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2006 filled with highlights in international, college and youth wrestling



It's been an interesting, challenging and memorable first year for me as the communications manager at USA Wrestling.

Traveling around the United States, and going halfway around the globe for the World Championships, has provided me with an opportunity to see some great wrestling.

Here is my Top 10 list, from the home office in Colorado Springs, of my favorite moments that I was able to witness in person from 2006.

10. Mary Kelly makes her first World Team - Kelly was on a mission this year as she knocked off past World medalist Stephanie Murata to win the U.S. World Team Trials for women's freestyle at 48 kg/105.5 pounds. She followed by beating U.S. Nationals champion Clarissa Chun in a Special Wrestle-Off to make her first World Team.

9. Zadick brothers win titles at U.S. World Team Trials - Brothers Mike and Bill Zadick both won titles in freestyle at the World Team Trials in Sioux City, Iowa. Mike went on to win a silver medal at the World Championships at 60 kg/132 pounds before Bill won a gold medal the next day at 66 kg/145.5 pounds. It was the first time a set of brothers had made a U.S. World Team together since twins Tom and Terry Brands in 1995.

8. Four-peat at the Ford Center for Oklahoma State - Coach John Smith's crew at Oklahoma State turned in another sparkling performance by winning its fourth straight NCAA team title. The winningest program in NCAA history won its 34th team championship overall. Senior Jake Rosholt won his third individual title and junior Johny Hendricks won his second. Smith, one of the greatest American wrestlers ever, now has to be considered among the best coaches the college ranks has ever seen.

7. The finals at Fargo - My first experience at the Accelerade Cadet Nationals and ASICS/Vaughan Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D., was filled with an abundance of great wrestling. Seeing gifted young standouts like Ryan Mango, Eric Grajales, Jon Reader, Tyrell Fortune and Jackie Cataline compete provided a glimpse of a bright future ahead for USA Wrestling.

6. The determination of Kristie Marano - Seeing Marano battle back and win a bronze medal in women's freestyle at the World Championships was a familiar sight for wrestling fans. Even more impressive was Marano did it with a shoulder injury that she ended up having surgery for. There is not a tougher competitor in the World than the eight-time World medalist and two-time World Champion.

5. The dominance of Dustin Schlatter - We haven't seen many freshmen like this kid. He's unflappable and displayed a maturity far beyond his years in rolling to the NCAA title at 149 pounds as a true freshman. He handled the pressure like a fifth-year senior. The kid doesn't make many mistakes. Minnesota has had great wrestlers like Tim Hartung, Garrett Lowney, Brock Lesnar, Damion Hahn, Jared Lawrence and Cole Konrad, but this kid may surpass them all before his Gophers career is done.

4. Henry Cejudo winning the U.S. Nationals - Even though he still hadn't finished high school yet, Cejudo still turned in a strong performance to win the U.S. Nationals in Las Vegas. Cejudo is very advanced technically and physically for a kid his age. He had a great season. He finished second to eventual World Bronze Medalist Sammie Henson at the U.S. World Team Trials before winning a silver medal at the Junior World Championships. Don't be surprised if Cejudo makes a run at the Senior World Team this year.

3. Greco-Roman trio wins three medals on Day 1 of World Championships - It was one of the biggest days in American Greco-Roman history as Joe Warren, Lindsey Durlacher and Harry Lester each won medals on the first day of the 2006 World Championships on Sept. 25 in Guangzhou, China. Warren won a gold medal at 60 kg/132 pounds while Durlacher (55 kg/121 pounds) and Lester (66 kg/145.5 pounds) each captured bronze medals. The trio was competing on their second straight World Team and each won their first World-level medal.

2. Ben Askren named OW at NCAA Championships - You gotta love the bushy mane of light brown hair, but I would still pay money to watch Askren wrestle if he shaved his head. Askren became Missouri's first NCAA champion in March at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. He was named Outstanding Wrestler after dominating the field at 174 pounds. In an era where there are too many 4-3 and 3-2 matches, Askren is the exception. Of his 45 wins, 25 were pins. His style is reminiscent of Cael Sanderson in the respect that he is always attacking and always looking to score. His funky, unorthodox style is nothing short of entertaining. I can't wait to see how he does once he turns his focus to competing full-time in freestyle.

1. Joe Warren and Bill Zadick winning World Championships - Warren's pre-match mantra of "I'm the baddest man on the planet" certainly proved prophetic when he struck gold. Three days after Warren's win, Zadick followed by winning a freestyle gold medal. Ten years earlier, I covered the 1996 NCAA Championships in Minneapolis when Zadick won a national title for the Iowa Hawkeyes. It was great seeing the hard work of Zadick, one of the nicest men on the planet, pay off for him at age 33.
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