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WORLD TEAM TRIALS PREVIEW: Greco-Roman at 96 kg/211.5 lbs.

Returning to competition this year was 1995 World bronze medalist Justin Ruiz of the New York AC, who took a season off after placing second in the 2008 Olympic Trials. Ruiz won his sixth career U.S. Open title this year, and also claimed titles at the New York AC International and the Dave Schultz Memorial. Ruiz has moved to Boise, Idaho, where he trains with a number of top stars under respected coach Ivan Ivanov, and he has made the commitment to pursue another Olympic four-year cycle.

Last year’s World Team member, R.C. Johnson of the Sunkist Kids, has not been able to compete this year due to injury, but he has returned to health and is training hard. Johnson did not compete at the U.S. Open, but was second in the 2008 and 2009 U.S. Open. He was right in the battle with Ruiz and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Adam Wheeler for a number of years, but put it all together last year when both were not competing.

Placing second at the U.S. Open was John Lorenz of the U.S. Army, whose previous best finish at the national level was sixth. Lorenz has shown strong improvement since joining the Army program. Taking third at the U.S. Open was 2006 World Team member Jake Clark of the U.S. Air Force, who is expected to drop down to 84 kg in Council Bluffs. If Clark remains at 96 kg, he will be a factor based upon his skill and experience.

Justin Millard of the U.S. Army, a 2007 U.S. Open runner-up, placed fourth at the Open this season. He was also the 2010 Armed Forces champion at this weight class. Two newcomers at this level, Kenyon Walsh of the Suples WC and Philip Hard of the U.S. Marines, placed fifth and sixth respectively at the U.S. Open., their best finishes to date. Walsh just started training in Greco-Roman full-time under coach Ivan Ivanov after completing his college folkstyle career.

The final qualifier from Cleveland was seventh-place Pete Gounaridis of the Sunkist Kids, who was second in the 2009 World Team Trials. Gounaridis has had an up-and-d6wn season this year, but showed at last year’s World Team Trials that he is capable of beating top opponents.

Robbie Smith of the New York AC was second behind Ruiz at the 2010 Dave Schultz Memorial, and qualified for the World Team Trials by winning an international medal in Cuba at 96 kg. Smith missed weight at the U.S. Open and was fourth at 120 kg, but will be dropping down for Council Bluffs.

Regional champions were Alex Dolly of the Michigan WC (Northeast) and David Walker of Team BGWC (Northern Plains). Of the two, Walker has the most experience at the Senior level. Zach Nielsen of the Minnesota Storm qualified by winning the Sunkist Kids International and most recently won the University World Team Trials, beating Gounaridis in the finals. Also qualifying for Council Bluffs after being finalists at the University Nationals were champion Charles Fish of the U.S. Marines and runner-up Robert Prigmore of Chattanooga Wrestling. Joseph Sheffield of Y.E.S. Greensboro may drop down from 120 kg to compete at this weight.

With the return of R.C. Johnson to this weight class, and the rapid return to success by Justin Ruiz, this should be a very competitive division. John Lorenz and Justin Millard are capable of putting together a strong run here.

2010 U.S. Open results at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. in Greco-Roman
1st - Justin Ruiz, Meridian, Idaho (New York AC) dec. John Lorenz, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army), 2-0,1-0
3rd - Jake Clark, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force) dec. Justin Millard, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army), 1-0, 3-0
5th - Kenyon Walsh, Boise, Idaho (Suples Wrestling Club) pin Philip Hard, Camp LeJeune, N.C. (U.S. Marines), 0:29
7th - Pete Gounaridis, Leominster, Mass. (Sunkist Kids) pin Chris Skretkowicz, Lexington, Va (Club Keydet), 0:31

World Team Trials qualifiers at 96 kg/211.5 pounds in Greco-Roman
U.S. Open Champion – Justin Ruiz, Meridian, Idaho (New York AC)
U.S. Open, second place – John Lorenz, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
U.S. Open, third place – Jake Clark, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Open, fourth place – Justin Millard, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army),
U.S. Open, fifth place – Kenyon Walsh, Boise, Idaho (Suples WC)
U.S. Open, sixth place - Philip Hard, Camp LeJeune, N.C. (U.S. Marines),
U.S. Open, seventh place - Pete Gounaridis, Leominster, Mass. (Sunkist Kids)
Northeast Regional Trials Champion – Alex Dolly, Haslett, Mich. (Michigan WC)
Northern Plains Trials Champion – David Walker, Tacoma, Wash. (Team BGWC)
Past U.S. World Team member – R C Johnson, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
Sunkist Kids International champion – Zack Nielsen, Zimmerman, Minn. (Minnesota Storm)
University Nationals Champion – Charles Fish, Camp Lejeune, N.C. (U.S. Marines)
University Nationals True Second – Robert Prigmore, Southlake, Texas (Chattanooga Wrestling)
10 Granma Cup (CUB) bronze medalist – Robbie Smith, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC)

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