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U.S. Nationals Greco-Roman preview at 55 kg/121 lbs.



Lindsey Durlacher of the New York AC, who spent many years climbing the ladder in the U.S. ranks, broke through in 2006 with his World bronze medal. It was his second appearance at the World level, after many years behind star wrestlers such as Brandon Paulson and Dennis Hall. At the World meet, Durlacher won the close matches when it counted, something that showed progress and growth in his wrestling. He is among one of the most experienced wrestlers on the national circuit and his confidence has increased since winning that World medal.

Durlacher is having a strong winter season as well, continuing to show that he can beat talented foreigners. He won his match at the Chicago Cup against a talented Chinese opponent, then captured the gold medal at the Dave Schultz Memorial International. Last year was his first U.S. Nationals victory, after many place finishes. He will face the challenge of defending that title for the first time this year in Las Vegas.

Sam Hazewinkel of the Gator, who just completed his college career at Oklahoma as a four-time All-American, was second behind Durlacher at the World Team Trials the last two years. He will now be able to focus on Greco-Roman full-time, which should help him to continue to improve. Hazewinkel only has a few days after competing at the NCAAs to get ready for the U.S. Nationals, which means his Greco could be a bit rusty. Hazewinkel won the 2005 U.S. Nationals, so he is capable of competing at the highest level at this weight class.

Spenser Mango of the Gator WC, who was second at last year's U.S. Nationals, comes off a great summer in which he won a World University gold medal and a FILA Junior World bronze medal. Mango, one of the stars of the USOEC Greco-Roman program at Northern Michigan Univ., is well known for his spectacular throws from the reverse lift position.

Mango had a great U.S. Nationals last year, making the finals and giving Durlacher a tough match in the finals. However, at the World Team Trials, he lost to Hazewinkel in the Challenge Tournament semifinals, then lost to Jermaine Hodge of the U.S. Army in the wrestlebacks. This fall has been successful for Mango, with titles at the Sunkist Kids International and the New York AC Holiday International, and a silver medal after losing to Durlacher in the Dave Schultz Memorial finals.

There is considerable depth in this weight class, especially from the military programs. The Army has three talented athletes in Jermaine Hodge, Josh Habeck and Neal Rodak. Hodge made the National Greco-Roman Team, placing third at the World Team Trials, and beat Habeck in the bronze-medal match there. Hodge lost to Mango in the finals of the New York AC International. Rodak is a former Team USA member who remains competitive on the national level since joining the Army team, after starting his international career with the U.S. Navy.

Anthony Brooker of the U.S. Air Force is also a factor each year, and has been high in the rankings in the past. He placed seventh at the U.S. Nationals last year, and Air Force teammate Jared Moreland placed eighth. A veteran to watch is Eric Albarracin of the U.S. Army, who spent many years as a nationally ranked freestyle athlete before getting into Greco-Roman a few seasons ago. Albarracin placed in the top five at the 2005 World Team Trials.

Michel Santos, a former Army wrestler, returned to the mats this year and placed fourth at the Sunkist Kids International The USOEC team features Terry Allison and Nate Engel, athletes that are improving and could move up in the standings. Engle was fourth at the New York AC Holiday International this year.

2006 U.S. Nationals results at 55 kg/121 lbs.
1st - Lindsey Durlacher, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC) dec. Spenser Mango, Flourissant, Mo. (USOEC/Gator WC), 0-6, 4-2, 2-1
3rd - Sam Hazewinkel, Pensacola, Fla. (Gator WC) pin Jermaine Hodge, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army), 4-3, 0:29
5th - Neal Rodak, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army) dec. Josh Habeck, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army), 2-1, 1-1
7th - Anthony Brooker, Santa Barbara, Calif. (U.S. Air Force) dec. Jared Moreland, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force), 0-6, 6-4, 5-2

TheMat.com rankings at 55 kg/121 lbs. for February 2007
1. Lindsey Durlacher, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC)
2. Spenser Mango, Flourissant, Mo. (USOEC/Gator WC)
3. Sam Hazewinkel, Pensacola, Fla. (Gator WC)
4. Jermaine Hodge, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
5. Josh Habeck, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
6. Neal Rodak, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
7. Michel Santos, Tampa, Fla. (Arrowhead)
8. Terry Allison, Pinson, Ala. (USOEC)
9. Anthony Brooker, Santa Barbara, Calif. (U.S. Air Force)
10. Nate Engel, St. Helena, Calif. (USOEC)
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