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USA to face Russian National Team in World Dual Meet in Kenner, La., May 8



A talented team of U.S. freestyle wrestling stars will battle the National Team from Russia in a World Dual Meet of Freestyle Wrestling, Tuesday, May 8. The international competition will be showcased at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, La., starting at 7:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by Louisiana USA Wrestling and its club affiliates, as well as the City of Kenner. The competition has gained the support of many local civic leaders, including Kenner Mayor Louis J. Congemi and the Kenner City Council. The meet will feature a number of athletes who have excelled in past World or Olympic competition, or young stars who are expected to challenge to compete in the 2004 Olympic Games. "This is one of the biggest things that has ever happened for Louisiana wrestling," said Jim Ravannack, state chairperson for Louisiana USA Wrestling and the event organizer. "To host an international Olympic-style meet is a great honor and a boost to our program. We had an Olympic Team Trials event here last year, as well. This means a great deal to this community, and to wrestling in the South." The U.S. team, which has not been completely finalized, will include three star athletes with Louisiana roots. Daniel Cormier, who is originally from Lafayette, La., will compete at 213.75 pounds. Cormier attends Oklahoma State Univ., where he was second in the 2001 NCAA Div. I Championships. He placed seventh in the 2000 U.S. National Freestyle Championships last week in Las Vegas, Nev. Leonce Crump, originally from Baton Rouge, La., is scheduled to compete at 286 pounds. Crump placed fourth at the 2001 NCAA Div. I Championships for the Univ. of Oklahoma. Mark Strickland, who resides in Metarie, La. and trains full-time in the local area with the Gator Wrestling Club, is also scheduled to wrestle at 152 pounds. Two star wrestlers from the Oklahoma State program, 2001 U.S. Nationals champion Eric Guerrero at 127.75 pounds and 2001 University Nationals champion Jamill Kelly at 138.75 pounds, are also on the tentative U.S. lineup. The U.S. team will be led by special guest coach and international wrestling legend John Smith, the 1988 and 1992 Olympic champion. Smith won six straight World and Olympic titles from 1987-92, the greatest U.S. performance in international wrestling history. Smith is the head coach of college national power Oklahoma State. He was named 2000 USA Wrestling Freestyle Coach of the Year, as well as 2001 Big 12 Wrestling Coach of the Year. Also named as co-coaches are Kyle Gruenwald, head coach at Archbishop Rummell High School and Rod Cusack, assistant coach at Grace King High School. Gruenwald was a NCAA All-American for LSU, and a three-time New York state placewinner. Cusack is the Louisiana USA Wrestling Freestyle and Greco-Roman coach. The Russian delegation will feature the 2001 Russian World Cup team, which will compete in the 2001 World Cup of Freestyle Wrestling, set for May 5-6 in Baltimore, Md. Russia won the medal count in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Olympic Games, and is one of the world's top wrestling teams every year. Among the stars on the Russian team is 1996 Olympic gold medalist Khajimurad Magomedov, who competes at 187.25 pounds. Veteran Russian stars Alexander Kontoev (119), Mourad Ramazanov (127.75) and Miron Dzadzaev (138.75) are also on the Russian roster. The Russian delegation will be led by two of the greatest international wrestlers in Russian history. The head coach is Sergei Beloglazov, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and six-time World Champion. The team leader is former World Champion and Olympic silver medalist Adlan Varaev. The dual meet format at a World Dual meet is entertaining and exciting. Fans have the opportunity to cheer for Team USA, while tremendous international stars from Russia in action. Tickets for the event are $10 for adults and $5 for students, and can be purchased at the gate.
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