University Nationals, FILA Cadet Nationals Special Section" /> Harry Lester wins wild final flurry to outlast Mike Poeta as University Nationals continue in freestyle | - USA Wrestling University Nationals, FILA Cadet Nationals Special Section">
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Harry Lester wins wild final flurry to outlast Mike Poeta as University Nationals continue in freestyle

AKRON, Ohio - How long has it been since Harry Lester wrestled in a freestyle competition?

It's been so long that even he can't remember.

But you would never know by watching Lester on Saturday that it's been more than five years since he wrestled in a freestyle tournament.

Competing in freestyle at a weight 17.5 pounds higher than he normally competes in as a 2006 World bronze medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling, Lester still looked very strong in the freestyle competition Saturday at the University Nationals.

Lester went 3-0 on the day at 74 kg/163 lbs., including winning a wild fourth-round match over University of Illinois All-American Mike Poeta to advance to the quarterfinal round. The third and final day of the University Nationals and FILA Cadet Nationals is set for Sunday at the University of Akron. Sunday's competition will start at 9 a.m.

Lester and Poeta were tied 0-0 in the decisive third period before Poeta shot in on a leg attack late in the match. Lester countered and locked his arms around Poeta, turning him in a wild flurry. Each wrestler was initially awarded two points for exposure before Lester was awarded an additional two points in the flurry to give him a 4-2 win.

"I had a front body lock on him and tried to do the move that (Andy) Hrovat does," said Lester, an Akron native who won the University Nationals in Greco-Roman on Friday. "We went through a couple rolls and the refs called it like they thought. You never know about situations like that, how they're going to call it. I thought it was going to be two and two, and fortunately it worked out for me."

The 23-year-old Lester normally competes at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. and was at a size disadvantage against the taller Poeta, who placed third at the NCAA Championships last month.

Lester scored on a early pushout in the first period before Poeta shot in with five seconds left in the period and drove Lester out of bounds. Poeta gained a couple exposure points and won the first period 3-1. Lester came back in the second period, shooting in on the legs and taking Poeta to his back en route to winning the period 5-1. The third period was dead even until the final, decisive flurry where Lester prevailed. A huge crowd of wrestlers, coaches and fans surrounded Mat 2 for the much-anticipated match.

Lester, who won by technical fall and with an 11-second pin in his first two freestyle bouts Saturday, will face Seth Garvin of Chattanooga in Sunday morning's quarterfinals.

"I'm definitely not used to this style, but I'm adapting for this one tournament and getting by," Lester said with a laugh. "It's not looking too pretty. I'm definitely undersized. I can really tell when I get an underhook or try and get in on the legs. There is a pretty big size difference between this class and the one I usually wrestle in. Poeta is a good couple inches taller than me and a little wider, but I'm going to find a way to win no matter what situation I'm in.

"This is it in freestyle for me. I'm not putting any pressure on myself and staying relaxed and just having fun with it. I took the match serious, but the whole point of this weekend is to have fun here and enjoy this."

Lester is in a loaded 163 weight class that includes 2007 NCAA champion and returning University Nationals champion Trent Paulson. Trent's twin brother, Travis, who placed fourth in the 2006 U.S. World Team Trials, also is in that division along with past NCAA runner-up Ryan Churella. The Paulsons and Churella also reached the quarters on Saturday. Lester could meet Trent Paulson in the semifinals with Churella and Travis Paulson on course to meet in the semis.

The top two finishers in each weight class at University Nationals qualify for the U.S. World Team Trials on June 9-10 in Las Vegas.

Lester will switch back to Greco-Roman full-time after this weekend in preparation for the U.S. World Team Trials on June 9-10 in Las Vegas.

Spenser Mango, Lester's U.S. Olympic Education Center teammate at Northern Michigan, also excelled in his return to freestyle. Mango, a 2006 World University champion in Greco-Roman, advanced to the freestyle quarterfinals at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. Mango has not wrestled freestyle in three years and normally competes at 55 kg/121 lbs. in Greco-Roman.

Returning University Nationals champion Franklin Gomez of the Michigan Wrestling Club reached the quarterfinals at 60 kg/132 lbs.
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