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13 wrestlers hope to repeat after reaching finals of U.S. Nationals



LAS VEGAS - Thirteen returning champions will have an opportunity to hit the jackpot again as they will try to successfully defend their titles Saturday night in the finals of the U.S. National Championships.

Zach Roberson of the Sunkist Kids is going to do everything in his power to prevent one wrestler from repeating.

The fourth-seeded Roberson will try to knock off defending champion Michael Lightner of the Sunkist Kids in the freestyle finals at 132 pounds after upsetting top seed Mike Zadick of the Hawkeye Training Club 0-1, 1-0, 2-0 in Saturday morning's semifinal round.

"This is a very big win for me," Roberson said. "He works real hard and I tried to wear him down a little bit. I just kept attacking the legs and was able to pull it out. He beat me last year in a close match at the World Team Trials. This is my first time in the finals in this tournament and I hope to keep it going in the finals."

The finals in men's and women's freestyle, and Greco-Roman are set for 6 o'clock Saturday night at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Six of the seven returning champions in freestyle - Lightner, Chris Bono (145.5), Joe Williams (163), Mo Lawal (185), Daniel Cormier (211.5) and Tolly Thompson (264.5) - can repeat Saturday night.

Returning champions who are back in the finals in Greco-Roman include Joe Warren (132.25), Brad Vering (184), Justin Ruiz (211.5) and Dremiel Byers (264.5). Byers is a 2002 World champion and Ruiz won a World bronze medal in 2005.

Returning champs who advanced to the women's freestyle finals include Stephanie Murata (105.5), Sally Roberts (130) and Kristie Marano (158.5). Murata has dropped a class after winning this event at 112.25 last year. Marano has bumped up a division after winning at 147.5 last year in Las Vegas.

Roberson, an NCAA champion for Iowa State, nearly squared off against his good buddy and fellow Cyclone national champion Nate Gallick in the finals. But the second-seeded Lightner came from behind to score on a late step out in the closing seconds to edge Gallick in a thrilling semifinal bout. Gallick won the first period, but Lightner stormed back to prevail.

Unseeded veteran Mike Ellsworth of the New York Athletic Club upset No. 1 seed Glenn Garrison of the U.S. Army in the Greco-Roman semis at 145.5.

High school phenom Henry Cejudo of the Sunkist Kids reached the freestyle finals at 121 pounds. The third-seeded Cejudo continues his rapid ascent up the ladder in the U.S. after downing No. 2 Luke Eustice of the Hawkeye Training Club.

Lawal, who wrestles for the Gator Wrestling Club, halted the impressive run of upsets by unseeded Travis Pascoe of the Sunkist Kids. Lawal beat Pascoe 4-0, 4-0 in the freestyle semifinals at 84 kg/185 lbs.

Pascoe knocked off two-time NCAA champion Chris Pendleton of the Gator Wrestling club 5-3, 4-4 in the first round before following with a 1-0, 1-0 quarterfinal win over No. 5 seed Aaron Simpson of the Sunkist Kids. The fourth-seeded Pendleton placed third at the World Team Trials last year.

Top seed Tina George of the U.S. Army suffered a stunning upset loss in the first round at 121 lbs. when she was caught and pinned one minute into her match against Leigh Jaynes of the Gator Wrestling Club. George is a two-time World silver medalist.

Another major upset came when defending U.S. Nationals champion Sam Hazewinkel of the Gator Wrestling Club suffered a 7-1, 1-2, 6-4 loss to Josh Habeck of the U.S. Army. Hazewinkel was the No. 2 seed in Greco-Roman at 121 lbs.

Another first-round shocker came in freestyle at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. when unseeded J.D. Bergman of Ohio International upset No. 2 seed Sean Stender of the Sunkist Kids 1-0, 4-2.

SEMIFINAL MATCH SUMMARIES

MEN'S FREESTYLE


At 121 pounds, top seed Matt Azevedo of the Sunkist Kids was never in danger in controlling Collin Cudd of the Badger Wrestling Club 1-0, 3-0. Azevedo moved up to the top seed after 2000 Olympic silver medalist Sammie Henson chose not to compete. Henson had been the No. 1 seed before pulling out of the event.

In the other semifinal at 121, high school phenom and No. 3 seed Henry Cejudo of the Sunkist Kids used his aggressive, hard-charging style to pull out a gritty 2-2, 3-2 win over former NCAA runner-up and No. 2 seed Luke Eustice of the Hawkeye Training Club. Cejudo continues his rapid climb up the ladder in this class.

At 132 pounds, No. 4 seed Zach Roberson of the Sunkist Kids shot in on a single in the third period and drove No. 1 Mike Zadick of the Hawkeye Training Club out of bounds for the decisive points in an upset win. The scrappy Zadick won the first period 1-0 before Roberson came back to win 1-0, 2-0.

Defending champion Michael Lightner, the No. 2 seed, scored the winning point in the other semifinal at 132 after a step-out in the final seconds of the third period over No. 3 Nick Gallick of the Sunkist Kids. Lightner opened up and attacked the legs to win the second period 4-1 after dropping the first period 3-0 to Gallick, who won an NCAA title last month.

At 145.5 pounds, defending champion and top seed Chris Bono of the Sunkist Kids regrouped after dropping the first period in a 2-2, 2-0, 2-0 win over No. 5 Doug Schwab of the Gator Wrestling Club. Schwab was unable to generate any offense in the final two periods against the stocky Bono, who is on a mission to win his first World medal this year.

Former World Team member and No. 6 seed Bill Zadick followed his upset of No. 3 Eric Larkin by pulling out a tight 0-2, 1-1, 1-0 win over No. 2 seed Jared Lawrence in the other semifinal at 145.5. Zadick held off a late charge by Lawrence in the third period.

At 163 pounds, World bronze medalist Joe Williams of the Sunkist Kids received an early wake-up call when he was turned repeatedly in dropping the first period 7-0 to long-time rival Joe Heskett of the Gator Wrestling Club. Williams came back with an assortment of strong leg attacks to win the final two periods 2-0 and 2-1.

In the other semifinal at 163, No. 2 seed Donny Pritzlaff of the New York Athletic Club neutralized No. 3 Tyrone Lewis of the Gator Wrestling Club in a tight 0-1, 2-0, 2-0 win. Pritzlaff overcame a slow start to seize control in the final two periods.

At 185 pounds, No. 1 Mo Lawal's explosive abilities were on full display in a convincing 4-0, 4-0 victory over unseeded Travis Pascoe of the Sunkist Kids. Lawal, who competes for the Gator Wrestling Club, fired in on a textbook double-leg takedown and was the aggressor throughout the match. Pascoe had knocked off No. 4 seed Chris Pendleton and No. 5 seed Aaron Simpson to reach the semis.

Also at 185, No. 2 Lee Fullhart of the Gator Wrestling Club won a bruising, physical battle with No. 3 Andy Hrovat of the New York Athletic Club by a 3-0, 2-0 score. Hrvoat was unable to generate much offense against the burly Fullhart, who traditionally is very hard to score on.

At 211.5 pounds, No. 1 Daniel Cormier of the Gator Wrestling Club showed little rust from not competing much this season by scoring a 3-0, 2-0 win over No. 4 seed Damion Hahn. Cormier took control early with his superior athleticism and power, getting to Hahn's legs with his attacking style.

Also at 211.5, No. 3 seed Nik Fekete of the New York Athletic Club continues to climb the ladder by outlasting unseeded J.D. Bergman of the Ohio International Wrestling Club 4-1, 2-2, 2-0 in three periods. Bergman earlier knocked off No. 2 seed Sean Stender of the Sunkist Kids in the first round.

At 264.5 pounds, top seed and World bronze medalist Tolly Thompson of the Sunkist Kids shot in for a takedown in the first 15 seconds en route to a win over No. 4 Mike Irving of the Gator Wrestling Club. Thompson barreled in on a single-leg shot late in the first period to build a 3-0 edge. Thompson powered in again on a leg attack early in the second period to go up 1-0. Thompson then countered a shot attempt and threw Irving to his back to gain a pin.

No. 2 seed Steve Mocco of the New York Athletic Club defeated No. 3 Tommy Rowlands of the Sunkist Kids in the other 264.5 semifinal. It was a rematch of the 2002 NCAA finals, won by Rowlands. The first two minutes were scoreless before Rowlands wins the coin flip and the period after driving Mocco out of bounds with the single he received in the leg clinch. Mocco countered a shot by Rowlands, turned and launches him for a four-point throw to win the second period 4-0. Mocco was called for stepping out of bounds with 30 seconds left, but after reviewing the tape, it was determined Rowlands stepped out. The only point of the third period decided the outcome.

GRECO-ROMAN

At 121 pounds, top-seeded Lindsey Durlacher of the New York AC qualified for the finals with a two-period victory over Jermaine Hodge of the U.S. Army, 5-1, 4-0. Durlacher scored takedowns in the first part of both periods, and was able to score in the reverse lift both times..

On the other side, Spenser Mango of the USOEC/Gator WC made his first U.S. Nationals finals with a two-period win over veteran Neil Rodak of the U.S. Army, 6-0, 5-0. Mango made a five-point throw from the reverse bodylock to win both periods. His opportunity opened when returning national champion Sam Hazewinkel of the Gator WC was upset in his first match.

At 132 pounds, No. 1 Joe Warren of the New York AC dominated the action, winning by pin in the second period over Kerry Regner of the USOEC, 2-1, 1:25. In the second period, Warren tossed him with a big throw, then pinned him.

In the other semifinal, a mild upset occurred when Jeremiah Davis of the Sunkist Kids scored a two-period victory over No. 2 James Johnson of the U.S. Army, 4-0, 2-1. Davis got a nice throw from the reverse lift position in the first period, and outlasted Johnson in a tough second period.

At 145.5 pounds, unseeded veteran Mike Ellsworth of the New York AC defeated top-seeded Glenn Garrison of the U.S. Army in a tight three-period match, 3-0, 2-4, 3-2. Ellsworth won the bout on a three-point throw late in the match.

2001 World Team member Marcel Cooper of the U.S. Army advanced to the finals with a two-period victory over Mark Rial of the Gator WC, 4-0, 5-0. Cooper was able to score points on lifts in both periods, and did not let Rial get an offense going.

At 163 pounds, three-time World Team member T.C. Dantzler of the Gator WC used his throwing ability to defeat Cheney Haight of the USOEC/New York AC in two straight periods, 4-0, 6-0, Dantzler scored a three-point throw from the reverse lift clinch in both periods.

In a battle of U.S. Army teammates, Keith Sieracki needed three periods to defeat Jess Hargrave, 5-0, 1-1, 3-0. Sieracki was able to turn Hargrave from the top position a number of times in the first period, but Hargrave won a tight second period. Sieracki was in control in the deciding third period.

At 185 pounds, 2004 Olympian Brad Vering of the New York AC was able to win the reverse lift positions in both periods to defeat Aaron Sieracki of the U.S. Army, 3-1. 4-1.

No. 2 Jake Clark of the U.S. Marines earned another chance to Vering in the championship finals, with a solid 3-0, 1-1 win over Brad Ahearn of the U.S. Army.

At 211.5 pounds, 2005 World bronze medalist Justin Ruiz of the New York AC was tough on the top during his 6-0, 4-0 win over veteran Kevin Vogel of Cliff Keen. Ruiz had two three-point throws in the first period, then scored another one in the second period.

No. 2 Adam Wheeler of the USOEC/Gator WC was in control throughout in a 3-2, 5-0 win over Al Sankey of the U.S. Army. Wheeler will get a chance to face Ruiz again, who beat him in the 2005 U.S. Nationals finals.

At 264.5 pounds, 2002 World champion Dremiel Byers of the U.S. Army scored a two-period win over Brandon Ruiz of the Sunkist Kids in the semifinals, 4-0, 6-0. In the second period, Byers was able to turn Ruiz with gutwrenches to finish off the win with a technical fall.

Russ Davie of the New York AC defeated Frank Workman of the U.S. Marines in the other bracket, winning 8-0, 3-2. Davie cored five points quickly in the first period then ended the period with a technical fall on a throw from the reverse lift. In the second period, there were no points from the feet, but Davie scored more during the reverse lock positions for the win.

WOMEN'S FREESTYLE

At 105.5 pounds, top-seeded Clarissa Chun of the Gator WC advanced to the finals with a decision over Sara Fulp-Allen of Menlo College, 4-0, 1-0. Chun controlled the action and scored the only point in the second period.

In the other bracket, a competitive battle went to eight-time U.S. Nationals champion Stephanie Murata will have a chance for another title after beating Mary Kelly of the USOEC/New York AC, 4-3, 1-0.over Mary Kelly, Murata locked up a cradle in the first period to edge Kelly, 4-2 and scored the only takedown in the

At 112 pounds. 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Patricia Miranda of the Sunkist Kids made the national finals after taking a year off, by defeating Juliet Okot of the New York AC in two straight periods, 3-0, 7-0. In the second period, Miranda was able to turn Okot a number of times to score the technical fall in that period.

In the other bracket, 2003 World bronze medalist Jenny Wong of the Sunkist Kids needed to get a third-period leg clinch takedown to edge Jessica Medina of the Univ. of the Cumberlands, 0-1, 2-0, 1-0. Medina won the first period, but Wong came back for a razor-thin win over this improving college star.

At 121 pounds, Malinda Ripley of the Sunkist Kids, competing up at a new weight class, advanced to the finals with a bruising three-period win over Amy Borgnini of USOEC/New York AC, 1-1, 1-1, 5-0. Borgnini won the first period and Ripley the second. In the deciding period, a crotch-lift turn by Ripley was key in her dominating the period to get the win.

In the other bracket, Sharon Jacobson of the USOEC/Gator WC scored a second period win over Tina Pihl of Team Dream. Jacobson was in control of the match throughout, and earned her first trip to the U.S. Nationals finals.

At 130 pounds, two-time World bronze medalist Sally Roberts of the Gator WC stopped Othella Lucas of the New York AC by pin in the second period, 8-0, 1:14. Roberts scored a technical fall in a dominant opening period, and was able to turn Lucas to her back, and press for the fall in the second period.

The other bracket went to No. 2. ErinTomeo of the Sunkist Kids, who pinned young star Deanna Rix of the New York AC in the first period in 1:01. Tomeo recently dropped down to 130 pounds. A two-time runner-up, Tomeo seeks to win her first U.S. Nationals title.

At 138.75 pounds, 2004 Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann of the Sunkist Kids was dominant in her semifinal match, scoring a second period fall over Rachel Billerbeck of Missouri Valley College, 6-0, 0:18. McMann used an ankle lace to get multiple turns for a first-period technical fall, then turned her quickly in the second period for the pin

In a upset in the other bracket, Jackie Cataline of Cataline's Wildcats defeated No. 2 Alaina Berube of the New York AC, 2-0, 0-1, 4-1. In the deciding period, Cataline hit a three-point hiptoss to score the winning points late in the period.

At 147.5 pounds, 2005 World b ronze medalist Katie Downing of the Sunkist Kids dominated the match over Shelly Ruberg of the Univ. of the Cumberlands, 4-0, 7-0. Downing finished the match off with a technical fall in the second period.

In a battle of college students, Randi Miller of the USOEC/Gator WC scored all of the points in a 2-0, 3-0 win over former U.S. Nationals runner-up Heather Martin of the New York AC, who attends the Univ. of the Cumberlands. It will be Miller's first trip to the U.S. Nationals finals.

At 158.5 pounds, two-time World champion Kristie Marano of the New York AC reached the finals with a dominant 2-0, 5-0 win over Donell Bradley of the USOEC. Marano was able to win the takedown positions, and turned Bradley for back exposure during the match.

Earning a spot in the finals, in a rugged three-period match, was Stephany Lee of Missouri Valley, who got past two-time Junior World champion Ali Bernard of the Gator WC, 1-0, 1-2, 4-3. In the deciding period, Lee jumped to a 4-0, and Bernard got three points on a throw in the final seconds which was too little too late.
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