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U.S. World Team athletes prepare for Azerbaijan



Listen to Press Conference Audio


Throughout the summer, USA Wrestling national teams have been busy in training, preparing our nation's top athletes for the ultimate test of the year, the 2007 World Wrestling Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, Sept. 17-23.

Athletes in all three styles competed in July at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and well as other competitions. The teams have participated in a number of training camps in Colorado Springs, Colo. and other locations. The coaches and athletes on the U.S. teams are in their final training cycles, prior to their departure to Azerbaijan.

This World Championships has special significance because it is the first qualifying event for nations to earn positions at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

Three members of the U.S. team participated in a U.S. Olympic Committee media teleconference on Wednesday, discussing their preparation and expectations for the World Championships.

Freestyle wrestler Daniel Cormier (Stillwater, Okla./Gator WC), who was fourth in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. in seeking his first World-level medal. He has been the No. 1 athlete in his weight division in the USA since 2003, but is not satisfied with his performance to date.

"I've have a couple of opportunities to get a medal, and I have fallen a little short," said Cormier. "The training has been a little different this year. Coaches have taken over a little more. Before, they have been more lenient on us, letting us do our own thing. This year they have taken over. This year I have given it up, instilling all my trust in my coaches. All of them have done it before, they all have gotten World medals; they all have World titles. It is where I am trying to get. By turning it over to them, that is my best option. Obviously doing it my way has not worked. Turn it over to them, hopefully, it produces a medal, preferably a gold medal.

Cormier gives credit to his friend and fiercest rival at his weight class, No. 2 Mo Lawal of the Gator WC, for pushing him to be his best this year.

"Having Mo in my weight class is a blessing. Now you have a guy that is World class pushing you for that spot. Before, I had guys that were tough wrestlers, but in my mind, I knew, prepared or not prepared, I could get it done. Wrestling Mo, I knew I had to be on top of my game, or else, I would not be going to the World Championships. He is a hungry, hungry opponent. He wants to be a World champion and to do that, he has to make the team. I had to be more prepared and more ready for that tournament."

Lindsey Durlacher (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) broke through in 2006 by winning a World bronze medal at 55 kg/121 lbs. in men's Greco-Roman, part of his long journey to success within international wrestling. He knows how difficult it was to get his first World medal, and is ready for the challenge of seeking another.

"Obviously, being there a couple of times, I know what to expect from people and know what the field will be like. It helps having been there several times before," said Durlacher. "At the same time, my weight class is deep. The No. 1 ranked kid in my weight class is from Azerbaijan. There will be a lot of hometown people rooting for the kid in my weight class to win. I know what to expect, what I am going up against. It is nice having been there and knowing what to expect. I am staying confident."

Durlacher is doing a few more things this year, hoping to improve his performance.

"I have been doing a lot of extensive video training, just watching a lot of my opponents, making notes and writing things down, watching what some of my opponents are doing, just being a conscientious student. Last year I did it a little bit. This year I am trying to do it a little more. That is the best way I can improve on my performance, being more of a student, knowing what these guys are doing. I have been training very hard. I am confident in my training. So, I think the big difference will be my video," he said.

Marcie Van Dusen (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) will be competing at her first World Championships in women's freestyle at 55 kg/121 lbs., one of the talented young wrestlers making an impact on the international scene. Van Dusen is surrounded by experienced veterans on the U.S. team, but is looking to make a name for herself on the world scene in Azerbaijan.

"I am very excited to make my first World Team with the Olympics coming up next year," said Van Dusen. "We have a lot of veterans on our team. It is good to have them around to guide me. It can be a little overwhelming when you have a lot of coaches all at once in your face. They have told me to take it step by step, focus, every day is a new day. It's a new challenge. Attack every day, getting ready. They told me to take your training the way you have all year. It is a big tournament, you don't want to get overwhelmed, so just stay focused, and take it one step at a time.

"I've had a few injuries in this last quad. I blew out my right knee two years ago and my left knee last year. It's extremely frustrating going though an injury, when you know you are just working to get back to where you were before, instead of advancing from where you were already. It is a huge motivation factor in that every day is a mental challenge. Every day you have to motivate yourself get in that room. Then when you finally get into that wrestling room, it is so much easier. It is much easier than going through rehab was. You learn a lot about yourself. Every time I came back, I came back stronger."

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