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U.S. Nationals preview at 55 kg/121 lbs. in Greco-Roman wrestling

If there is a secret to making a rapid transformation from folkstyle to Greco-Roman wrestling, then Sam Hazewinkel has discovered it.

Just a few weeks after competing for the University of Oklahoma in the 2005 NCAA Championships, Hazewinkel jumped right back onto the mat in Las Vegas and scored a huge win by knocking off Lindsey Durlacher in the 55 kg/121 pound Greco-Roman finals of the U.S. Nationals.

Durlacher eventually prevailed when it counted most as he downed Hazewinkel two matches to one in the World Team Trials last summer in Ames, Iowa. A spirited new rivalry may be developing between the two Greco standouts.

Durlacher and Hazewinkel roll into the U.S. Nationals ranked 1-2 in the nation by in Greco-Roman wrestling at 55 kg/121 lbs.

Durlacher, who competes for the New York Athletic Club, has finished second in Vegas the past four years. Hazewinkel, who wrestles for the Gator Wrestling Club, will jump back into Greco shortly after competing in the NCAA meet. The OU junior placed third at 125 pounds at the NCAA tournament for the third straight season.

Hazewinkel has a strong Greco-Roman pedigree, as his father and uncle were Olympians.

While the scrappy Hazewinkel has been busy wrestling folkstyle, the seasoned Durlacher has been active on the Greco-Roman circuit. Durlacher won the Dave Schultz and New York Athletic Club International tournaments.

Durlacher finished second in the Sunkist Kids meet, falling to Joe Betterman of the New York Athletic Club in the finals. He came back to beat Betterman a month later in the finals of the NYAC meet. He also took fifth in the Poland Open in early March.

Also at 121, Betterman is ranked third. The balance of the top 10 in the March rankings includes No. 4 Spenser Mango of the Gator Wrestling Club, No. 5 Jermaine Hodge of the U.S. Army, No. 6 Anthony Brooker of the U.S. Air Force, No. 7 Eric Albarracin, No. 8 Neal Rodak and No. 9 Duaine Martin of the U.S. Army, and No. 10 Jared Moreland of the U.S. Air Force.

Betterman, 21, a member of the U.S. Olympic Education Center program, is another promising young prospect in this class. He was fifth in Vegas last year and third at the World Team Trials. He went 4-0 in the Kit Carson International Cup in January before going 2-2 in the Dave Schultz Memorial Open in early February.

Betterman twice has won both the University Nationals and the FILA Junior Nationals. The spirited Betterman has steadily improved in recent years and is expected to push Durlacher and Hazewinkel for top honors this year.

Mango, who competes for the Gator Wrestling Club, placed third at the Sunkist Kids tournament after being swept 6-0, 2-0 by Durlacher. Mango pinned Martin in that meet. Mango and Hodge have split matches this season. Hodge placed fifth at the Sunkist Kids Open.

Martin has been a long-time fixture on the Greco scene and is a guy who definitely could be a factor in this division. He has shuttled back and forth between this division and 60 kg/132 pounds, and has been a Greco-Roman national team member a number of times.

Albarracin was third in Vegas last year and Brooker was fourth. Rodak was seventh in Vegas last season.

Albarracin spent many years on the freestyle national circuit, and just recently started competing in Greco-Roman. Although he is new to the classic style, he has many years of experience in major national events. He scored a win over Betterman in Vegas last year.

Brooker proved his mettle by placing fourth at both the U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials last year. Rodak, who was a college wrestler at the University of Chicago, started his career in the U.S. Navy, but now competes for the U.S. Army. He is a former Armed Forces champion.

The weight class does not have the depth of some of the others. Watch for Jared Moreland of the U.S. Air Force, Wesley Hartman of the U.S. Marines and 2005 University Nationals champion Ricardo Osorio of the U.S. Air Force to fight for All-American honors.

How quickly Hazewinkel shifts gears while transitioning from folkstyle to Greco-Roman may hold the key in this weight class. The experienced Durlacher is still the man to beat and has been wrestling well this season. Don't be surprised to see Betterman right in the mix as well, along with Albarracin, Brooker and Mango.

1st - Sam Hazewinkel, Pensacola (Gator WC) dec. Lindsey Durlacher, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC), 2-0. 3-0
3rd - Eric Albarracin, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army) dec. Anthony Brooker, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force), 1-0, 0-1, 6-0
5th - Joseph Betterman, Chicago, Ill. (New York AC) dec. Spenser Mango, Flourissant, Mo. (Gator WC), 6-1, 5-0
7th - Neal Rodak, San Diego, Calif. (U.S. Army) dec. Jermaine Hodge, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army), 1-0, 1-0

1. Lindsey Durlacher, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC)
2. Sam Hazewinkel, Pensacola, Fla. (Gator WC)
3. Joe Betterman, Chicago, Ill. (USOEC/New York AC)
4. Spenser Mango, Flourisant, Mo. (USOEC/Gator WC)
5. Jermaine Hodge, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
6. Anthony Brooker, Santa Barbara, Calif. (U.S. Air Force)
7. Eric Albarracin, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
8. Neal Rodak, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
9. Duaine Martin, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
10. Jared Moreland, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force)
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