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|Warren, Durlacher, Lester, Dantzler among Greco-Roman stars to watch at U.S. World Team Trials|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
LAS VEGAS - 2006 was a banner year for the United States in Greco-Roman wrestling.
Joe Warren of the New York AC won a World gold medal while American teammates Lindsey Durlacher of the New York AC and Harry Lester of the Gator Wrestling Club each won bronze medals to lead the U.S. to a third-place finish in the team standings. The U.S. followed that by finishing second earlier this year in the World Cup dual-meet competition.
The Americans are primed for another big year in Greco-Roman as the United States will set its 2007 World Team for Greco-Roman at the U.S. World Team Trials on June 9-10 in Las Vegas.
Champions in each weight class from the U.S. World Team Trials will advance to the World Championships on Sept. 17-23 in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Warren and T.C. Dantzler, who placed fifth at the 2006 World Championships, have clinched spots in the best-of-3 finals for the U.S. World Team Trials. They met USA Wrestling's criteria by virtue of winning the 2007 U.S. Nationals and by finishing in the top five in the World last year.
The five other U.S. Nationals champions will take No. 1 seeds into the World Team Trials. They include Sam Hazewinkel of the Gator Wrestling Club at 55 kg/121 lbs., Glenn Garrison of the U.S. Army at 66 kg/145.5 lbs., Brad Vering of the New York AC at 84 kg/185 lbs., Justin Ruiz of the New York AC at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. and Russ Davie of the New York AC at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. Those five wrestlers will take part in the Challenge Tournament. The two wrestlers who advance to the finals then meet in a best-of-3 series to determine the spot on the World Team.
Here is the weight-by-weight breakdown in Greco-Roman for the U.S. World Team Trials:
55 KG/121 LBS.
Hazewinkel, despite finishing second at the 2005 and 2006 U.S. World Team Trials, was not seeded in the top four at the U.S. Nationals.
But that didn't faze Hazewinkel, who knocked off World University Games champion Spenser Mango before downing Durlacher in the finals.
This is one of the country's deepest classes in Greco-Roman with a solid veteran in Durlacher, who has made the last two U.S. World Teams, along with a rising star in Mango, who also was a Junior World bronze medalist in 2006.
Mango ended up fifth at the U.S. Nationals after his loss to Hazewinkel.
Eric Albarracin turned in a strong third-place finish at the U.S. Nationals with Josh Habeck taking fourth.
Nate Engel and Jermaine Hodge are two other wrestlers to watch in this division.
60 KG/132 LBS.
Warren rolled through this division at the U.S. Nationals, capping his title run with a first-period pin of Joe Betterman in the finals.
Warren looks as hungry and driven as he was in 2006. He shook off a loss in the finals of the Dave Schultz Memorial International and came back strong to win a gold medal at the World Cup.
Warren is looking to make his third straight U.S. World Team.
Along with Betterman, 2006 U.S. World Team Trials runner-up Jeremiah Davis should be in contention at the 2007 Trials. Davis placed third at the U.S. Nationals.
Donovan DePatto placed fourth at the U.S. Nationals, followed by Jake Swensen, Jason Tolbert and Kerry Regner.
66 KG/145.5 LBS.
Garrison won the U.S. Nationals, but Lester is still the favorite here.
Lester skipped the U.S. Nationals for the second straight year, this time for personal reasons. But he came back a couple weeks after that event to win University Nationals in freestyle and Greco-Roman in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.
Lester, a member of the U.S. Olympic Education Center program, is shooting for a spot on his third straight U.S. World Team. Among his wins this year is a triumph over 2006 World champion Li Yanyan of China in February's Chicago Cup.
Lester likely will be seeded third for the World Team Trials with Garrison and Faruk Sahin guaranteed the top seeds by virtue of placing one-two at the U.S. Nationals.
Barring an upset, Lester and Sahin would meet in what could be an entertaining semifinal matchup at the Trials.
Also expected to be in the mix at this weight class are Jacob Hey, Jacob Curby, Oscar Wood, Marco Lara and Timothy Bleau.
Past U.S. World Team member Marcel Cooper and past U.S. National Team member Mark Rial are among the other qualifiers in this weight class. Cooper was second to Lester at the 2006 World Team Trials.
74 KG/163 LBS.
Dantzler had his best season internationally in 2006, just missing a World medal despite wrestling with a torn ACL that later required surgery. Dantzler is hoping to build on his fifth-place finish at the 2006 World meet. The Gator Wrestling Club member is healthy again and looking strong.
Veteran Keith Sieracki of the U.S. Army was second to Dantzler at the U.S. Nationals. Look for those long-time rivals to square off again in the finals of the World Team Trials.
Among the other wrestlers to keep an eye on in this division are Cheney Haight, Kevin Lazano, Jacob Fisher, Talan Knox and Jess Hargrave.
Trent Paulson, a 2007 NCAA champion for Iowa State, is among the newcomers to watch in this division. Paulson knocked off past World medalist Joe Williams in the first round of the 2006 World Team Trials in freestyle.
Paulson has been competing mainly in folkstyle and freestyle, but did win the 2005 University Nationals in Greco-Roman. His twin brother, Travis, placed fourth at the 2006 World Team Trials in freestyle. Trent Paulson is a past Junior Nationals champion in Greco-Roman.
Brandon McNab, second at the 2006 Trials, has been hampered by injuries and will not compete in the 2007 event as he recovers from surgery.
84 KG/185 LBS.
Vering, a three-time World Team member and 2004 Olympian, is on a mission after not making the 2006 World Team. Vering placed third at this event last year.
Vering ripped through the competition at the U.S. Nationals and is the clear favorite to make his fourth World Team. Vering twice has placed fifth at the World Championships. He won the Dave Schultz Memorial International and the Pan American Championships this year.
2006 U.S. World Team member Jacob Clark of the U.S. Marines did not place in the top eight at the U.S. Nationals after being upset in the quarterfinals by Chas Betts, a 2006 World University silver medalist. Clark has wrestled well overseas, going undefeated in the 2007 World Cup. He had minor foot surgery shortly before the U.S. Nationals, but is expected to be back at full strength for the World Team Trials.
Aaron Sieracki is another guy to watch. He knocked off Vering at the 2006 World Team Trials before falling to Clark in the finals. Sieracki placed third at the 2007 U.S. Nationals.
Justin Millard placed second to Vering at the U.S. Nationals and will be the No. 2 seed at the World Team Trials by virtue of that finish.
Among the other wrestlers to watch are Betts, Jason Plamann, Kenneth Cook and Brian Piasecki.
96 KG/211.5 LBS.
Ruiz has made the last two U.S. World Teams and looks poised to make another team after a strong finish at the U.S. Nationals.
Ruiz, a 2005 World bronze medalist, swept Adam Wheeler 3-0, 3-0 in the finals of the U.S. Nationals. Ruiz also won the Dave Schultz Memorial International and the Pan American Championships this year.
Phil Johnston, second to Ruiz at the 2006 World Team Trials, placed third at the 2007 U.S. Nationals.
Other wrestlers to keep an eye on include R.C. Johnson, Robbie Smith, John Lorenz and Brad Ahearn.
Smith recently won University Nationals and the FILA Junior World Team Trials. He placed ninth at the 2006 Junior World Championships. Smith placed fifth at the U.S. Nationals.
120 KG/264.5 LBS.
This could be one of the more interesting weight classes of the U.S. World Team Trials after a wild and wacky U.S. Nationals.
Past World champion Dremiel Byers was upset by U.S. Army teammate Timothy Taylor in the first round of the U.S. Nationals. Taylor ended up placing second while Byers came back strong to finish third.
Davie, second to Byers at the 2006 World Team Trials, beat Taylor in the finals of the 2007 U.S. Nationals.
Byers, who has made the last two U.S. World Teams, likely will be the No. 3 seed and could face Taylor again in the semifinals. The winner of that match would then likely face Davie in the finals.
Brandon Ruiz, Justin's older brother, also should be in the mix. He placed fourth at the U.S. Nationals.
Other wrestlers expected to be in the hunt include Gabe Beauperthuy, Mark Simmonds and Brandon Doran.