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2013 U.S. Open Greco-Roman preview for Las Vegas

The theme for the 2013 Greco-Roman National Championships is experience. Six of the seven 2012 Olympic Trials champions are expected in the field of competitors, with five of them having competed in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England. In addition, there are multiple athletes who came up just short of the Olympic dream last season and are looking to overtake the top spot.

Headlining the 2013 field are World champion and three-time World medalist Dremiel Byers and two-time World bronze medalist Dremiel Byers, both who compete with the U.S. Army. Both Lester and Byers competed for the U.S. at the London Olympics, and Byers was on the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing also. Look for both of these competitors to come out hungry and regain their respective places on the 2013 World Team.

Two-time Olympian Spenser Mango of the U.S. Army is looking to continue his dominance of what has developed into an extremely competitive 55 kg weight class. Mango has yet to break through to earn a World medal, but with valuable experience, this could be the year he finds his way to the podium at the World Championships.

Not many of the 2012 Olympians have competed since the London Games but have been in training. With so much up-and-coming talent entered into this year’s field, look for extremely competitive matchups right from the early rounds.

55 KG/121 LBS.

The 55 kg weight class has developed into one of the most competitive top to bottom in the Greco-Roman division. Wrestling for the U.S. Army’s WCAP program, two-time Olympian and defending U.S. Open champion Spenser Mango has maintained the top spot at this weight since 2008. Mango is definitely the favorite here, but he could be challenged by some of the rising stars at this weight.

Mango’s U.S. Army teammate Nate Engel has the potential to give Mango all he wants and more. Engel has had a tremendous season with wins over numerous nationally-ranked wrestlers including Max Nowry, Dmitry Ryabchinskiy and Isaiah Varona. These wins, as well as a first place finish at the Haparanda Cup in Sweden have bolstered Engel to the No. 2 ranking here.

Several other athletes will attempt to stake their claim as the best at 55 KG, including recently crowned 2013 Pan American Champion Max Nowry, who was the runner-up at the 2012 Olympic Team Trials to Mango. Nowry also won a University World title last summer, a major international accomplishment. Also look for Dmitry Ryabchinskiy and Isaiah Varona, among the young talents looking to make a splash at this weight. Both have increased their international experience of late.

Others with high expectations include Nikko Triggas, who completed his college career at Ohio State and will focus entirely on Greco, and Paul Tellgren, a veteran Greco specialist. College wrestlers Mike Fuenffinger and Tyler Cox have great age-group Greco-Roman records.

60 KG/132 LBS.

U.S. Army WCAP wrestler and two-time World Team member Joe Betterman looks to be the top contender at 60 kg and defend his national championship from last year. Betterman has rebounded in impressive fashion since his runner-up finish at the 2012 Olympic Trials, where he lost the Olympic spot to young talent Ellis Coleman. Since then Betterman defeated 55 kg Olympian Spenser Mango in the finals of the Haparanda Cup in Sweden as well as taking third place finishes at the NYAC Holiday International Open and the Dave Schultz Memorial International. Betterman was undefeated at the Jack Pinto Cup.

Jamel Johnson, a University World medalist last summer, will be a threat to Betterman at this weight. Johnson took first place at the NYAC Holiday International Open last November. Jeremiah Davis and Jesse Thielke will also be in the mix. Davis was third at last year’s Olympic Trials edging Thielke in the third place match. Davis has made two Greco-Roman World Teams, and Thielke is a past Junior World medalist

Other names to watch for include veteran Marco Lara, who has had a competitive season to date and finished third at last year’s U.S. Open, plus talented Chad Vandiver. Young stars who are making a move include Eric Chandler and Jessy Williams. Another veteran to watch is Donovan DePatto of the Marines. Freestyle Olympic Trials runner-up Nick Simmons is rumored to be trying Greco-Roman this year.

66 KG/145.5 LBS.

The 66 kg weight class is touted as one the most exciting fields on the national level. The top three wrestlers at this weight are looking to put on a show, and possibly gain some extra frequent flyer miles in the process.

Two-time World medalist Justin Lester of the Army posted a 1-2 record in London and is looking to return to the top of the podium in Las Vegas. Lester won the title at 74 kg in both styles at the year’s Armed Forces Championships. He brings a vast arsenal of technical skills with him.

Lester will have his hands full with fellow 2012 Olympian Ellis Coleman making the jump in weight to 66 kg. Ellis is famously known for his explosiveness on the mat.His skill was made evident by his “Flying Squirrel” move being featured on ESPN for weeks, with millions of views on YouTube. However, Coleman is not the only wrestler with a knack for explosiveness. Kendrick Sanders is quickly developing into one of the top Greco-Roman wrestlers in America with his ability to put points on the scoreboard in droves. With Lester, Coleman and Sanders all at this weight, expect to see some high-flying action and excellent athleticism on display

Also look out for some sleepers at this weight. Young talent Ravaughn Perkins took home the gold at the NYAC Holiday International Open and is looking to move up in the standings. Ben Sanchez has also had an impressive season taking third at the NYAC Holiday International Open. Sanchez was the runner-up at this event last year. Other contenders include Patrick Smith, Nick Alvarez, Josh Castellano and Thrasher Porcher.

74 KG/163 lbs.

2012 Olympian Ben Provisor headlines the 74 kg class, returning from the 2012 Olympic Games with a 1-1 record. If Provisor competes in Vegas, it will be the first time since London. Provisor quickly developed on the Senior level after many years as one of the top Junior stars in the nation.

The largest test Provisor might face comes from Jon Anderson of the Army, who has looked extremely impressive in recent competitions. He took third at the Dave Schultz Memorial International, defeating past World Team member Jake Fisher in the bronze-medal match. Anderson’s only loss at the 2012 Olympic trials was to Provisor by a score of 1-0, 1-0.

Minnesota Storm teammates Jake Fisher and Andrew Bisek come in to the 2013 Greco-Roman National Championships with a bit of a chip on their shoulders after Anderson passed them up in the rankings. Fisher has added to his medal collection since his fourth place finish at the 2012 Olympic Trials by placing second at the NYAC International Open, fourth at the Dave Schultz Memorial and third at the Granma Cup in Cuba. Fisher’s only losses to Americans have come from Anderson at the Schultz and Bisek in the NYAC finals. Bisek, also a past World Team member, won the NYAC Holiday International Open and has remained active on the international level.

Youngster Geordan Speiller out of Florida and USOEC veteran Tanner Andrews will also be looking to contend at this weight. Speiller has recorded wins over both Anderson and Andrews this year. Anton Gottfredson, Tim Bleau and Bo Beckman are others who are looking to move up.

84 KG/185 LBS.

The 84 kg weight class is one of the more open weights of the tournament. With 2012 Olympian Chas Betts not expected to compete, the chain of command would lean towards 2011 U.S. Open champion Jordan Holm, the runner-up to Betts at the 2012 Olympic Trials. Holm has had impressive showings this season, winning the Schultz Memorial, taking second at the NYAC International and winning a bronze at the Pan American Championships. Holm was third at the last year’s U.S. Open.

Peter Hicks of U.S. Army was third at the Olympic Trials a year ago and took fifth at the 2012 U.S. Open. Although he had a rather disappointing Jack Pinto Cup performance, Hicks is capable of challenging for a national title. Also in contention will be USOEC athletes Mark Stenberg and Zac Nielsen, both with the ability to challenge for a spot in the finals. Nielsen was the runner-up at the U.S. Open last year. Both have also been on U.S. age-group World Teams.

Minnesota Storm youngster Travis Rutt will also be in the mix here. Rutt just finished a college redshirt season at Oklahoma and will be looking to improve upon his eighth place finish from a year ago. Young athletes who have had strong performances recently include Lucas Sheridan and Lee Wildes. Among the other challengers to watch are Donald Simmons, Joseph Rau and Ethan Dondlinger.

96 KG/211.5 LBS.

For many years, World medalist Justin Ruiz was the top man at this competitive division. Ruiz retired last spring after the U.S. did not qualify for the Olympic Games at this weight class.

A rivalry is brewing between the two men at the top, R.C. Johnson and Pete Gounaridis. Johnson is the defending U.S. Open and Olympic Trials champion, having faced Gounaridis in the finals of both events. Johnson is a past U.S. World Team member and may have the most experience in the field. Gounaridis won medals at the U.S. Open and World Team Trials in past years, and recently joined the U.S. Army program.

Young Caylor Williams is looking to have a breakthrough performance and take home his first U.S. Open title. Williams has had a great season thus far winning the NYAC Holiday International Open and placing second at the Granma Cup in Cuba. All that Williams is missing is a victory over either Johnson or Gounaridis to make that jump into the upper echelon of this weight class.

Also looking to make a similar statement are wrestlers USOEC star Marcus Finau and U.S. Marine Charles Fish. Finau took second place at the NYAC Holiday International Open and was sixth at this tournament a year ago. Fish recently took second in the Granma Cup in Cuba. Other challengers could include Daren Burns, Patrick Carey, Kenyon Walsh and Joe Sheffield.

120 KG/264.5 LBS.

The longtime king at this weight, Dremiel Byers, returns to action after taking some time off after the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Byers, a former World Champion and three-time World medalist, fell short of the medals in London, but is looking to regain the top spot in the world this year.

NYAC wrestler Robbie Smith has faced some stiff competition this year having moved up permanently from 96 kg. He won the NYAC International, was second at the Pan American Championships and fourth at the Dave Schultz Memorial International. Now that Smith is fully adjusted to his new weight class, he hopes to be the one to knock Byers off the top spot.

Also turning in strong seasons are U.S. Army wrestler Erik Nye and USOEC wrestlers Parker Betts and Toby Erickson. All three have gone back and forth with some close matches this season. Aside from Byers, Erickson is the highest returning place winner from last year, placing fourth in 2012. Erickson is also a past Junior World bronze medalist. Nye took time off from Greco-Roman, but has returned with good results. Wyatt Baker was a member of the 2012 Junior World Team. College star Jarod Trice has shown great Greco-Roman skills. Others who add some depth here include Nicholas Severson, Niko Bogojevic, and Jake Kettler.

April 2013 U.S. Senior Greco-Roman Rankings

2012 U.S. Open Greco-Roman results
Untitled Document
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