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|U.S. Nationals preview at 74 kg/163 lbs. in men's freestyle wrestling|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Veteran Joe Williams is still the man at 74 kg/163 pounds after winning a bronze medal in freestyle last year at the World Championships. The three-time NCAA champion at Iowa is still seeking his first gold medal on the World or Olympic level.
The 31-year-old Williams of the Sunkist Kids also won bronze in the 2001 World meet and took fifth in the 2004 Olympics. Williams is a six-time U.S. Nationals champion.
Williams has continued to stockpile momentum in 2006. He won the Dave Schultz Memorial, placed second at the Yasar Dogu International in Turkey and recently won the Uzbekistan Independence Cup.
Williams is still explosive and very dangerous. When he opens up, he's very difficult to slow down.
A number of familiar faces are back at 163 pounds to challenge Williams, including Kirk White of the Bronco Wrestling Club, Donny Pritzlaff of the New York Athletic Club, Tyrone Lewis of the Gator Wrestling Club and Joe Heskett of the Gator Wrestling Club.
White is coming off his best season in recent years, taking second behind Williams at both the U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials. Pritzlaff, a 1998 Junior World champion, is showing signs that he is starting to peak in international freestyle. Pritzlaff was second at the New York AC Holiday meet and fifth at the Ivan Yarygin Memorial in Russia.
The athletic Lewis, a member of the 2005 World University Games team, is making his presence known on the Senior level. Lewis won the Sunkist Kids Open and finished second at the Poland Open this year.
Heskett was ranked No. 2 behind Williams in recent years at this weight class. Heskett missed the end of last season with an injury. Heskett lost to Lewis 1-1, 4-0, 1-0 in the finals of the Sunkist Kids Open. He was third at the Henri Deglane Challenge in France.
Also in the mix at 163 are Ramico Blackmon, Matt Gentry of the Sunkist Kids and Scott Owen of the New York Athletic Club along with Sunkist Kids members Carl Fronhofer and Nick Passolano.
Blackmon, a former U.S. Nationals champion, remains dangerous and could place very high in this class.
Gentry, an NCAA champion for Stanford, is among a number of youngsters looking to make their mark at 163. Fronhofer was fourth and Passolano sixth in Las Vegas last year. Gentry recently was named outstanding wrestler at the Rocky Mountain Regionals.
Returning placewinners Luke Becker of the Minnesota Storm, a former NCAA champion at Minnesota, and Eddie Gifford of the Sunkist Kids also are among the other wrestlers to watch in this weight class.
Nathan Coy of the Cobra Wrestling Club placed fifth at the Sunkist Kids meet, falling by decision to Lewis and by fall to Jared Frayer.
Other wrestlers to watch at this weight could be college All-Americans Troy Letters and Derek Zinck of Lehigh, Travis Paulson of Iowa State and Jacob Klein of Nebraska along with Patrick Pitsch and Zac Fryling of the Sunkist Kids. Ray Blake also may be in the mix after winning three matches in Vegas last year.
Williams is still the class of this division and remains a threat to win a gold medal at the World Championships. White has stepped up and is in contention. Expect Heskett to once again make a run at Williams this year as he is back now after being sidelined.
2005 U.S. NATIONALS RESULTS
1st - Joe Williams, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids) dec. Kirk White, Tacoma, Wash. (Bronco WC), 4-1, 1-1, 2-1
3rd - Donny Pritzlaff, Hempstead, N.Y. (New York AC) dec. Carl Fronhofer, Pittsburgh, Pa. (Sunkist Kids), 0-1, 2-0, 7-0
5th - Joe Heskett, Grover Beach, Calif. (Gator WC) won by injury default over Nick Passolano, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids)
7th - Luke Becker, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm) dec. Eddie Gifford, Las Vegas, Nev. (Sunkist Kids), 2-0, 3-2
THEMAT.COM RANKINGS FOR MARCH 2006
1. Joe Williams, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids)
2. Kirk White, Boise, Idaho (Bronco WC)
3. Donny Pritzlaff, Northport, N.Y. (New York AC)
4. Tyrone Lewis, Stillwater, Okla. (Gator WC)
5. Joe Heskett, Grover Beach, Calif. (Gator WC)
6. Ramico Blackmon, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Unattached)
7. Matt Gentry, Stanford, Calif. (Sunkist Kids)
8. Scott Owen, DeKalb, Ill. (New York AC)
9. Carl Fronhofer, Pittsburgh, Pa. (Sunkist Kids)
10. Nick Passolano, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids)