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|Ruiz captures gold while Durlacher wins silver and Dantzler takes bronze at Pan American Games|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Justin Ruiz won a gold medal to cap a strong two-day performance by the United States Greco-Roman wrestling team at the Pan American Games.
Ruiz downed Brazil's Luiz Fernandes in the finals at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. in front of a loud and enthusiastic Brazilian crowd Wednesday night at the Riocentro Sports Complex.
American Lindsey Durlacher won a silver medal and teammate T.C. Dantzler won bronze.
The U.S. finished with medals in all six weight classes they entered in Greco-Roman. Americans Harry Lester and Brad Vering won gold medals, and Dremiel Byers won silver, in Greco-Roman on Tuesday night.
"Obviously, I'm really happy with all our guys," USA Wrestling National Greco-Roman Coach Steve Fraser said. "We didn't quite accomplish what we wanted to do here which was beat the Cubans. Lindsey fought hard and (Cuba's Roberto) Monzon was just a little too much for him. T.C. did a nice job and just needs to keep working. T.C. is deserving of a World medal this year and I think he can get it. Ruiz wrestled real smart and real solid. Everyone represented our country very well."
The American performance was superb considering all the problems the team had just getting to Brazil. The U.S. Greco-Roman team arrived here just over 24 hours before weigh-ins because of travel problems from Washington, D.C. to Sao Paulo, Brazil. The U.S. team also was without World champion Joe Warren, who did not compete at 60 kg/132 lbs. for personal reasons.
"Most everybody overcame the adversities we were faced with - all the travel and everything," Fraser said. "Our guys held it together. This is kind of a true champion team. We need to get into a mindset that whatever happens to us, nothing fazes us and we overcome it. Not making excuses, but we did have some obstacles we had to overcome."
Ruiz (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC), a 2003 Pan Am Games silver medalist, was dominant in a 7-0, 3-0 win over hometown favorite Fernandez. Ruiz hit a succession of gut wrenches to earn the win.
Even though the vocal crowd was cheering for his opponent, Ruiz said he appreciated their enthusiasm and love for the sport.
"It's great to see a big crowd like this come out to support their athletes," Ruiz said. "They wanted to see good wrestling matches and it was really good to see that."
Durlacher (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC), wrestling up a weight class at 60 kg/132 lbs., ran into one of the best wrestlers in the entire field. Monzon, an Olympic and World silver medalist, used his size advantage in posting a dominating 6-0, 7-0 win over Durlacher in the finals.
"I thought it was going to be closer than it was, so I'm a little upset right now," Durlacher said. "But I realize he's bigger than me and he's had some real big accomplishments in his career. I was hoping to get after him a little bit better. He just got on top and his lock was pretty tight - I've never felt strength like that. I guess that's what you get when you move up a weight. I'm a little disappointed, but it was good experience for me to keep preparing for the World Championships and the Olympics."
Dantzler bounced back from a tough first-round loss to eventual gold medalist Odellis Herrero of Cuba to win a bronze medal at 74 kg/163 lbs. Dantzler (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC) turned Venezuela's Alexander Brazon with one second left to pull out the bronze-medal match 2-2, 4-1, 3-0. Danztler was bronze medalist in the 2003 Pan Am Games
Dantzler had a 2-0 lead late in the first period before being turned for two points in the closing seconds by Brazon. Dantzler came back strong in the second period, but was in danger of losing entering the final seconds of the third period. Needing a turn to win, Dantzler delivered near the edge of the mat and gained two points for exposure.
"I had to let that (first) period go and get on with the match. New period, new match," Dantzler said. "At the end of the match, I couldn't stop my attempts to turn him until the whistle blew. I just kept going and was able to turn him with one second left."
Dantzler admitted it was a challenge trying to come back after losing a tough match to the Cuban.
"It's tough - when everybody on your team is in the finals except you, I mean, it's tough to come back," Dantzler said. "It was a good tune-up for the World Championships because you never know who you're going to draw right out of the chute. Cuba has one of the best teams in the World and that gives me a good measuring stick of what I need to work on."
The women's freestyle tournament is scheduled to start Thursday. The U.S. sends a strong four-athlete team into the competition. The team is comprised of two-time World champion Kristie Marano (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC), Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann (Gaffney, S.C./Sunkist Kids), World silver medalist Stephanie Murata (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) and World University champion Marcie Van Dusen (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids).
Marano wrestles at 72 kg/158.5 lbs., McMann competes at 63 kg/138.75 lbs., Murata is at 48 kg/105.5 lbs. and Van Dusen at 55 kg/121 lbs. The women compete in the four Olympic weight classes at the Pan American Games. The U.S. swept all four women's weight classes at the 2003 Pan Am Games.
The seven-man men's freestyle team is scheduled to compete Friday and Saturday.
WEDNESDAY'S PAN AMERICAN GAMES MEDALISTS
60 kg/132 lbs.
Gold - Roberto Monzon (Cuba)
Silver - Lindsey Durlacher (USA)
Bronze - Luis Liendo (Venezuela)
Bronze - Mario Molina (Peru)
74 kg/163 lbs.
Gold - Odelis Herrero (Cuba)
Silver - Sixto Barrera (Peru)
Bronze - Felipe Macedo (Brazil)
Bronze - T.C. Dantzler (USA)
96 kg/211.5 lbs.
Gold - Justin Ruiz (USA)
Silver - Luiz Fernandes (Brazil)
Bronze - Oscar Aguilar (Mexico)
Bronze - Erwin Caraballo (Venezuela)
U.S. MATCH-BY-MATCH RESULTS
60 kg/132 lbs. - Lindsey Durlacher, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC) - 2nd
WIN Kelvin Escorcia (Nicaragua) 6-0, 6-0
WIN Mario Molina (Peru) 6-0, 4-1
LOSS Roberto Monzon (Cuba) 6-0, 7-0
74 kg/163 lbs. - T.C. Dantzler, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC) - 3rd
LOSS Odelis Herrero (Cuba) 1-1, 1-1
WIN Alexander Brazon (Venezuela) 2-2, 4-1, 3-0
96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Justin Ruiz, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC) - 1st
WIN Manuel Simono (Dominican Republic) 5-0, 4-1
WIN Erwin Caraballo (Venezuela) 5-3, 7-0
WIN Luiz Fernandes (Brazil) 7-0, 3-0