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|Henry Cejudo, Doug Schwab hit jackpot by making first U.S. World Teams in freestyle|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
LAS VEGAS - Go ahead and call Henry Cejudo the future of American wrestling.
He doesn't mind.
In fact, he embraces it.
The 20-year-old Cejudo, far beyond his years for an American freestyle wrestler, continued his rapid ascent at the Senior level by winning his first U.S. World Team Trials championship on Sunday night
Cejudo (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) took two straight matches over Matt Azevedo to win the best-of-3 finals series at 55 kg/121 lbs. in freestyle.
Cejudo, who was profiled in last week's issue of Sports Illustrated, proved he can handle the spotlight by handling an upset bid by a tough finals opponent in Azevedo. Cejudo was called the "future of wrestling" and a guy who is going to "win a lot of World and Olympic titles" by USA Wrestling National Coach Kevin Jackson in the SI feature.
"I don't mind it," Cejudo said when asked if he is the future of wrestling. "I'm young, I'm hungry and I'm out to win. I want to be a World champion this year."
Cejudo now qualifies for September's World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. He was one of 10 overall champions crowned Sunday as the two-day event concluded. The other 11 champions in freestyle, women's freestyle and Greco-Roman were crowned Saturday night.
Cejudo has shown noticeable improvement since last year when he became the first high-schooler to win U.S. Nationals since USA Wrestling became the national governing body for wrestling in 1983. He also was a Junior World silver medalist in 2006. He placed second to past World champion and Olympic silver medalist Sammie Henson, last year's eventual World bronze medalist, at the 2006 World Team Trials.
The slick, athletic Cejudo rallied to top Azevedo 3-4, 3-3, 2-0 in the first match before winning 4-1, 1-0 in the second match. Henson, who has been injured and is not competing this year, was in Azevedo's corner coaching him against Cejudo.
"I'm a lot better than I was last year," Cejudo said. "I'm better in par terre, I'm stronger, I'm more mature, I do a better job cutting weight. I can wrestle anybody's style - short, long, tall, whatever."
Cejudo has blossomed under the guidance and watchful eye of USA Wrestling Freestyle Resident Coach Terry Brands, a two-time World champion and Olympic bronze medalist.
"Terry's the best coach in the World," Cejudo said. "We're really close and he's really helped me a lot."
Brands even managed to crack a smile in a photo with Cejudo that ran in Sports Illustrated.
"Terry can be really funny once you get to know him," Cejudo said of the demanding, hard-nosed Brands. "Terry's a great guy."
Cejudo was one of four freestyle champions crowned Sunday. Also winning titles in freestyle were Doug Schwab of the Gator Wrestling Club at 66 kg/145.5 lbs., Joe Williams of the Sunkist Kids at 84 kg/185 lbs. and Tommy Rowlands of the Sunkist Kids at 120 kg/264.5 lbs.
The sixth-seeded Schwab turned in a phenomenal day. He defeated No. 3 seed Jared Lawrence, No. 2 seed Zack Esposito and No. 1 seed Jared Frayer in Sunday's Challenge Tournament. He then outlasted U.S. Nationals champion Chris Bono, who sat out all day, in a wild best-of-3 finals match that went the full three matches.
Schwab trailed 1-0 in the final minute of the final match before he shot in on a leg attack and eventually finished to dump Bono to the mat for a takedown with 15 seconds left to even the match 1-1. Schwab then held off Bono's late scoring tries and won the period by virtue of scoring last. That secured him a surprise spot on his first World Team.
"I knew I had to be in on the attack," Schwab said. "I hit a high crotch. I was like a dog on a bone. I was going to score no matter what, even if I had to rip his leg off. I had been in that position a thousand times before and I knew I could finish it."
Schwab, an assistant coach for the Iowa Hawkeyes, placed seventh at the 2007 U.S. Nationals before turning in a memorable performance at the World Team Trials two months later. The always physical and tough Bono, the head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga, was trying to make his fourth World Team.
"It was a war - I know it will be a war with him every time," said Schwab, whose highest previous finish in this event was fifth in 2005. "It has been two months of solid training and focus."
Winning titles in Greco-Roman were 2006 World champion Joe Warren of the New York AC at 60 kg/132 lbs., 2006 World bronze medalist Harry Lester of the Gator Wrestling Club at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. and 2005 World bronze medalist Justin Ruiz of the New York AC at 96 kg/211.5 lbs.
Winning titles in women's freestyle were Stephanie Murata of the Sunkist Kids at 48 kg/105.5 lbs., Marcie Van Dusen of the Sunkist Kids at 55 kg/121 lbs. and Sara McMann of the Sunkist Kids at 63 kg/138.75 lbs.
Rowlands made his first World Team by beating former college rival Steve Mocco of the New York AC in two straight matches. Rowlands continued to build momentum in a year where he also won his first U.S. Nationals championship.
Rowlands joined fellow Ohio State assistant coach Joe Heskett on the U.S. World Team in freestyle. Heskett qualified for the World Team by winning a title at 74 kg/163 lbs. on Saturday.
Williams outlasted Andy Hrovat of the New York AC in a grueling, three-match battle. Williams clinched the World Team spot when he caught Hrovat and threw him for three points in the second period of the third match.
Williams, who moved up a weight this year, is a two-time World bronze medalist. He made his sixth World Team.
Warren made his third straight World Team by sweeping Joe Betterman of the New York AC in the finals. Warren looks poised to make a run at another World title after capturing the 2007 World Cup.
The explosive Lester made his third straight World Team. He had the Las Vegas Convention Center crowd buzzing when he lifted Curby and planted him on his back for a quick fall in the first match.
Ruiz made his third straight World Team by sweeping Adam Wheeler of the Gator Wrestling Club in the finals. Ruiz was able to turn Wheeler in the par terre position to gain an edge in a pair of tight matches.
Murata, 36, a past World silver medalist, took two straight finals matches over 2006 World Team member Mary Kelly. Murata also beat Kelly in the finals of the 2007 U.S. Nationals. Murata threw Kelly to her back for a pin in the first match before following with a second win to clinch the World Team spot. Murata made her ninth U.S. World Team.
Van Dusen, a past World University champion, made her first World Team on the Senior level by taking two straight from Sharon Jacobson of the Gator Wrestling Club. Van Dusen was the aggressor from the outset and that paid off against a tough, physical foe in Jacobson.
McMann, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, looked strong in sweeping Tori Adams of the Sunkist Kids in the final-round series. McMann has made seven straight World Teams. She was a 2003 World silver medalist and 2005 World bronze medalist.