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|U.S. Nationals preview at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. in Greco-Roman wrestling|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Harry Lester is one of the bright young stars on the American Greco-Roman team. Just 22 years old, Lester made his first World team last year at 66 kg/145.5 pounds and also won a bronze medal at the World University Games.
Lester won a tough, three-match series with Glenn Garrison in the finals of the 2005 World Team Trials. Garrison won the first match before Lester bounced back to claim the final two bouts in the series.
Lester, who competes for the Gator Wrestling Club, is part of the U.S. Olympic Education Center program at Northern Michigan. He became the first USOEC wrestler in either the Greco-Roman or women's program to win a U.S. Nationals title or to make a Senior World Team.
Lester won the Dave Schultz Memorial Open and recently placed fifth at the Poland Open. He lost his one bout at the World Championships last year when he gave up points from the bottom position. He is looking to show he has improve his defensive abilities.
Garrison, who competes for the U.S. Army, is ranked second by TheMat.com behind Lester. Garrison has twice placed second at the World Team Trials, and seeks his first national title.
Mark Rial of the Gator Wrestling Club, third last year at the World Team Trials, is the No. 3 man at this weight class. Rial was fourth at the U.S. Nationals as he put together a solid season. Rial won the Sunkist Kids Open last October
Veteran Marcel Cooper of the U.S. Army, second to Lester in Vegas last year, is another competitor to keep an eye on. Cooper is ranked fourth and is a past World Team member and U.S. Nationals champion. Cooper was second at the Sunkist Kids Open, falling to Rial in the finals. He was third at the Dave Schultz Memorial, falling 3-0, 1-1 to Lester.
There is plenty of experience and talent at this weight with other top competitors that include James Shillow of the U.S. Marines, Oscar Wood of the U.S. Army, Mike Ellsworth of the Michigan Wrestling Club, Jacob Curby of the Gator Wrestling Club, Mervin Ford of the Gator Wrestling Club and Tim Bleau of the USOEC.
Three USOEC wrestlers - Curby, Ford and Bleau - have provided depth at this weight class. They all are getting overseas competition and should be improved.
Wood competed in the 2004 Olympic Games, his best season by far on the national scene. He has had close matches with all of the top challengers, but is still seeking to find regain that magic he had two years ago.
Wood finished third this season at both the Sunkist Kids Open and the New York Athletic Club Holiday Championship.
Shillow has been ranked as high as second on Greco-Roman Team USA in the past. He did not compete last season, but has already shown this year that he should be right in the mix with this field.
Ellsworth is a crafty veteran who is capable of putting together a strong tournament in Vegas.
Utah Valley's Cam Jones, who won two matches in Vegas last year, may be another wrestler to watch. He was seeded seventh last year at the U.S. Nationals. Others to watch are Kelly Pederson of the U.S. Marine Corps and Matt Stenglein of the New York Athletic Club.
It will be interesting to see how much progress Lester continues to make this year after a superb 2005. He will be tough to beat. Some of the veterans in this class won't make it easy on him. Guys like Cooper and Wood are proven winners and know how to perform under pressure.
2005 U.S. NATIONALS RESULTS
1st - Harry Lester, Akron, Ohio (USOEC/Gator WC) dec. Marcel Cooper, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army), 3-0, 1-0
3rd - Glenn Garrison, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army) dec. Mark Rial, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC), 1-0, 1-0
5th - Oscar Wood, Fountain, Colo. (U.S. Arny) pinned Mike Ellsworth, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Michigan WC), 3:45
7th - Jacob Curby, LaGrange, Ill. (Gator WC) dec. Mervin Ford, Miami Beach, Fla. (Gator WC), 6-3, 1-0
THEMAT.COM RANKINGS FOR MARCH 2006
1. Harry Lester, Akron, Ohio (USOEC/Gator WC)
2. Glenn Garrison, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
3. Mark Rial, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC)
4. Marcel Cooper, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
5. James Shillow, Quantico, Va. (U.S. Marines)
6. Oscar Wood, Fountain, Colo. (U.S. Army)
7. Mike Ellsworth, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Michigan WC)
8. Jacob Curby, LaGrange, Ill. (USOEC/Gator WC)
9. Mervin Ford, Miami, Fla. (USOEC/Gator WC)
10. Tim Bleau, Ishpeming, Mich. (USOEC)