|The nationís top wrestlers set to battle at U.S. Nationals in Las Vegas, Nev., April 14-15|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
America's best wrestlers in the three Olympic styles will compete for national titles and all-American honors at the Las Vegas U.S. National Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas, Nev., April 14-15.
This event is the major qualifying event for the World Team Trials in all three styles. The top seven athletes in each division will enter the World Team Trials tournament in their division. The Men's World Team Trials will be in Sioux City, Iowa, May 27-28. The Women's World Team Trials are set for Colorado Springs, Colo., June 30.
This will be a busy week of wrestling at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The nation's best 17-20 year-old men wrestlers will compete in freestyle and Greco-Roman at the Men's FILA Junior National Championships. In addition, returning to Las Vegas this year will be the Veterans Greco-Roman and Freestyle National Championships, for athletes who are 35-years old and above. As has been the tradition, the Western Junior Regional Championships will also be contested in Las Vegas, featuring many of the nation's best high school athletes competing in men's freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.
All wrestlers who wish to compete in the U.S. National Championships, the Veterans Nationals, the FILA Junior Nationals and the Western Junior Regionals set for Las Vegas, Nev. MUST REGISTER ONLINE. No onsite registration will be available. The Las Vegas Sports Committee, host of these events, has set up a registration page for participants in every division to register at http://www.LVsports.org All athletes in all divisions must register online before Tuesday, April 11 at 9:00 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time). There are NO EXCEPTIONS.
Among the returning champions from last year expected to wrestle are four wrestlers who went on to win medals for the United States at the 2005 World Championships of wrestling. They include
* Joe Williams (Ames, Iowa/Sunkist Kids) at 163 pounds in men's freestyle (World bronze)
* Tolly Thompson (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Sunkist Kids) at 264.5 pounds in men's freestyle (World bronze)
* Justin Ruiz (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) at 211.5 pounds in men's Greco-Roman (World bronze)
* Sally Roberts (Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC) at 130 pounds in women's freestyle (World bronze)
There are also a number of wrestlers who have won multiple U.S. Nationals titles in the past. The athletes in the field who have the most national crowns coming into the tournament this year, by style, include:
* Stephanie Murata, Colorado Springs, Colo (Sunkist Kids) at 105.5 lbs. in women's freestyle (eight U.S. Nationals titles)
* Joe Williams, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids) at 163 pounds in men's freestyle (six U.S. Nationals titles)
* Dremiel Byers, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army) at 264.5 pounds in men's Greco-Roman (five U.S. Nationals titles)
The field may include four past World champions: 2000 and 2003 World champion Kristie Marano (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) in women's freestyle, 2002 World champion Dremiel Byers (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) in men's Greco-Roman and 1998 World champion Sammie Henson (Flintstone, Ga./Sunkist Kids) in men's freestyle.
2005 World champion Iris Smith (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army), who competes at 158.5 pounds in women's freestyle, has been injured and is not expected to wrestle in Las Vegas this year.
2005 Men's Freestyle U.S. Nationals champions
121 - Sammie Henson, Flintstone, Ga. (Sunkist Kids)
132 - Michael Lighter, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
145.5 - Chris Bono, Ringgold, Ga. (Sunkist Kids)
163 - Joe Williams, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids)
185 - Mo Lawal, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC)
211.5 - Daniel Cormier, Stillwater, Okla. (Gator WC)
264.5 - Tolly Thompson, Cedar Falls, Iowa (Sunkist Kids)
2005 Men's Greco-Roman U.S. Nationals champions
121 -Sam Hazewinkel, Pensacola, Fla. (Gator WC)
132 - Joe Warren, Colo. Spgs., Colo (New York AC)
145.5 - Harry Lester, Akron, Ohio (Gator WC)
163 - Darryl Christian, Colo. Spgs., Colo (New York AC)
185 - Brad Vering, Colo. Spgs., Colo (New York AC)
211.5 - Justin Ruiz, Colo. Spgs., Colo (New York AC)
264.5 - Dremiel Byers, Colo. Spgs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
2005 Women's Freestyle U.S. Nationals champions
105.5 - Sara Fulp-Allen, El Granada, Calif (Menlo)
112.25 - Stephanie Murata, Colo. Spgs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
121 - Tina George, Colo. Spgs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
130 - Sally Roberts, Colo. Spgs, Colo. (Gator WC)
138.75 - Alaina Berube, Escanaba, Mich. (New York AC)
147.5 - Kristie Marano, Colo. Spgs, Colo. (New York AC)
158.5 - Iris Smith, Colo. Spgs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
FORMAT CHANGE FOR U.S. NATIONALS IN 2006
Those who attend the U.S. Nationals will find that the format has changed from last year, as well as from previous national tournaments.
What is new this year in the men's divisions in Las Vegas will be a Qualification Tournament held the day prior to the U.S. National Championships. Basically, most of the athletes in each weight class will have to "wrestle in" to compete in the U.S. Nationals.
In the men's divisions at the U.S. Nationals, there will be eight wrestlers in each weight class who do not have to wrestle in that Qualification Tournament. These will include the current members of the U.S. national team (the top three as set at the 2005 World Team Trials), along with those who qualify through the Dave Schultz Memorial, and athletes who are chosen by a Separation Committee to advance directly to the U.S. Nationals.
The final selection of the eight athletes who are separated out and move into Saturday's competition will be made on Tuesday, April 11. See TheMat.com for details.
The Qualification Tournament in men's freestyle and men's Greco-Roman will be held on Friday, April 14. Wrestlers will compete in each weight class until eight wrestlers are left (four in the championship bracket and four in the consolation bracket).
Those eight wrestlers in each weight class will then advance to compete on the following day, joining the eight athletes who were separated out. The U.S. Nationals will feature 16 athletes in each weight class, in a double-elimination bracket, with consolation wrestlebacks to seventh place.
The women's competition at the U.S. Nationals will be held on only one day, Saturday, April 15. All seven weight classes in the women's division will be contested in a single day.
For fans, what this means is that all 21 weight classes at the U.S. Nationals will have their gold-medal finals on Saturday, April 15. Wrestling fans who attend the action on that day will get to see every single champion crowned, seven in each of the Olympic styles.