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Brad Vering starts season in impressive fashion by winning gold, silver medals on overseas trip

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Brad Vering seemed destined to win a medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Fifth at the 2002 and 2003 World Championships in Greco-Roman wrestling, the past NCAA champion from the University of Nebraska had gathered the type of momentum and experience that made him a prime candidate to earn an Olympic medal.

But Vering lost his first match at the Olympics and a year later lost in the first round of the 2005 World Championships. He came up short of making his first World-level team in five years when he placed third at the 2006 U.S. World Team Trials at 84 kg/185 pounds.

But don't get the impression Vering's career already has reached its peak. The 29-year-old native of Howells, Neb., is off to a strong start in the 2006-07 season. And he's just as hungry, driven and motivated as he's ever been.

"Nothing has changed for me as far as the way I prepare and how motivated I am to win a World and Olympic medal," Vering said. "It was definitely tough not making the (World) Team this year and mentally it drained me quite a bit. But I'm a firm believer in staying optimistic and that everything happens for a reason. My coaches are behind me and my goals haven't changed. I still want to be the best in the World."

After placing second at the New York AC Holiday International Open on Nov. 19, Vering turned in back-to-back strong performances overseas the following two weekends. He won a silver medal at the Vantaa Cup on Nov. 26 in Vantaa, Finland, before winning a gold medal at the Haparanda Cup on Dec. 3 in Haparanda, Sweden.

"I had three real tough tournaments in three weeks," Vering said. "I haven't weighed in for three tournaments in a row like that since high school. It was a real good mental challenge for us. I felt good during my matches, but during the down time I was pretty exhausted and tired from the time change and everything. I wrestled some tough guys and that will help prepare me for the rest of the season."

Vering, who competes for the New York Athletic Club, is a resident-athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

"Brad Vering is one of the hardest-working wrestlers in our program," said Steve Fraser, USA Wrestling's National Greco-Roman Coach. "He's definitely a legitimate threat to win a future World and Olympic medal. I think his losses this past year have motivated him to work even harder. He has spent many hours adjusting his style to the new rules and he has improved a ton. Brad is a great champion and a fine example of what it takes to be World class."

Vering defeated 2006 U.S. World Team member Jacob Clark in a close, three-period match in the finals in Haparanda. Clark beat Vering in the finals of the 2006 U.S. Nationals, but Vering has won their last two meetings.

"Jake's a great competitor," Vering said. "It's definitely still early in the season and obviously neither one of us has reached our potential for where we will be at U.S. Nationals and the World Team Trials."

Vering entered the 2006 World Team Trials as the No. 2 seed behind Clark, but fell to No. 3 seed Aaron Sieracki in the semifinals. Sieracki lost to Clark in the finals. Vering and Sieracki met again in the finals at the New York AC meet with Sieracki winning a hard-fought, three-period battle.

"Aaron's always been a good competitor," Vering said. "He's a real good situational wrestler. He has good defense and he can score. He's definitely one of the guys in the mix at our weight class."

Like most Greco-Roman wrestlers, Vering has been forced to change his style because of the rules changes FILA implemented last year. The new rules emphasize use of the reverse lift where each wrestler has 30 seconds to turn an opponent while starting from the top position.

"I feel like I've adjusted pretty well to these rules," Vering said. "You just can't make any mistakes with these rules. You really have to be on and anyone can beat anyone. You have to wrestle every situation like it's your last situation. It's a challenge, but we've embraced it and adapted to it."

The American Greco-Roman team matched its best-ever finish by placing third at the 2006 World Championships with Joe Warren winning a gold medal at 60 kg/132 pounds while teammates Lindsey Durlacher (55 kg/121 pounds) and Harry Lester (66 kg/145.5 pounds) each won bronze medals.

The American team looks very strong now with past World Champion Dremiel Byers (120 kg/264.5 pounds) and past World Bronze Medalist Justin Ruiz (96 kg/211.5 pounds) also still on top in their weight classes in the United States. American T.C. Dantzler placed fifth at the 2006 World Championships at 74 kg/163 pounds.

"Joe and Lindsey work hard and have great attitudes, and Harry is a fresh breath of air and really gets after it," Vering said. "Seeing T.C. wrestle well and just miss a medal, that's very inspiring. We also have Byers and Justin, so we're very excited about what this team can do in a couple years at the Olympics."

The U.S. now has at least one wrestler in every Greco-Roman weight class who has placed in the top five at the World Championships.

"We had an outstanding performance as a team at this year's World Championships," Vering said. "I would have loved to have been on that team and contributed to it. We are one, two and sometimes three guys deep at a lot of weight classes now. We have a lot of guys on the team who have medaled. We went from having people question how good our team was to having one of the best teams in the World."

Vering trains with Ruiz, a three-time World Team member who won a bronze medal at the 2005 World Championships. Ruiz also was second in Vantaa and first in Haparanda.

Ruiz was Vering's training partner at the 2004 Olympics and Vering was Ruiz's training partner at the 2006 World Championships in Guangzhou, China. They were teammates for one season at Nebraska.

"Justin and I have a great relationship and we're real good friends," Vering said. "We room together overseas. We really push each other and challenge each other, and calm each other's nerves. He wants to win and I want to win. We both have high goals we want to achieve, so it's good to be around somebody like that."

In addition to training and competing, Vering also is working as a volunteer assistant coach this season at American University in Washington, D.C. Vering spends about one week a month working with wrestlers at American. One of Vering's coaches at Nebraska, Mark Cody, is the head coach at American.

After finishing his collegiate career at Nebraska, Vering spent one season as an assistant coach at Northern Iowa before moving to Colorado Springs.

"Coach Cody is great to be around - he's such a positive person and he's an excellent coach," Vering said. "Coaching is definitely something I have an interest in doing after I finish competing."

One of the wrestlers Vering is working with at American University is All-American Josh Glenn, a junior who is ranked No. 4 nationally at 197 pounds. Glenn was seeded No. 1 at the 2006 NCAA meet before placing fourth at 184.

"Josh is just an animal, he's very tough," Vering said. "He definitely has a shot to win it this year."

Vering's next big event likely will be the Dave Schultz Memorial International Open on Feb. 8-10 in Colorado Springs.

Vering said he plans to compete through at least 2008 and is shooting for a spot in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. For now, the focus is on qualifying for the 2007 World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.

"Making it back to the Olympics and winning a gold medal, that's what I'm shooting for," Vering said. "That's the big goal and the big picture that I'm looking at right now."
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