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This week, TheMat.com will move to the USOC platform, with a new look, new functionality, but with the same favorite features....

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A look at the upcoming competition at the U.S. National Championships in Las Vegas, NV



The athletes have all weighed in, and the seeds have been determined. All that is left is a final night of rest and preparation, and the 2001 U.S. National Championships will begin on Friday morning. The 2001 U.S. National Championships will offer a look at what star wrestlers will be the future of U.S. wrestling, and which veteran wrestlers will continue to be a factor in the sport during this season and the next four-year Olympic cycle. The Greco-Roman tournament will feature four Olympic medalists, including the three medalists from the Sydney Games, Rulon Gardner (gold), Matt Lindland (silver) and Garrett Lowney (bronze), plus 1996 Olympic silver medalist Dennis Hall. The freestyle field is without a single 2000 Olympic medalist, but is stock full of talented young talents looking to make their mark on the road to the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece. The women's field will feature all three past World champions for the United States, four-time champion Tricia Saunders, plus one-time World champions Sandra Bacher and Kristie Marano. A weight-by-weight review of the tournament, based upon the entries and seeds, follows: Greco-Roman 54 kg/119 lbs. - Two-time Olympian Shawn Sheldon gets the top seed, as 2000 Olympic Trials finalists Steven Mays and Brandon Paulson did not enter. Sheldon, a native New Yorker, is on a mission to qualify for the World Championships in his home state later this year. Military wrestlers Jeff Cervone of the Air Force and Michel Santos of the Army get the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds. College star Chris Williams is looking for his first major success on the Senior level. Two wrestlers from the USOEC program at Northern Michigan look to move up after success at the University Nationals, Nathan Piasecki and Joe Espinoza. Sean Kim, who is also seeded in freestyle, is trying to be an All-American in both styles. Anthony Gibbons rounds out the list of seeded wrestlers. 58 kg/127.75 lbs. - A pair of Olympic stars headline this weight class. Jim Gruenwald, sixth in the Sydney Games, resumes his rivalry with two-time Olympian Dennis Hall, one of the nation's best ever. Hall, who was a silver medalist in the 1996 Atlanta Games, dominated the series against Gruenwald, until last year's Trials in Dallas. The third seed went to veteran Josh Fox. Lindsay Durlacher is an improving star in Greco-Roman. The Jones brothers from Utah, Brady and Cam, captured the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds. Camillo Gonzales, the Sunkist Kids International champion, and USOEC wrestler Kelly Pederson close out the seeded athletes. 63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Kevin Bracken, who placed sixth in the Sydney Games, looks to repeat his best season ever and maintain his No. 1 national ranking. Former national champion Glenn Nieradka of the Army, who Bracken beat in the Olympic Trials finals, returns for another shot at the top. The next three seeds also come from the strong military programs, James Shillow (Marines), Jacob Hey (Air Force) and Jason Tolbert (Air Force). Darnell Lollis, ranked No. 3 at 127.75 pounds last year, jumps to a new weight this year. Joe Warren, a new USOTC resident athlete, has shown progress. College star Matt Goldstein looks for success on the senior level after winning the recent University Nationals. 69 kg/152 lbs. - 2000 Olympian Heath Sims also had his best season last year, and has made the commitment to continue his career. Two-time Olympic Trials runner-up Chris Saba gets the No. 2 seed, and is seeking the magic from 1997 and 1998 when he was the top man at this class. Three more military stars snagged the next few seeds, Marcel Cooper (Marines), Oscar Woods (Army) and Steve Woods (Air Force). Former National Team members Mike Ellsworth and Keith Wilson look to return to form. Brian Van Hoven claimed the final seed at No. 8. 76 kg/167.5 lbs. - Keith Sieracki looks to reclaim the nation's top spot after a frustrating and disappointing summer. Sieracki won the Olympic Team Trials finals series, but did not get the Olympic spot after a series of legal cases and a re-wrestled match against Matt Lindland. Lindland has moved up in weight, so the rivalry will not be continued this week. Talented T.C. Dantzler gets the No. 2 seed, and looks to win his first national crown. Young Jake Clark of the Marines has been on fire so far this season. Dan Niebuhr, a former national champion, has the most experience among the contenders. College star Carl Fronhofer, and USOEC athlete Mike Mathers, are emerging stars. Other seeds are Rob McKenney and John Lorenz. 85 kg/187.25 lbs. - 2000 Olympian Quincey Clark has been the top man at this class for three straight years, but is expecting a strong challenge from a number of top stars. This could be the best weight class in the entire event. The No. 2 seed goes to Olympic Trials runner-up Ethan Bosch. 2000 Olympic silver medalist Matt Lindland has moved up from 167.5 pounds, and gets the No. 3 seed. Dan Henderson, a member of two Olympic teams, is back and looking to return to the top. Aaron Sieracki, Keith's younger brother, has been a consistent challenger here, as has Kenny Owens, a former national runner-up. College star Brad Vering is making a run for the next Olympics here. James Meyer gets the final seed. 97 kg/213.75 lbs. - Olympic bronze medalist Garrett Lowney returns to the Greco-Roman mats for the first time since his glorious summer achievements. He spent the winter as a freshman heavyweight star for the Univ. of Minnesota, but will need to make the transition from folkstyle. Jason Loukides of the Army gets the No. 2 seed, in a weight stripped bare of veterans. University Nationals finalists Brian Kraemer and Josh Hall landed the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. Kevin Vogel, who has starred at 167.5 and 187.25 pounds, makes the big jump here. Tipton Peterson and Phil Johnston also claimed seeds. 130 kg/286 lbs. - Olympic gold medalist and hero Rulon Gardner returns to the mats, hoping to show his best stuff after a winter on the media circuit. Gardner hopes his mat rust is not too heavy to keep him from winning another national title. Dremiel Byers, sixth in the 1999 World Championships, is the top challenger and always a dangerous opponent. Corey Farkas has improved each year, and looks for his first shot at the national finals. Veteran Brian Keck is back, after doing the pro wrestling gig since last summer. College star Andy Bowlby is a young star, while 47-year old Greg Gibson, an Olympic medalist way back in 1984, continues to march on. Paul Devlin and Brent Boeshans also received seeds. Freestyle 54 kg/119 lbs. - 1999 World Team member Eric Akin returns, but will not have a shot at archrival Sammie Henson, who beat Akin in a memorable Olympic Trials finals. Henson, who won a silver medal in Sydney, did not enter, although he has been competing this winter. Veteran Sean Kim received the No. 2 seed, and Tim Dernlan, who has been a challenger in recent years, was seeded No. 3. University National champions Chris Fleeger and T.J. Hill are the next two seeds. Fleeger was up one weight class at the University tournament. The other seeds, all who are looking for their first major impact on the national level, include Marty Kusick, Pat Cassidy, Shane Valdez and Lee Pritts. 58 kg/127.75 lbs. - Olympic Trials runner-up Kerry Boumans became nationally respected after his amazing showdown with two-time World Champion Terry Brands in Dallas. After topping Boumans, Brands went on to win an Olympic bronze. Boumans was the national champion last year, and wants a chance at his first World Championships. Eric Guerrero, who has been to the World Championships two times, looks to win his first national crown. Danny Felix, a surprise U.S. Nationals finalist last year, is back for another shot at glory. Army star Jason Kutz has been improving in international circles. Two stars from 119 pounds have moved up, Teague Moore and Mike Mena. Cody Sanderson, the older brother of the famous Utah family, is making a run in freestyle. Other seeds include Ryan Lewis, Matt Azevedo and Jeff Prescott. Young Zach Roberson makes his first major appearance on the Senior level. 63 kg/138.75
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