver medal.
Holding down spots 6-10 in TheMat.com rankings are Josh Moore and Danny Felix of the Sunkist Kids, Shawn Bunch of the New York Athletic Club, Angel Cejudo of the Sunkist Kids and Kevin Black of Wisconsin.
Look for Shawn Bunch, second and third for Edinboro at the last two NCAA meets, to make an impact. The talented Bunch, who is ranked eighth at 132 in freestyle, is very quick and very athletic. His style is entertaining, and he had a strong season on the Senior level in 2004 when he took an Olympic redshirt.
Felix was fifth in Vegas and Moore sixth last year. Other returning placewinners include Celso DeAnda of the New York Athletic Club (third), Johnny Thompson of the Sunkist Kids (seventh) and Craig Leong of Team Hawaii (eighth).
Felix is one of the true veterans in this division, and placed as high as second in the U.S. Nationals in the past. Moore has entered a number of international events the last two seasons and is gaining experience.
DeAnda is serving as an assistant coach with the women's freestyle team at the U.S. Olympic Education Center program in Northern Michigan.
Cejudo has trained in recent seasons at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and was a member of the 2005 Junior World Team.
Another possibility at this weight class is two-time NCAA champion Teyon Ware of Oklahoma, who just finished second at nationals to Gallick in his final collegiate match at 141. Ware was a two-time Junior Nationals champion in freestyle.
Others to watch include Jesse Brock of the Bronco Wrestling Club and Matt Valenti of the University of Pennsylvania. Valenti won the NCAA title at 133 pounds and was among the entries last year in Las Vegas.
Lightner came seemingly out of nowhere to reign in this class last year, so don't be surprised if any number of young competitors are in the finals pursuing a championship this year. This promises to be one of the most compelling, and wide-open, classes to watch. Fans will enjoy seeing bright young talents like Gallick, Lee and Bunch perform at this event.
2005 U.S. NATIONALS RESULTS
1st - Michael Lightner, Norman, Okla. (Sunkist Kids) dec. Nate Gallick, Tucson, Ariz. (Sunkist Kids), 0-1, 3-0, 1-0
3rd - Zach Roberson, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids) dec. Celso DeAnda, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC), 1-0, 1-0
5th - Danny Felix, Charlottesville, Va. (Sunkist Kids) dec. Josh Moore, Kent, Ohio (Sunkist Kids), 3-0, 1-0
7th - Johnny Thompson, Stillwater, Okla. (Sunkist Kids) pinned Craig Leong, Honolulu, Hawaii (Team Hawaii), 0:21
THEMAT.COM RANKINGS FOR MARCH 2006
1. Michael Lightner, Norman, Okla. (Sunkist Kids)
2. Nate Gallick, Tucson, Ariz. (Sunkist Kids)
3. Mike Zadick, Solon, Iowa (Hawkeye TC)
4. Travis Lee, Ithaca, N.Y. (New York AC)
5. Zach Roberson, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids)
6. Josh Moore, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio (Sunkist Kids)
7. Danny Felix, Charlottesville, Va. (Sunkist Kids)
8. Shawn Bunch, Leavenworth, Kan. (New York AC)
9. Angel Cejudo, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
10. Kevin Black, Madison, Wis. (Wisconsin)