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|Freestyle preview: Cejudo-Henson matchup could be one of most intriguing at World Team Trials|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
These are exciting times for Henry Cejudo.
The four-time state champion from Colorado Springs is scheduled to graduate from high school later this week. This weekend, he will take aim at graduating to the next level in wrestling by landing a spot on his first U.S. World freestyle team.
Cejudo's quest to make the World team at 55 kg/121 pounds will be one of many intriguing storylines when the World Team Trials are contested on Saturday, May 27, and Sunday, May 28, at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
Winners at each weight class in Sioux City qualify for the World Championships on Sept. 26-Oct. 2 in Guangzhou, China.
It won't be easy for Cejudo, who competes for the Sunkist Kids. Cejudo won the U.S. Nationals last month in Las Vegas, but Sammie Henson of the Sunkist Kids did not compete. Henson, a 1998 World champion and 2000 Olympic silver medalist, will be in Sioux City.
Returning World bronze medalists Tolly Thompson (264.5 pounds) and Joe Williams (163), both of the Sunkist Kids, also will try to lock up spots on the American team.
Henson, Williams and rising star Mo Lawal (185) each won titles at the prestigious Uzbekistan Independence Cup in March. Henson and Lawal both defeated reigning World champions in the finals. Henson beat two-time World champ Dilshod Mansurov of Uzbekistan and Lawal beat 2005 World champ Revas Mindorishvili of Georgia.
The World Team Trials will use a new format in Sioux City where all the matches in a weight class will be contested in one day, to mirror the format used at the World Championships.
Freestyle wrestlers at 55 kg/121 pounds, 60 kg/132 pounds and 96 kg/211.5 pounds are scheduled to compete on Saturday with wrestlers at 66 kg/145.5 pounds, 74 kg/163 pounds, 84 kg/185 pounds and 120 kg/264.5 pounds taking the mat on Sunday.
Thompson is the lone wrestler who gained an automatic berth into the best-of-3 finals in freestyle. He earned that right by being a returning World medalist and by winning a title at U.S. Nationals.
The rest of the competitors will compete in a Challenge Tournament early in the day. The finalists in each class then will battle in a best-of-3 series late in the day to determine the champion.
Williams will have to go through the Challenge Tournament after finishing second to Donny Pritzlaff of the New York Athletic Club in Vegas. Williams has made the last five U.S. World Teams, in addition to making the 2004 Olympic team. He is a two-time World bronze medalist.
55 KG/121 LBS.
The 19-year-old Cejudo won in Vegas and continues to improve, but the 35-year-old Henson still is considered the favorite in this weight class. The powerful Henson is looking to come back strong after failing to place at the 2005 World meet.
Matt Azevedo of the Sunkist Kids also will be in the mix after finishing second to Cejudo in Vegas.
Michigan State junior Nick Simmons was third in the Trials, but did not qualify this year after being sidelined with an injury.
Also expected to be a factor is Luke Eustice of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, who placed fifth in Vegas. Adam Smith of the ITCWC was third at the U.S. Nationals and Collin Cudd of the Badger Wrestling Club was fourth.
Veteran Eric Akin of the Cyclone Wrestling Club, second at the World Team Trials last year, has competed in the Trials (World or Olympic) the past 12 years. The 1999 World Team member will be in the hunt if he shows up in Sioux City.
60 KG/132 LBS.
Former Oklahoma standout Michael Lightner of the Sunkist Kids rolled into Vegas as the favorite after making the World team last year, but ran into Zach Roberson of the Sunkist Kids in the finals. Roberson emerged with a tough win in a bout that went three periods.
Roberson's former Iowa State teammate, Nate Gallick, also will be in the hunt after taking third in Vegas. Former Iowa Hawkeye standouts Mike Zadick and Cliff Moore placed fourth and fifth at the U.S. Nationals.
Gallick placed second at the 2005 World Team Trials. Zadick was second at the 2003 World Team Trials and 2004 Olympic Trials before placing third in the 2005 World Team Trials.
Olympic silver medalist Stephen Abas and past NCAA champion Travis Lee also are not likely to compete. Both have been out with injuries.
Two-time NCAA champion Teyon Ware of the New York Athletic Club placed seventh in Vegas and could make some noise as he turns his focus to freestyle full-time.
66 KG/145.5 LBS.
Three-time World team member Chris Bono of the Sunkist Kids, recently named the interim head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga, is looking strong after winning the U.S. Nationals.
Bono topped long-time rival Bill Zadick of the Gator Wrestling Club in the finals at Vegas. Zadick made the 2001 World team.
Also expected to contend in Sioux City are Doug Schwab and Jared Frayer of the Gator Wrestling Club, Jared Lawrence of the Minnesota Storm and Eric Larkin of the Sunkist Kids. They finished 3-6 in Vegas.
Lawrence was second at the 2004 Olympic Trials and 2005 World Team Trials. Frayer was third at the 2005 Trials. Larkin was third in the 2004 Trials.
74 KG/163 LBS.
When Williams lost to Pritzlaff in the finals in Vegas it marked the first time since the 2000 Olympic Trials he had lost to an American.
Expect Williams to come back strong against Pritzlaff, who has made significant improvement this season.
Kirk White of the Bronco Wrestling Club, second at the World Team Trials last year, missed the U.S. Nationals with an injury and will miss the Trials as well.
Tyrone Lewis and Joe Heskett of the Gator Wrestling Club, and Ramico Blackmon of the New York Athletic Club placed 3-5 in Vegas and can't be counted out at the Trials. Heskett placed second to Williams at the 2003 World Team Trials and 2004 Olympic Trials. Blackmon was second in the 2001 World Team Trials.
Matt Gentry of the Sunkist Kids, an NCAA champion for Stanford, is another guy to watch in this division.
84 KG/185 LBS.
Lawal appears poised for a breakthrough season internationally after making his first World Team last year. He was seventh in the World last year.
Lawal's toughest challenge will come from veteran Lee Fullhart of the Gator Wrestling Club, who has twice been a runner-up at the Olympic Trials and has finished second on three occasions at the World Team Trials. Lawal, who competes for the Gator Wrestling Club, swept Fullhart 1-0, 2-0 in the finals in Vegas.
The rest of the weight class is fairly wide open with Clint Wattenburg of the New York Athletic Club next in line after placing third at the U.S. Nationals. Travis Pascoe of the Sunkist Kids was a surprise fourth-place finisher in Vegas after entering the tournament unseeded.
Pascoe beat Chris Pendleton of the Gator Wrestling Club in the first round at the U.S. Nationals and Pendleton failed to place in the top eight. Look for Pendleton to bounce back at the World Team Trials, where he took third last year.
Andy Hrovat of the New York Athletic Club was fifth in Vegas and has put together a strong season. Three-time NCAA champion Greg Jones of the Sunkist Kids was sixth at the U.S. Nationals.
96 KG/211.5 LBS.
Daniel Cormier of the Gator Wrestling Club has been on the brink of winning a World or Olympic medal and this may be his year.
Cormier was fourth at the 2004 Olympics and fifth at the 2003 World meet. He did not place at last year's Worlds, but looked strong in winning the title in Las Vegas. He earned a 3-0, 5-0 victory over Nik Fekete of the New York Athletic Club in the finals at the U.S. Nationals.
Beyond Cormier, this division is fairly wide open.
Fekete will draw the No. 2 seed in Vegas and be followed by two-time NCAA champion Damion Hahn of the Minnesota Storm, who placed third in Vegas. He is followed by J.D. Bergman of the Ohio International Wrestling Club, Phil Davis of the Penn State Wrestling Club and Sean Stender of the Sunkist Kids.
Bergman placed third at last year's Trials in Greco-Roman.
120 KG/264.5 LBS.
The 32-year-old Thompson broke though to make his first World Team last year and took advantage by earning a bronze medal at the Worlds in Budapest, Hungary.
Now Thompson looks to hold off a crop of young bucks in this division that includes past NCAA champions Steve Mocco of the New York Athletic Club, Cole Konrad of the Minnesota Storm and Tommy Rowlands of the Sunkist Kids.
Mocco was second to Thompson at the World Team Trials last year and lost to him in the finals of the U.S. Nationals the last two years.
Konrad, third at the World Team Trials, beat Mocco four times during the collegiate season, including in the NCAA finals.
Another wrestler to keep an eye on in this division is four-time NCAA Division II champion Les Sigman of the Sunkist Kids, who just completed his career at Nebraska-Omaha. Sigman won the Northern Plains Regional a couple weeks ago to qualify for the Trials.
2006 U.S. World Team Trials qualifiers list
2005 U.S. World Team Trials freestyle results