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WCAP wrestlers George, Byers to face world's best at 2006 World Championships



Two Soldiers in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program have qualified for the 2006 World Wrestling Championships.

Sgt. Tina George recently joined WCAP teammate Staff Sgt. Dremiel Byers on Team USA scheduled to compete Sept. 26 through Oct. 1 at the World Wrestling Championships in Guangzhou, China. Both are stationed at Fort Carson, Colo.

A two-time world silver medalist in the women's 121-pound freestyle division, George made her seventh U.S. world team June 30 by defeating reigning national champion Sharon Jacobson of El Cajon, Calif., in the Women's World Team Trials for USA Wrestling at Colorado Springs (Colo.) Christian School.

George won the first match against Gator Wrestling Club's Jacobson by scores of 1-1, 4-6, 5-3 and prevailed 6-4, 7-1 in the second round of their best-of-three championship series.

"It showcased the level of training that I've been in," said George, 27, who regularly wrestles against men in the Army World Class Athlete Program. "It was a very physical match. At the end of the second match, she had me in a move that could have been a pinning combination but I decided then that I wasn't getting pinned and I wasn't going to go to three matches."

George hopes to next atone for setbacks at the hands of Japan's Saori Yoshida, a three-time world champion who defeated her in the finals of the 2003 World Championships at New York's Madison Square Garden and at the 2002 World Championships in Halkida, Greece.

"The woman to beat is Yoshida and I think my chances this year are higher than any other year," George said. "I'm actually really looking forward to competing against her and showing her what I've learned. I don't feel the normal stress of year-round competition because I had quite a bit of time off this year. As a result, I'm not feeling the typical burnout. I think it's going to be a great year for me."

Byers, the 2002 world champion in the Greco-Roman 264.5-pound division, earned his third berth in the World Championships at the men's World Team Trials for USA Wrestling on May 27 in Sioux City, Iowa.

"I want to be more aggressive on my feet, for sure, and just really avoid making any of those mental mistakes that I did last year," said Byers, who lost in the second round of the 2005 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, to eventual fifth-place finisher Georgiv Tsurtsumia of Kazakhstan. "It's kind of a redemption thing at this point - focus on getting into the body on these guys and getting back to the guy who won the world in 2002."

Byers hopes to get another opportunity to wrestle reigning world champion Mijail Lopez of Cuba, who defeated him in the heavyweight finale of the 2006 Pan American Championships on June 3 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"In the Pan Am Championships, the first period was all of what it was supposed to have been and then my mind went south," Byers said of his most recent showdown with Lopez. "He picked it up and then it wasn't even a fight anymore, so I need to get that back. That's been haunting me and bothering me so I've got to fix that."

Although Byers' ultimate goal is to win an Olympic gold medal as promised for his deceased grandfather, he contends that the world championships is the toughest test in amateur wrestling.

"You're going to get a good showing from everybody there because everybody is putting their best out," Byers said. "In the rest of the world, that's more important than the Olympics. That's just the way it is. I know now that it's harder to win a world championship than an Olympic medal. Only 20 [athletes in each weight class] compete in the Olympics and everyone is at the World Championships.

"I just want to be on that podium. I want to get our flag raised and our song played. That's most important right now."


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