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U.S. Nationals preview at 51 kg/112.25 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling



In 2005, the top two athletes at 112.25 pounds in the United States were Stephanie Murata of the Sunkist Kids and Mary Kelly of the USOEC/New York AC. Both of these athletes have dropped down to 105.5 pounds. However, the 112.25 pound division will remain very strong this year, as other top stars are expected to compete here.

Returning to this division is 2003 World bronze medalist Jenny Wong of the Sunkist Kids, who made a drop to 105.5 pounds late last season and qualified for the U.S. World Team. Wong did not medal at the lower weight last year at the World Championships, and has since returned to this division, where she has had considerable success. Wong won gold medals at the Klippan Golden Grand Prix in Sweden and the New York AC Holiday International this year, and has two other medals at international events this season.

Making a comeback after a short retirement is 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Patricia Miranda of the Sunkist Kids. After winning her Olympic medal at 105.5 pounds, she took last year off to concentrate on her first year at Yale Law School. This fall, she announced a return to competition, and has wrestled up at 112.25 pounds this season. Miranda, also a two-time World silver medalist, used to compete at 112.25 pounds, and won the first of her World medals in this weight class.

Wong and Miranda have already wrestled each other twice this year. Wong defeate Miranda in the finals of the New York AC Holiday International, but Miranda returned the favor with a victory in the semifinals at the Dave Schultz Memorial International. Miranda also won a gold medal at the Alexander Medved International in Belarus. This could be a close battle all year, with the U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials coming up.

Malinda Ripley of the Sunkist Kids placed second behind Murata in the U.S. Nationals last year, and is a two-time U.S. Nationals champion (2003-04). She has not been active in competition so far this year, and wrestled up at 121 pounds at the Dave Schultz Memorial, so it will be difficult to determine how she will fare if she is in the field in Las Vegas. Ripley has considerable talent and will always be a threat to reach the finals at this weight class.

There is a new veteran international wrestler in the field this year. After living in the U.S. for many years, Julieta Okot received her citizenship and has already competed in her first event as an American, placing second behind Miranda at the Dave Schultz Memorial International. She competed for Bulgaria at a number of World Championships and other international events, giving her much more experience than many of the competitors in the field.

Caitlyn Chase of the Gator WC, who is a senior in high school in Illinois this year, was a U.S. Nationals runner-up last year at 105.5 pounds. She moved up to 112.25 pounds for the World Team Trials and placed fourth, then was second at the FILA Junior Nationals, and the champion at the Junior Nationals. This year, Chase has not competed in freestyle, concentrating on high school wrestling where she missed much of the season. She is expected to be ready for the spring freestyle year.

There could be some strong contenders come out of the college ranks this year. Jessica Medina of the Univ. of the Cumberlands moved up from 105.5 pounds this year, and captured the Women's College Nationals at 112.25 pound. Placing second at the College Nationals was Maika Watanabe of Missouri Valley College, who was seventh at the U.S. Nationals last year. Samantha Schuman of Missouri Valley had a strong freshman season and is someone to watch in the future.

A top college wrestler who missed the season due to injury is Kapua Torres of Pacific Univ. , who was fifth at last year's U.S. Nationals and earned a spot on the U.S. Junior World Team. If Torres is healthy in time to compete in Las Vegas, she could be right in the mix once again. Another women's wrestler who is a college wrestler is Claire du Pont of the Colorado School of Mines, a former Junior National champion who has been competing in the major women's events in recent seasons.

Veteran Cheryl Wong of the New York AC continues to be a challenger in the division, placing eighth last year at the U.S. Nationals. Her experience will be a factor, especially against younger opponents. High School wrestler Shandra Peterson of Iowa qualified for last year's World Team Trials and finished sixth in the Team USA rankings at this division.

The battle for the national title should feature many prominent stars, including Patricia Miranda, Jenny Wong and Malinda Ripley, all who have won past national titles. A new challenger, new citizen Julieta Okot, adds even more depth to the field. A mix of talented college and high school wrestlers will make this division one of the more interesting contests in the entire U.S. Women's Nationals this year.

2005 U.S. NATIONALS RESULTS AT 51 KG/112.25 LBS.
1st - Stephanie Murata, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) dec. Malinda Ripley, Colorado Springs, Colo.(Sunkist Kids), 1-0, 2-0
3rd - Jenny Wong, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) dec. Mary Kelly, Mahomet, Ill. (New York AC), 1-3, 1-0, 5-0
5th - Kapua Torres, Kahuku, Hawaii (Pacific) dec. Debbi Sakai, Miliani, Hawaii (New York AC), 6-0, 6-1
7th - Maika Watanabe, Napa, Calif. (Missouri Valley) dec. Cheryl Wong, Croton, N.Y. (unattached), 1-0, 1-0

THEMAT.COM RANKINGS FOR MARCH 2006
1. Patricia Miranda, New Haven, Conn. (Sunkist Kids)
2. Jenny Wong, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
3. Malinda Ripley, Colorado Springs, Colo.(Sunkist Kids)
4. Julieta Okot, New York, N.Y. (New York AC)
5. Caitlyn Chase, Hanover Park, Ill. (Gator WC)
6. Maika Watanabe, Napa, Calif. (Missouri Valley)
7. Kapua Torres, Kahuku, Hawaii (Pacific Univ.)
8. Claire DuPont, Leadville, Colo. (Colo. School of Mines)
9. Michaela Hutchison, Soldotna, Alaska
10. Cheryl Wong, Croton, N.Y. (New York AC)
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