U.S. Nationals preview at 59 kg/130 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling
The dominant athlete in the 59 kg/130 lbs. division in women's wrestling in recent seasons has been two-time World bronze medalist Sally Roberts of the Gator WC. She took this weight class over in 2003, the year she won her first World medal. In 2004, this weight class was not contested at the Olympics, so Roberts went up to 63 kg/138.75 lbs. for the U.S. Olympic Trials. However, a national team ranking tournament was held after the Olympics, and Roberts won, retaining her top spot. In 2005, Roberts won the U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials and captured her second World medal. This is Roberts' weight class to win, and everybody else in the field will be pointing at her as the person to beat.
This winter, Roberts has been a bit inconsistent in her international events, where she has won a few medals, but also lost some matches. One of her losses was to another American, Marcie Van Dusen of the Sunkist Kids, who moved up into her weight for the Yarygin Tournament. However, Roberts has shown her ability to beat American opponents when it most counts, and the U.S. Nationals is another chance to display her control of this division.
The U.S. Nationals runner-up last year was 2004 Olympian Tela O'Donnell of the Sunkist Kids, who moved up into this division and reached the finals against Roberts. O'Donnell is currently not even being ranked by TheMat.com because she has not been competing for many months and is not expected to be in the field in Las Vegas.
Actually, if you look at the wrestlers who placed second through fifth in Las Vegas last year, none of them have been on the mats this season.U.S. Nationals bronze medalist Brandy Rosenbrock of the USOEC has been injured, and will be expected to be a threat if she can recover in time for the U.S. Nationals. Suekoilya Shelly of the New York AC, who was fourth in Las Vegas and third in the World Team Trials last year, did not wrestle at the Univ. of the Cumberlands this year and is not expected at the U.S. Nationals. Brooke Bogren of Missouri Valley College, fifth at last year's U.S. Nationals, has been injured, and may be back in time to compete in Las Vegas.
The athlete who has stepped up to be a challenger here, based upon performance this winter, is young Deanna Rix of the New York AC, a three-time Junior Nationals champion in her first year out of high school. Rix had a No. 6 ranking on Women's Team USA last season, and has been active in international events. She won silver medals at the New York AC Holiday Championships and the Dave Schultz Memorial, and also competed at the Sunkist Kids International and in an overseas tournament in Belarus. Rix is continuing to improve as she gains experience, and could be considered a favorite to make the finals in Las Vegas.
Veteran Erin Tomeo of the Sunkist Kids has inserted herself as another top contender for the U.S. Nationals title this year. She has wrestled in recent years up at 63 kg/138.75 lbs., but dropped down to 59 kg/130 lbs. for the Medved International and won a silver medal, beating Rix in the semifinals. Tomeo was a member of the 2001 U.S. World Team, and has been second at the U.S. Nationals two times, which gives her tremendous experience and confidence at this weight class.
A veteran at this division who has shown improvement is Leigh Jaynes of the U.S. Army, who was seventh at the U.S. Nationals last year and placed fourth in the World Team Trials. Jaynes is training fulltime in Colorado Springs, Colo. now, and has wrestled in two international tournaments.
A talented college star is Othella Lucas of the New York AC, who wrestles for the Univ. of the Cumberlands and is one of the top wrestlers on the North American college circuit. Lucas had a very successful season on the college level this winter, and won the gold medal at the Sunkist Kids International in the fall. She has the skills and potential to reach the championship round of the U.S. Nationals if she can get on a roll in Las Vegas.
An athlete to watch if she is at this division is 2004 U.S. Nationals champion Na'Tasha Umemoto of the Sunkist Kids. She has been back and forth between this weight class and 63 kg/138.75 lbs. in recent seasons. Umemoto was second behind Lucas at the Sunkist Kids International, and lost to both Lucas and Rix at the New York AC Holiday Championships. If this is the weight that she enters in Las Vegas, Umemoto also has the potential to be in the gold-medal match with a strong performance.
Rachel Billerbeck of Missouri Valley College earned a No. 4 national team ranking at 63 kg/136.75 lbs., but has moved down into this division during the college season, where she is rated right behind Lucas in the national college rankings. This will be a chance for Billerbeck to see where she stacks up at the U.S. Nationals at her new weight class.
The rest of the field in this division is still working to move up on the national scene. Bethany Harris of No Mercy, Michelle Ludwig of Pacific Univ., Laurin Daniels of Menlo College and Erica Chew of Missouri Valley College are ranked nationally this year, but each have to show that they belong there with a strong effort at the U.S. Nationals. Jen Chu of the WOW club of Pennsylvania was eighth at the U.S. Nationals last season, and is also still trying to make a name for herself in the big picture. Another collegian, freshman Jessica Jauck of the Univ. of the Cumberlands, has the potential to have an impact at this weight class in Las Vegas this year.
The fact remains that Sally Roberts is the proven star at this division, and everybody else is trying to catch up to her. Top contenders for the U.S. Nationals finals include young Deanna Rix and experienced Erin Tomeo. Others that could be a factor are Leigh Jaynes, Othella Lucas, Brandy Rosenbrock and Na'Tasha Umemoto. Don't be surprised if a few new names make their mark this year and earn All-American status for the first time in Las Vegas.
2005 U.S. NATIONALS RESULTS AT 59 KG/130 LBS.
1st - Sally Roberts, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC) dec. Tela O'Donnell, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids), 4-0, 0-1, 2-1
3rd - Brandy Rosenbrock, Harrison, Mich. (USOEC) dec. Suekoiyla Shelly, Hurst, Texas (New York AC), 1-0, 0-3, 3-1
5th - Brooke Bogren, Burlingame, Kan. (Missouri Valley) pin Deanna Rix, South Berwick, Maine (SMT), 1:06
7th - Leigh Jaynes, Burlington, N.J. (New York AC) dec. Jen Chu, Philadelphia, Pa. (W.O.W.), 4-0, 5-1
THEMAT.COM RANKINGS FOR MARCH 2006
1. Sally Roberts, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC)
2. Deanna Rix, South Berwick, Maine (New York AC)
3. Leigh Jaynes, Burlington, N.J. (U.S. Army)
4. Othella Lucas, San Diego, Calif. (New York AC)
5. Na'Tasha Umemoto, Portland, Ore. (Sunkist Kids)
6. Brooke Bogren, Carbondale, Kan. (Missouri Valley)
7. Bethany Harris, Valley Center, Calif. (No Mercy)
8. Michelle Ludwig, San Diego, Calif. (Pacific Univ.)
9. Laurin Daniels, Vashon Island, Wash. (Menlo College)
10. Erica Chew, Houston, Texas (Missouri Valley College)