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Kelly beats Chun in two straight matches to win Women's Wrestle-off for U.S. World Team



COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Mary Kelly had just won the biggest matches of her life.

But she couldn't help but feel bad for her friend.

Kelly (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) defeated long-time friend Clarissa Chun (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) in two straight matches to win a Special Wrestle-off for the U.S. Women's World Team at 48 kg/105.5 lbs.

Kelly swept the best-of-3 freestyle series on Wednesday morning in the Sports Center II upstairs gymnasium at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Kelly and Chun hugged after the second match.

"I don't want to see Clarissa upset or hurt, and I'm sure she wouldn't want to see me that way either," Kelly said. "I know how discouraging it is to lose a big match like this with so much at stake. I just told her 'good job' after the match. I feel bad for her - it's kind of a tough situation for us to be in as friends."

In the first match, Kelly won in two straight periods, 1-0, 3-0. Kelly scored all of her points on counter takedowns, controlling the action in both periods.

The second match also went to Kelly by a 3-0, 2-1 margin. Kelly used another counter to catch Chun on her back late in the first period to break a scoreless deadlock. In the second period, Kelly trailed 1-0 before firing in on a single-leg shot and finishing for a takedown with 26 seconds left to tie the score 1-1. She added an insurance takedown, countering a desperation shot by Chun in the final seconds of the period.

Kelly will represent the United States at the World Wrestling Championships in Guangzhou, China, Sept. 25-Oct. 1. This is her first U.S. World Team berth on the Senior level. Kelly is scheduled to compete on Sept. 29. She now is part of an experienced and talented U.S. women's freestyle team. Five of the seven Americans already have won medals at the World Championships.

The Special Wrestle-off was necessary when Chun, the 2006 U.S. Nationals champion, was injured and could not compete at the Women's World Team Trials in Colorado Springs in June. As the national champion, Chun had the opportunity to postpone the final series for the World Team spot to a later date.

Kelly qualified for the Special Wrestle-off by winning the title at the Women's World Team Trials. Chun was hoping to make her second World Team. She competed at the 2000 World Championships. Chun will travel to China and serve as Kelly's training partner for the World meet.

Making Kelly's win extra special was having her father, Jerry, in her corner serving as her coach on Wednesday. Jerry Kelly was an NCAA runner-up for Oklahoma State. He's been in Colorado Springs the last week, helping his daughter prepare for the match with Chun.

"My dad has been going over some technique with me and pointed out some things I was doing wrong and we corrected them," Mary said. "He really helped me a lot in getting ready for this match. I can't thank him enough."

The moment was special for dad as well.

"I'm extremely proud of Mary," Jerry said. "I'm pretty excited for her. She's worked really hard - she looked extremely good the whole week leading up to this match. She cut her weight right and did everything right. Her drilling was right and she came up with a great game plan and stuck to it. She didn't get too nervous or too excited before the match, and stayed pretty calm in her approach."

Kelly moved out to Colorado Springs earlier this year to concentrate solely on wrestling at the Olympic Training Center after spending time at the U.S. Olympic Education Center program at Northern Michigan.

"Coming out to Colorado and training full-time out here has made a big difference for Mary," Jerry said. "She really wants to make the 2008 Olympic Team, and she is focusing only on wrestling right now and I think that has helped her."

Kelly, who will turn 23 on Oct. 2, was a 1999 Cadet World champion and a 2000 Junior World silver medalist.

"I'm pretty happy to finally make a World Team," Kelly said. "I've been No. 2 and No. 3 for a really long time and I've been really close to the top since I was in high school. There were times when I kind of questioned if I was ever going to get it done. I've been at it for a long time, so it's great to finally do it. It feels really good."

The 5-foot-3 Kelly, who placed second at the 2005 World Team Trials at 51 kg/112.25 pounds, dropped back down to 105.5 this year and it has paid off. Kelly won a number of scrambles on Wednesday against the 4-foot-11 Chun, who was unable to generate much offense against her taller opponent.

"I was really worried before the matches started," Kelly said. "Clarissa is a really good opponent and she's really quick."

Chun injured her left knee shortly after the U.S. Nationals in April and did not return to the mat until last month.

"I didn't move very well in the first match and made myself a pretty easy target for her by standing right in front of her," Chun said. "I didn't wrestle the way I know I could have. Give Mary credit - she did a good job."

Kelly wants to take full advantage of her opportunity to compete at the World Championships.

"I have another month to prepare and get ready for the World Championships," she said. "Hopefully, I will come back from China with a medal."

Mary Kelly (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) defeats Clarissa Chun (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids), two matches to none

Match 1: Kelly dec. Chun, 1-0, 3-0

First period
Kelly counters an attack by Chun and spins around her for a takedown with 1:03 left to lead 1-0.

Second period
Kelly counters a Chun attack and spins around her for a takedown with 1:38 left to lead 1-0. Kelly scores on a pushout with 49 seconds left to lead 2-0. Kelly uses a front headlock and spins around for a takedown with 37 seconds left to lead 3-0.

Match 2: Kelly dec. Chun, 3-0, 2-1

First period
Kelly counters Chun and cranks her to her back with 20 seconds left and nearly pins her before time runs out. She gains a one-point takedown and two points for exposure to win the period 3-0.

Second period
Chun comes out aggressively and uses a throw-by to go behind Kelly and gain a takedown with 1:26 left to lead 1-0. Kelly strikes back by firing in on a single-leg shot and finishing for a takedown with 26 seconds left to tie it 1-1. Needing a takedown to stay alive, Chun's desperation shot is countered by Kelly, who adds a takedown with one second left.

Third-place wrestle-off at 48 kg/105.5 lbs.
Stephanie Murata (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) pinned Sara Fulp-Allen (El Granada, Calif./Menlo College), 1:15.


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