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U.S. OPEN PREVIEW: 2009 Freestyle World medalists Herbert and Dlagnev lead field

The U.S. Open Wrestling Championships will be held at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio, April 23-24. Previews of all three styles will be posted on this week.

The United States won two medals at the 2009 World Championships in Herning, Denmark, and they are hoping to build on that performance this year.

First-time World Team members Jake Herbert and Tervel Dlagnev both flew home across the Atlantic Ocean with medals last September.

Herbert placed second at 84 kg/185 lbs. and Dlagnev was third at 120 kg/264.5 lbs.

Both wrestlers have enjoyed strong seasons, and are among the top wrestlers expected to contend for the titles at the U.S. Open in Cleveland.

2008 Olympian Ben Askren also has returned to the mat at 74 kg/163 lbs., but may not compete until the World Team Trials in June.

Olympians Mike Zadick, Doug Schwab, Andy Hrovat and Steve Mocco are expected to compete in Cleveland.

The U.S. is looking to crown its first World champion in freestyle since Bill Zadick won Worlds in 2006.

55 KG/121 LBS.

Veteran Danny Felix made his first World Team in 2009, and is considered one of the favorites. Felix failed to place in this event last year before rebounding to win the World Team Trials.

Felix beat Nick Simmons in the finals of the 2009 Trials. Simmons is back healthy again and is a guy who has been knocking on the door to be the best in the U.S. for several years now. He’s a dangerous wrestler who can put a lot of points on the board.

Sam Hazewinkel, a past U.S. National Team member in Greco-Roman, has switched to freestyle and he’s enjoyed considerable success this season. Hazewinkel made the U.S. World Cup Team and looked strong in a U.S. dual meet against Russia. He has placed in the top three in four international events this season. He won the Sunkist Kids tournament this past fall.

Past NCAA champion Paul Donahoe also is in the mix here after jumping into freestyle competition full-time this season. Obe Blanc, second in the 2009 U.S. Nationals, is another wrestler who could be a factor. Blanc was third in the 2009 World Team Trials.

Logan Stieber, who just finished his senior season of high school wrestling in Ohio, made a big splash in this event last year by placing third. Stieber was fourth in the World Team Trials. He is an Ohio State University recruit.

2008 Olympic champion Henry Cejudo has remained on the sidelines since his historic Olympic win in Beijing, China.

60 KG/132 LBS.

This weight class has its share of proven wrestlers.

Shawn Bunch broke Mike Zadick’s three-year run atop the U.S. ladder last season when Bunch beat Zadick in the finals of the World Team Trials.

Bunch has had a strong season and represented the U.S. at the World Cup. Zadick has come back strong, winning the Dave Schultz Memorial International before medaling in an event in Cuba. Zadick placed second in the World in 2006 and was a 2008 Olympian.

Past World University and NCAA champion Nate Gallick also has wrestled well this season after winning the Sunkist and New York AC events. He lost a close bout to Zadick at the Schultz event.

Past NCAA champion Coleman Scott is another top contender in this division. He was second in this event in 2008 and placed third at the 2009 World Team Trials. Scott won the Hargobind International earlier this season.

Past World University silver medalist Reece Humphrey is another wrestler who is a promising freestyle prospect. He placed fourth at the 2009 World Team Trials and now turns his focus to wrestling freestyle full-time after finishing a superb career at Ohio State.

Two-time NCAA champion Matt Valenti also can’t be overlooked. He was third in this event last year.

66 KG/145.5 LBS.

This is traditionally one of the deepest weight classes in the U.S., and this year it once again appears to be wide-open.

Jared Frayer, second behind Trent Paulson at the 2009 World Team Trials, is the favorite in this class with Paulson bumping up a division. Frayer has twice placed second at the Trials.

College stars Darrion Caldwell and Brent Metcalf are ranked 2-3 in this class. Caldwell may not be back from an injury in time to compete here. He was third in the World Team Trials last year after upsetting Metcalf in the NCAA finals. Caldwell may be the most talented wrestler in the U.S. in any weight class.

Metcalf is coming off his second NCAA title for Iowa, and he now shifts to wrestling freestyle on a full-time basis. Metcalf is a past Junior World Team member who has a huge upside internationally.

Olympian Doug Schwab, No. 1 in the U.S. in 2007 and 2008, has battled injuries in recent years and has wrestled just one match this season. Schwab’s one match was an impressive win over Russian Arsen Mairov in a dual meet this past fall in Iowa. Mairov placed second at the 2009 Russian Nationals.

Two-time NCAA champion Teyon Ware has enjoyed a strong season after making the U.S. World Cup Team. Ware switched back to freestyle this year after competing in Greco-Roman for a season.

College standout Corey Jantzen of Harvard has wrestled well this year after taking this season off from collegiate competition. Jantzen placed third in the New York AC International and competed in one match for the U.S. in the World Cup.

Josh Churella, who won the New York AC International earlier this season, also is in the mix. Past World Team member Chris Bono also may be a contender in this event.

Three-time NCAA Division II champion Todd Meneely is another wrestler to watch in this class. Meneely placed third in the Sunkist and Hargobind events this season.

74 KG/163 LBS.

This could be one of the most interesting weight classes of the tournament with twins Trent and Travis Paulson both expected to compete in this division.

Trent made the U.S. World Team at 66 kg last year, but has moved up to the class where his brother was No. 2 on the U.S. ladder last year. The Paulsons have never faced each other in competition, but have said they likely will wrestle if they match up in Cleveland.

Olympian Ben Askren is back competing again this year, but he is not expected to compete in Cleveland. Look for Askren to be in the mix at the World Team Trials. Askren won the Dave Schultz event this season.

2009 World Team member Dustin Schlatter will not compete after suffering a knee injury late in his final college season at Minnesota.

Past NCAA runner-up Mike Poeta has looked good this season. He beat Trent Paulson in the World Cup Wrestle-Off and won the Sunkist event earlier this season.

NCAA champion Andrew Howe of Wisconsin is another wrestler who could make an impact here along with Iowa State All-American Jon Reader.

84 KG/185 LBS.

Jake Herbert is the man here, after reaching the finals of the 2009 World Championships. But making his second straight U.S. team will be anything but a cakewalk.

Bryce Hasseman placed second to Herbert at the 2009 World Team Trials, and has moved back down to 84 kg after bumping up a weight class earlier this season.

Two-time NCAA champion Chris Pendleton is another wrestler with a legitimate shot to be No. 1 in this division. Pendleton has won the Sunkist and Schultz events this season.

Among the other wrestlers expected to contend are Eric Luedke, Tom Meester, Keith Gavin, Carl Fronhofer and Raymond Jordan. Both Luedke and Gavin were U.S. Open runners-up last year, with Gavin at 74 kg and Luedke at 84 kg.

96 KG/211.5 LBS.

Two-time NCAA champion Jake Varner of Iowa State now turns his focus to freestyle full-time. Varner reached the quarterfinals of the 2009 World Championships.

Varner’s top challengers likely will be past Olympian and World Team member Andy Hrovat, and U.S. World Cup Team member J.D. Bergman.

Hrovat placed second and Bergman third at the 2009 World Team Trials.

Bergman beat Hrovat to make the World Cup Team. Bergman won a tournament in Cuba this season and placed second in the Alexander Medved event in Belarus.

Pat Cummins, another former heavyweight, also has looked strong this season after moving down a weight class. Cummins won the Schultz event and was second at the New York AC tournament.

Veteran Kyle Cerminara is another proven wrestler to keep an eye on along with past World University Team member Brent Jones.

120 KG/264.5 LBS.

The U.S. has a great tradition at heavyweight, and that trend likely will continue in what is now a very deep weight class in this country.

Tervel Dlagnev has emerged as the No. 1 guy here after his breakthrough 2009 season. He won a bronze medal at the 2009 Worlds and he’s enjoyed another strong season.

Dlagnev went undefeated at the World Cup. Among the wrestlers he beat in that event was 2009 World silver medalist Fardin Masoumi of Iran. Masoumi beat Dlagnev in the Worlds last year. Dlagnev also has won the Medved and New York AC events this season.

2008 Olympian Steve Mocco remains in the mix here. Mocco beat Dlagnev to win this event last year before Dlagnev came back to beat Mocco in the finals of the World Team Trials.

Four-time NCAA Division II champion Les Sigman has emerged as another top prospect after winning the Hargobind and Schultz titles this year. He beat Mocco to win the Hargobind. He was second to Dlagnev at the New York AC event.

Junior World champion Dom Bradley also is a force in this weight class. Bradley placed third at the U.S. World Team Trials last year. He is back in the freestyle mix after competing for Missouri during the college season.

Tommy Rowlands, fifth in the World in 2007, is returning to competition. He hasn’t competed since 2008, but could still be a force in this division. He last wrestled when he fell to Mocco in the finals of the 2008 Olympic Trials.

Aaron Anspach and Blake Gillis are two other top young prospects who have made an impact in this class. Anspach and Gillis finished 1-2 at the Sunkist event last fall. Anspach was third and Gillis fifth in the Medved tournament.

2009 U.S. Open Men’s Freestyle Gold Medal Finals

55 kg/121 lbs. " Nick Simmons (Sunkist Kids) dec. Obe Blanc (Gator WC), 7-4, 7-1

60 kg/132 lbs. " Mike Zadick (Gator WC) dec. Shawn Bunch (Gator WC), 1-2, 2-0, 2-0

66 kg/145.5 lbs. " Trent Paulson (Sunkist Kids) dec. Brent Metcalf (Gator WC), 0-1, 3-0, 3-0

74 kg/163 lbs. " Travis Paulson (Sunkist Kids) dec. Keith Gavin (New York AC), 0-1, 1-0, 1-0

84 kg/185 lbs. " Jake Herbert (New York AC) dec. Eric Leudke (Gator WC), 7-0, 1-3, 1-0

96 kg/211.5 lbs. " Jake Varner (Sunkist Kids) dec. Kyle Cerminara (New York AC), 2-0, 2-0

120 kg/264.5 lbs. " Steve Mocco (New York AC) dec. Tervel Dlagnev (Sunkist Kids), 1-0, 2-2, 1-0

ASICS U.S. Open Wrestling Championships website U.S. Senior Freestyle Rankings, April 2010

2009 U.S. Open Freestyle Championships results

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