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U.S. World Freestyle Team motto: Defense wins championships

FARGO, N.D. - World champion Sammie Henson and World bronze medalist Tolly Thompson sat near one end of the table.

World Team rookies Mike Zadick, Donny Pritzlaff and Andy Hrovat sat just to their right signing autographs for a long line of young wrestlers and fans Friday afternoon on the concourse at the FargoDome.

The United States World Freestyle Team is a blend of 30-something veterans like Henson and Thompson along with promising and hungry young wrestlers like Zadick, Pritzlaff and Hrovat.

The U.S. team is in Fargo this week for their first training camp - held in conjunction with the Junior and Cadet Nationals - as they continue preparations for September's World Championships in Guangzhou, China.

"Everything is going real well right now," U.S. World Team Coach Mike Duroe said. "The attitude is good, there is a lot of positive energy and there is some new blood on the team. A couple of the guys aren't in the type of condition that I want them in, but understanding that it's still early I'm not panicked about it. Overall, I'm pleased with the way they've been training."

World Team members Daniel Cormier and Bill Zadick, along with Duroe, also took part in the autograph session that was held in between the team's two workouts on Friday.

"It's going to be a challenge because some of these guys have never wrestled in a World Championship before," Duroe said. "It's very hard to simulate that in training and create that environment, but with the experience our national coaches have we can come pretty close to it in terms of preparing these guys for what is going to happen."

Duroe, USA Wrestling National Freestyle Coach Kevin Jackson and USA Wrestling Resident Freestyle Coach Terry Brands had a specific plan for what they are emphasizing in their Fargo workouts.

"We are really working hard on technique and tactics from a defensive point of view," Duroe said. "We've hit it hard and these guys have bought into it. If they are prepared so well that whatever happens to them is instinctive and they know how to react and know what to do our guys will be competitive. We need to make sure they are ready emotionally and mentally for everything that is going to happen to them. I think our guys will do well, I really do.

"Obviously, our guys all have good offensive techniques and good offensive skills. We're going to work on improving our set-ups and improving our attacks. A point of emphasis for this camp and all of our camps is defense. Defense wins championships, especially with the way our rules are now. If we can get our guys to be more stingy and not give up big points, that is the key to winning periods."

The freestyle team concludes its week-long camp with two more scheduled workouts on Saturday. The team will continue preparations for China with another camp next month at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

The American squad is looking for more hardware after winning just two bronze medals in freestyle at the 2005 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

"These young guys do have something to prove," Duroe said. "Only two of our guys have won a World or Olympic medal and five of these guys haven't proven themselves on the World stage before. That definitely should be a motivating factor."
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