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|U.S. Nationals preview at 84 kg/185 lbs. in men's freestyle wrestling|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
The ultra-talented and explosive Mo Lawal of the Gator Wrestling Club placed seventh in his first World meet last year and appears primed to make a run at a medal this year.
Lawal continues to improve at 84 kg/185 pounds as he gains freestyle experience on the international level. Lawal, 25, also won a championship in the inaugural season of Real Pro Wrestling.
Lawal has been on a major roll again this season, winning the Super Cup in Russia, the Dave Schultz Memorial, the Yasar Dogu in Turkey and the Uzbekistan Cup. Lawal also has improved his strength significantly and has become a much better all-around wrestler.
Veteran Lee Fullhart of the Gator Wrestling Club is considered the top challenger for Lawal. The physical, bruising Fullhart lost to Lawal in the finals of the U.S. Nationals and the World Team Trials.
Fullhart won the U.S. Nationals in 2004, beating Cael Sanderson in the finals. Sanderson, now the head coach at Iowa State, came back to outlast Fullhart in a thrilling finals series at the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis.
Two-time NCAA champion Chris Pendleton of the Gator Wrestling Club, who just finished his collegiate career last year at Oklahoma State, is a rising star in this class. Pendleton was third at the Sunkist Kids Open and took third in the Henri Deglane Challenge in France.
Former Michigan standout Andy Hrovat of the New York Athletic Club has had tremendous success in this division, and is seeking his first trip to the U.S. Nationals finals. Hrovat won the Sunkist Kids and Henri Deglane meets, beating Pendleton at both events.
Another young up-and-comer to watch is Missouri junior Ben Askren, the reigning Hodge Trophy winner who just captured his first NCAA title. The funky, wide-open Askren, who wrestles for the Sunkist Kids, is ranked eighth and is considered an excellent prospect in freestyle. He placed fifth in the 2005 World Team Trials.
Also expected to be in the hunt are Greg Parker of the New York Athletic Club, Aaron Simpson of the Sunkist Kids, Clint Wattenburg of the New York Athletic Club, Tyler Nixt of the Hawkeye Training Club and Tony Gansen of the Gator Wrestling Club.
Nixt was third in Vegas last year while Wattenburg was fourth, Simpson fifth, David Bertolino of the Cyclone Wrestling Club seventh and Nate Patrick of the New York Athletic Club eighth.
Simpson was second at the Sunkist Kids meet, falling 7-1, 5-2 to Hrovat in the finals. Nixt was second at the New York AC tournament, losing to Hrovat in the finals.
Lawal is the clear-cut favorite to win here, but Fullhart is very hard to wrestle and very tough to score on. Beating Fullhart is never an easy chore, but Lawal looks poised to do something very special in the near-future and may win a World medal this year. It will be interesting to see how Askren fares after he rolled through the collegiate season with a 45-0 record.
2005 U.S. NATIONALS RESULTS
1st - Mo Lawal, Stillwater, Okla. (Gator WC) dec. Lee Fullhart, Blacksburg, Va. (Gator WC), 1-1, 1-1, 2-1
3rd - Tyler Nixt, Iowa City, Iowa (Hawkeye WC) dec. Clint Wattenburg, Ithaca, N.Y. (New York AC), 1-0, 1-0
5th - Aaron Simpson, Tempe, Ariz. (Sunkist Kids) won by injury default over Andy Hrovat, Ann Arbor, Mich. (New York AC)
7th - David Bertolino, Mount Pleasant, Ohio (Cyclone WC) dec. Nate Patrick, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC), 2-1, 3-2
THEMAT.COM RANKINGS FOR MARCH 2006
1. Mo Lawal, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC)
2. Lee Fullhart, Christiansburg, Va. (Gator WC)
3. Andy Hrovat, Ann Arbor, Mich. (New York AC)
4. Chris Pendleton, Stillwater, Okla. (Gator WC)
5. Greg Parker, New York, N.Y. (New York AC)
6. Aaron Simpson, Tempe, Ariz. (Sunkist Kids)
7. Clint Wattenburg, Ithaca, N.Y. (New York AC)
8. Ben Askren, Hartland, Wis. (Sunkist Kids)
9. Tyler Nixt, Iowa City, Iowa (Hawkeye TC)
10. Tony Gansen, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC)