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Rules changes enable Dantzler to rule in Greco-Roman



COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - T.C. Dantzler was eating lunch with his family between sessions of the 2005 U.S. World Team Trials when he couldn't believe his ears.

"Everybody at the restaurant there in Ames was talking about how exciting the Greco matches were," Dantzler said. "They were talking about all the big throws and spectacular moves. It was great to hear."

Greco-Roman rules changes implemented last year by FILA, the international governing body for wrestling, not only have added to the excitement level in a lot of matches. The changes have extended the career of the 35-year-old Dantzler.

The three-time World Team member had planned on retiring at the end of the 2005 season.

Those plans were put on hold when FILA changed the rules between last year's U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials, putting more of an emphasis on wrestling on the mat in the par terre position with the use of a reverse lift.

Now the athletic, explosive Dantzler, who excels in par terre with an array of lifts and turns, has no plans to leave his shoes on the center of the mat anytime soon.

"I was extremely happy they changed the rules because I was pretty much done," said Dantzler, who competes for the Gator Wrestling Club. "Now wrestling is fun again - we've rejuvenated our relationship and we're in love again. I was ready to give it up, but now the next Olympics is my goal. I'm hungry again. I want to win that gold medal."

Even though he's made three World Teams, Dantzler enters the U.S. World Team Trials as the No. 1 seed for the first time. After three runner-up finishes and five third-place finishes in Las Vegas, Dantzler won the U.S. Nationals for the first time in his career last month in Vegas. He's the man to beat right now in Greco-Roman at 74 kg/163 pounds.

Dantzler, a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, said his confidence level couldn't be any higher heading into the World Team Trials May 27-28 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. The winner at the Trials earns a trip to the World Championships in Guangzhou, China, on Sept. 26-Oct. 2.

"The key for me at the Trials is sticking to my game plan - knowing I can turn anybody when I get on top and knowing I can stop anybody when they try to turn me," Dantzler said. "I live for the par terre position, top or bottom. There is no secret to what I'm going to do. But I have about seven or eight ways I can turn somebody from the top position."

Dantzler made World teams in 2002, 2003 and 2005, but has failed to place each time. He ran into Olympic champion Alexsandr Dokturishvili of Uzbekistan and lost 2-0, 2-0 in the first round of the 2005 World meet. Dokturishvili didn't reach the finals, so Dantzler was eliminated from the tournament under the new FILA format.

"There were like six (World or Olympic) medalists on my side of the bracket," Dantzler said. "A lot of times it's the luck of the draw. You have to be ready for every match, that's for sure."

Momir Petkovic, USA Wrestling's assistant national coach for Greco-Roman, said Dantzler has "the potential to reach his dreams."

"The new rules can't be any better for T.C. - this is his game with his ability to lift people and wrestle down on the mat," said Petkovic, a 1976 Olympic gold medalist for the former Yugoslavia. "We've worked on fine-tuning a few things and he's made some good adjustments. I definitely think he has the potential to place in the top three in the World. It's just a matter of doing it at the right time."

Dantzler said he used a different approach this year for U.S. Nationals and it paid off as he hit the jackpot on the mat in Vegas for the first time.

"I did put more of an emphasis on Nationals this year," he said. "I wasn't trying to peak as much at Nationals in past years and basically trained right through it. I was still trying to win, but this year I changed my approach. I definitely tried to peak a little more for that event."

Even though Dantzler says he "hasn't won anything yet" on the international level, he admits wrestling has taken him places he never thought he would go.

"I've been all over the world to places like Russia, Poland, Italy, France, Bulgaria and Iran. It's been a great experience, seeing all the different places and different cultures," he said. "What wrestling has allowed me to experience has shaped my life. It's helped me become a much more well-rounded person and human being."

As the personable, upbeat Dantzler will tell you, "Life isn't good right now, it's great."

And not just on the mat. The Chicago native and his wife, Tanya, are raising two young sons, 6-year-old Thomas Curtis III and 2-year-old Tyce. He also is the founder of TC Logic, a background screening company. Dantzler said he just signed a contract with USA Swimming to do work for them.

Dantzler said his older son already has acquired his father's love for wrestling.

"Thomas is in a kids program and he just loves it," T.C. said. "He can execute moves already and has some pretty good technique. I'm trying to introduce him to some other sports as well, and give him an opportunity to see what he likes. He's having a lot of fun with wrestling right now and that's the most important thing."

The fun-loving Dantzler said his family keeps him grounded.

"Life shouldn't be as serious as everybody makes it," Dantzler said. "I wrestle because I'm good at it and because it's fun. I'm all business on the mat. But the most important thing is my family, and they're really supportive of me. I'm blessed to have a great wife and two great kids. That's what it's all about right there."
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