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Marcie Van Dusen comes back strong after pair of knee injuries



COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - When Marcie Van Dusen needed a topic to write a paper on for one of her college courses, she chose a subject she has become all too familiar with.

ACL injuries.

One of the top young women's freestyle wrestling prospects in the country, the talented Van Dusen's ascent and progression toward a spot on a U.S. World Team has been halted by knee injuries twice in the past three years.

She ruptured the Anterior Cruciate Ligament in her right knee in 2004 before suffering a ACL injury in her left knee this past March. In between the injuries, she won the 2005 U.S. World Team Trials before falling to Tina George in a Special Wrestle-Off at 55 kg/121 pounds. She also was a Bronze Medalist at the 2005 World University Games.

The 24-year-old Van Dusen (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) came back to beat George in the finals of the Sunkist Kids/ASU International Open in October 2005. But Van Dusen lost her chance to challenge George for the World Team spot when she injured her knee in March. George, a two-time World Silver Medalist, went on to make the 2006 World Team.

Now healthy again, Van Dusen made a resounding statement that she is back by winning the Sunkist Open on Oct. 14 in Tempe, Ariz.

"My timing was a little off at Sunkist," she said. "Everything was a couple seconds behind, but it was a good first tournament back and it's great to be back out there competing again. It was really tough and really frustrating, having to sit out and not compete. I'm getting close to being back."

Van Dusen, a 2004 University World Champion, will compete in the Clansmen International Open this weekend in Canada and plans to wrestle in the New York AC Holiday International Open on Nov. 17-19.

Van Dusen started the 2005-06 season with a flourish by winning the Sunkist Open, New York AC Holiday International and the Henri Deglane Challenge.

She then won a gold medal at 59 kg/130 lbs. at the Ivan Yarygin Memorial International, this past January in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. She won despite wrestling up a weight class. She opened the tournament with a win over U.S. teammate and two-time World Bronze Medalist Sally Roberts. Van Dusen took second at the Dave Schultz Memorial International in early February before being sidelined about a month later.

A two-time Cadet World Bronze Medalist in 1998 and 1999, Van Dusen traveled to the World Championships in September in Guangzhou, China. She served as a training partner for the U.S. team.

"Being over there and seeing everybody compete, it definitely motivates you and a little bit of a fire starts burning because you want to be out there," she said. "It was kind of hard sitting up in the stands. I've been on the same Cadet World Teams with Erin (Tomeo) and Mary (Kelly) and then they made the World Team this year. We've all been kind of on the same path."

Van Dusen is majoring in health science at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. She said she is about a year and a half away from earning her degree. She also works as a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Colorado Springs.

She said writing a paper on ACL injuries gave her a better understanding of why the injuries occurred and helped her cope with the setbacks.

Van Dusen has been a resident-athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center the past four years. She works with U.S. women's coaches Terry Steiner and Vladislav "Izzy" Izboinikov.

"Our coaches are tremendous - I couldn't ask for anybody better than Terry and Izzy," she said. "They are a perfect combination. They round out each other so well. They are technically sound and I can go to either one of them to get motivation. They are very committed to the athletes."

Izboinikov said he admires Van Dusen's resiliency in dealing with adversity.

"What impressed me about Marcie is she did not get discouraged and she didn't doubt her ability to come back from the injuries," Izboinikov said. "She maintained her composure and stayed very hungry. I coached against her in high school and she has a never-say-die attitude and a strong belief in her abilities.

"She was on her way to making the World Team this year before she suffered a devastating injury. She has worked very hard to come back. She's very focused and very dedicated. I can't remember one practice where I've ever seen her look sluggish or where she wasn't working hard. And she's very eager to learn. She's an information sponge who just absorbs everything we teach. She asks a lot of questions and is eager to improve."

Van Dusen looked strong and in control at Sunkist, even though she experienced a few butterflies before the event.

"I was so nervous my first match," she said. "I couldn't get my heart to calm back down and I thought I was going to throw up. I calmed back down and everything fell back into place after the first match. I felt good when I got to the finals."

Izboinikov said he was impressed with Van Dusen's performance at the Sunkist Open.

"Marcie's conditioning at Sunkist was superb, even better than I thought it would be," he said. "She shoots a lot of low singles and leg attacks where you really need to be in great shape and have a good feel for wrestling. She went hard every second of every match at Sunkist."

Van Dusen said she expects the American women to bounce back from a disappointing showing at the 2006 World Championships. The U.S. won only two medals with Patricia Miranda and Kristie Marano each winning bronze medals.

"This is a fresh year and we're only two years out from the Olympics," she said. "Everybody is getting excited again and everybody is working real hard."

Van Dusen, who is from Lake Arrowhead, Calif., is eyeing a spot on the 2007 U.S. World Team and the 2008 Olympic Team. Women's wrestling became an Olympic sport in 2004.

"I was 12 years old when I first started thinking about being an Olympian in wrestling," she said. "I grew up watching (World Champion) Trish Saunders and (World Silver Medalist) Shannon Williams, and I just assumed it was a matter of time before women's wrestling became an Olympic sport. I am going to do everything in my power to reach my goal of wrestling in the Olympics."

Izboinikov said Van Dusen's goals are realistic.

"Marcie is very focused on winning an Olympic gold medal," he said. "She doesn't want a bronze, she wants to win the whole thing. She has the ability, the work ethic and the attitude to win an Olympic gold medal, there's no doubt in my mind."

Q AND A WITH MARCIE VAN DUSEN

Favorite food when you are not cutting weight? Pineapple upside down cake

Favorite movie? 16 Candles

What's in your iPod right now? CCR, Steve Miller Band, Zap Mama, Bela Fleck, Jack Johnson, Steel Pulse, Van Morrison…

Best moment in wrestling, so far? That's hard to say, there have been many great moments and amazing people to share them with. My high school wrestling team was a blast and we were good too, which makes it more fun. We won CIF one year and it was fun to celebrate and just get a little goofy.

Biggest influence on your wrestling career and why? (High school coach) Dave Chapman, he got me started and always led me in the right direction.

Coolest place you've visited on a wrestling trip? New Zealand

Favorite TV show? Project Runway

Favorite sports team? Oakland Raiders

Best part about living in Colorado Springs? Camping and hiking in the mountains

Hardest worker in the OTC wrestling room? Besides me of course, I would have to say Katie Downing

Funniest girl on the team? Sally Roberts

Wrestler you idolized while growing up? My brother

Favorite athlete in a sport other than wrestling and why? Michelle Kwan. She trained in my hometown. It's a little town, so there was always a lot of support for our hometown hero.
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