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World bronze medalist Tervel Dlagnev looking for more success at Trials

Tervel Dlagnev wins the 2009 World Team Trials in Council Bluffs. Larry Slater photo.

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – Tervel Dlagnev was in the same position last year.

Sitting at the podium in Council Bluffs for a press conference two days before the U.S. World Team Trials.

Dlagnev arrived in Council Bluffs last year as the runner-up from the U.S. Nationals in Las Vegas. He arrives in western Iowa this year after placing second at the 2010 U.S. Open in Cleveland.

But a lot has changed in the last year. Dlagnev knocked off Olympian Steve Mocco in the finals of the World Team Trials in Council Bluffs before winning a bronze medal at the 2009 World Championships in Denmark.

This season, Dlagnev avenged his semifinal loss from the 2009 Worlds by beating Iranian Fardin Masoumi in March’s World Cup. Dlagnev competes in freestyle at 120 kg/264.5 lbs.

“It was exciting to win a World bronze medal last year,” Dlagnev said on Wednesday afternoon. “I hope that’s not the highlight of my wrestling career. I plan on winning a few more medals – gold ones hopefully. I can see myself on top of the podium at the Worlds now.”

Before he takes another shot at the Worlds, the 24-year-old Dlagnev has to qualify for his second U.S. team. He lost to college rival Les Sigman in the finals of April’s U.S. Open.

Dlagnev was a two-time NCAA Division II champion for Nebraska-Kearney while Sigman won four D2 titles for Nebraska-Omaha. Sigman was 9-0 in college against Dlagnev, including a win in his final college match in 2006. Dlagnev won his national titles in 2007 and 2008.

Dlagnev is 3-2 in freestyle against Sigman, who won the most recent meeting in April at the U.S. Open.

Sigman has advanced to the best-of-3 final round on Saturday night by virtue of winning the Open. Sigman awaits the winner of the Challenge Tournament.

Dlagnev beat Sigman earlier this season in the finals of the New York AC International. Sigman has enjoyed a breakthrough season. He’s won three major tournaments, beating both returning World bronze medalists and Mocco this season.

“Sigman’s a great competitor – I love wrestling against him,” said Dlagnev, who competes for the Sunkist Kids. “We know each other so well and we know what each guy is going to do. We have a history, and I’ve tried to learn from those matches against him.”

Dlagnev will be favored to win the Challenge Tournament, but likely will have to beat past World fifth-place finisher Tommy Rowlands to earn a shot at Sigman.

Rowlands placed third in the Open after falling to Sigman in the semifinals. Dlagnev and Rowlands train together at the Ohio Regional Training Center in Columbus.

“Tommy’s a great training partner,” Dlagnev said. “We really push each other and we make each other better.”

Dlagnev won a bronze medal in his first trip to the Worlds last year.

“Last year was the first time I had wrestled a lot of those guys who are at the top level,” he said. “It was exciting to win my first medal, but it was a little bittersweet because I didn’t win a World title. Now I feel like I have an expectation to win, even if I’m going up against the World champion. I’m not looking to just squeak by. I expect to win every time I go out there now.”

Dlagnev was married last month in Kearney, and said he is headed to Jamaica on his honeymoon next week.

“It’s been great – I love being married,” he said. “The right person helps you in every aspect of your life, and it’s helped me. I’ve found the right person.”

He then hopes to spend his summer preparing for his second World Championships. The Worlds will be in September in Moscow, Russia.

“I’m still learning,” he said. “I just have to keep working hard and keep improving.”
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