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U.S. Nationals preview at 55 kg/121 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling



Tina George of the U.S. Army has been the dominant athlete at the 55 kg/121 lbs. division for many years in women's wrestling. She is strong, fast, talented and experienced. Beating Tina George is the first step for anybody to reach their wrestling goals. A two-time World silver medalist, George has proven she can compete among the best in the world. However, George has also fallen short of some of her goals. She did not make the 2004 U.S. Olympic team, losing to Tela O'Donnell in the Olympic Trials finals. George has not yet won a World title, either, something that fuels her passion for continuing to compete.

For much of this season, it looked like this might be the year for Marcie Van Dusen of the Sunkist Kids to topple George from the top spot and to pursue World medals of her own. Van Dusen, who lost to George in a Special Wrestle-off last year for the World Team spot, made a big statement by beating George at the Sunkist Kids International Open. She then won three straight gold medals at other international meets, the New York AC Holiday International, the Henri Deglane Challenge in France and the Ivan Yarygin Memorial in Russia. Her final event of the winter season was a silver medal at the Dave Schultz Memorial, losing only to Olympic silver medalist Tonya Verbeek of Canada.

However, Van Dusen was injured in training and requires surgery, knocking her out the U.S. Nationals and possibly ending her season. While she goes into rehab in the coming months, it will be up to others in the division to push George and attempt to become the new star at this weight class.

Emerging as a top talent in this division is Sharon Jacobson of the Gator WC, who is a member of the USOEC Women's team at Northern Michigan Univ. She was a disappointing fifth in the World Team Trials process last year, after winning a bronze medal at the U.S. Nationals a year ago. But Jacobson has rebounded with a strong season so far this year, winning medals at the New York AC Holiday International and the Dave Schultz Memorial.

Taking the No. 3 spot on the U.S. Women's National team was high school star Chelynne Pringle of the Minnesota Storm, who has been very active on the national and international circuit this year. Pringle has competed in five international tournaments this season, with a best finish being a bronze medal at the Vebhi Emre Grand Prix in Turkey.

One of the top wrestlers who has been out of action this year is Danyelle Hedin of the USOEC, who is expected to return to action in the spring. Hedin was seventh at the U.S. Nationals last year, and qualified for the Junior World Team for the second straight time. Her silver medal at the Junior World Championships marked her as a hot prospect, and she should be very difficult if she is at full strength in the tournaments ahead.

Among those who are always competitive in this division is veteran Tina Pihl, who trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. She wrestled well last year at the World Team Trials, getting a No. 4 national ranking on Women's TeamUSA. In 2004, Pihl tried out for both the U.S. and Canadian Olympic teams, because of dual citizenship. This year, her best finish was a gold medal at the Vehbi Emri Grand Prix in Turkey.

The USOEC has other wrestlers who are having solid seasons. Amy Borgnini has a victory over Pihl at the Dave Schultz Memorial. Nicole Darrow is a freshman at Northern Michigan, and is showing potential at some international tournaments.

A high school star to watch is Tatiana Padilla of the California Grapplers, who won the FILA Cadet Nationals last year, then also claimed a gold medal at the Junior Nationals in Fargo, beating Darrow in the finals of both tournaments. Still another tough high school star is Sara Peasley of Team Intensity, who has placed high at many age-group national events and is testing herself regularly on the Senior level.

A surprise fourth-place finish was turned in at the U.S. Nationals last year by Texas high school star LeAnn Barney of Rock Wrestling. Barney competed in the World Team Trials and did not earn a placement, but has already shown the toughness needed to win matches at this level. Another placewinner from last year's U.S. Nationals, Clarissa Calibuso of Missouri Valley, should not be overlooked.

The college programs will provide some new faces, all who are young and developing. The Women's College National champion at this division is Sharlie Solis of Missouri Balley, followed by Courtney Martell of Missouri Valley and Tara Williams of the Univ. of the Cumberlands. It will be difficult for one of these athletes tomake it to the medal rounds, but they are certainly wrestlers to watch on the national level in years to come.

The question at 55 kg/121 lbs. in women's wrestling remains the same as it has for many years. Can anybody beat Tina George? It seems the best shot belongs to Sharon Jacobson, but a number of other young wrestlers would love to have the chance to give George a tough tussle. With Van Dusen on the sidelines, this could be a year to see somebody break from the pack and become a serious contender for years to come.

2005 U.S. NATIONALS RESULTS AT 55 KG/121 LBS.
1st - Tina George, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC) dec. Marcie Van Dusen, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids), 4-0, 2-1
3rd - Sharon Jacobson, El Cajon, Calif. (USOEC) dec. LeAnn Barney, Austin, Texas (Rock Wrestling), 7-0, 6-6
5th - Chelynne Pringle, Hugo, Minn. (Minnesota Storm) dec. Amy Borgnini, Terre Haute, Ind. (USOEC), 3-1, 2-2
7th - Danyelle Hedin, Honolulu, Hawaii (USOEC) pin Clarissa Calibuso, Waipahu, Hawaii (Missouri Valley), 0-3, 1:06

THEMAT.COM RANKINGS FOR MARCH 2006
1. Marcie Van Dusen, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
2. Tina George, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC)
3. Sharon Jacobsen, El Cajon, Calif. (USOEC/Gator WC)
4. Chelynne Pringle, Hugo, Minn. (Minnesota Storm)
5. Danyelle Hedin, Kailua, Hawaii (USOEC)
6. Tatiana Padilla, Laverne, Calif. (California Grapplers)
7. Nicole Darrow, Lanesboro, Mass. (USOEC)
8. Amy Borgnini, Terre Haute, Ind. (USOEC)
9. Sara Peasley, Escanaba, Mich. (Team Intensity)
10. Tina Pihl, Colorado Springs, Colo. (unattached)

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