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Cejudo, Lawal reach gold-medal finals at Tahkti Cup in Iran



BANDAR ABBAS, IRAN - Henry Cejudo (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) and Mo Lawal (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC) set the pace for the U.S. team by qualifying for the gold-medal finals during day one of the Takhti Cup.

Lawal, competing at 96 kg/211.5 lbs., has become a crowd favorite with his unique personality. His power as a wrestler and his quick smile has won the strong applause of the crowded Fadger Sport Hall.

Amidst the loud sound of cheers, the beat of a drum, and a raucous venue, Cejudo used his quickness and speed to control his first three opponents at 55 kg/121 lbs.

Cejudo, wrestling at 55 kg/121 lbs., opened with a 3-2, 7-0 victory over Rajab Rejepove of Turkmenistan. In the first period, Cejudo gave up the first point by stepping out of bounds. He finished with a takedown and a gut wrench to win the first period. In the second period, Cejudo scored with a takedown, a gut wrench, and two ankle laces.

His next victory was over Fardid Dejemkhoo of Iran, 4-1, 1-0 (Clinch). Cejudo contolled Dejemkhoo in the first period, and finished regulation time in the second period 0-0. He lost the toss, but held on to Dejemkhoo who clinched Cejudo's leg. Cejudo countered and took Dejemkhoo to his back for the win.

The semifinal victory was over Bahador of Iran, 1-0 (Clinch), 5-1. In the second period, Cejudo took control early with three single legs, and an inside trip. He hit a gut wrench for the final points and went forward to the final match.

"I started to get a feel of him and he was leading hard with his leg," said Cejudo. "Terry said to start shooting and I got my offense going."

Lawal opened the tournament by shutting out .Amin Mardani of Iran, 1-0, 4-0. Following his crowd-pleasing approach to the match, he contolled the single leg and powered his way to one takedown in the first period, and two in the second.

In the second round, Lawal stopped, S. Amiri of, 1-0, 3-1. In front of a raucous crowd, Lawal drove home a single leg for the margin in the first period. In the second period, Lawal attacked the legs again for three separate takedowns. He gave up one point when he stepped out of bounds.

In the semifinals Mo Lawal defeated Jafar Daliri of Iran, 3-1, 1-0. Midway through the first period, Lawal hit a freight-train double leg and took Daliri to his back. In the second period, Lawal tried for the leg again, and with two seconds remaining, he drove Daliri to the edge, then off of the mat for the winning point.

"I am pretty much ready for this tournament," said Lawal prior to the semifinals. "I am just as strong as they are. I love wrestling and I feed off of the crowd. There is more emotion in it as they cheer their guy on. I like being the underdog a little bit. The better you work, the more they worry about you."

Another U.S. wrestler, Kyle Cerminara (Buffalo, N.Y./New York AC) has qualified for the wrestleback rounds at 96 kg/211.5 lbs.. In his first bout, Cerminara lost to Amir Moradi of Iran, 0-1 (Clinch), 5-0, 2-0 (Clinch). Since Moradi has qualified for the finals, where he will face Lawal, Cerminara is drawn back into the wrestlebacks and is still eligible to compete for a bronze medal.

Cerminara won the toss and the first period. In the second period, he was thrown to his back and turned with a gut wrench. In the third period, it went to another 0-0 score, and Cerminara won the toss. This time he clinched the leg and moved toward the edge, but lost his position and allowed Moradi to turn him for the deciding points.

"I got a little extended and like Coach Brands said, my head got a little over my hips. And that is a bad position. You just can't go from that position," said Cerminara.

Both U.S. wrestlers at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. were eliminated from medal contention, Jared Frayer (Cambridge, Mass./Gator WC) and Eric Larkin (Tempe, Ariz./Sunkist Kids)

Both opened with first round victories against Iranian opponents, Frayer pinning Omid Kadkhodaee in 1:35, and Larkin stopping Arash Rabiee, 2-1, 7-0.

Frayer hit a lateral drop with a strong finish against Kadkhodaee. The first minute was without action, but when Frayer saw his opportunity he hit it strong and got the fall.

"I just had to get it going," said Frayer. "This is a fun environment. Overall, my weight is as good as it's been. I just have to take them one at a time."

Larkin gained the margin in the first period against Rabiee when he countered a throw near the edge. In the second period, three straight turns with a leg lace proved the difference.

"I just wanted to start with a good defense and see how he was moving. In the first period I just countered off of one of his shots. In the second period, I locked the leg lace and that was pretty much it," said Larkin.

In the second round, the two Americans faced each other, with Larkin winning, 1-0, 2-0. Prior to the match, Larkin said, " We've wrestled so many times. It is always real close as to who will come out on top."

In round three, Nasrolah Fadaee defeated Larkin, 2-0, 2-1. Fadaee scored first when Larkin went out of bounds, and followed that with a takedown to win the first period. The second period was similar with Fadaee scoring first when Larkin went out of bounds. He scored on a takedown before giving up a takedown to Larkin for the final score of the second period.

"I didn't open up. He wrestled his match and I didn't," said Larkin

When Fadaee lost the next round and did not qualify for the finals, Larkin was eliminated from the tournament.

The other U.S. competitor, Matt Azevedo (Arroyo Grande, Calif./Sunkist Kids), dropped his first match and was eliminated when his opponent did not make the finals. Majid Yousefi of Iran beat Azevedo, 0-1 (Clinch), 0-3. In the second period, Yousefi took Azevedo down off of Azevedo's single leg shot. He countered again for the victory.

He kicked out and I lost my balance. I practically had the takedown. I just wasn't able to capitalize off of any opportunity. I didn't do a good job of finishing my shots," said Azevedo.

The four remaining weight classes will be contested on Friday: 60 kg, 74 kg, 84 kg, 120 kg.

TAKHTI CUP
At Bandar Abbas, Iran, Jan. 18


U.S. performance
55 kg/121 lbs. - Henry Cejudo, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
WIN Rajab Rejepove, Turkmenistan, 3-2, 7-0
WIN Fardid Dejemkhoo, Iran, 4-1, 1-0 (Clinch).
WIN Bahador, Iran, 1-0 (Clinch), 5-1
Cejudo has qualified for the finals

55 kg/121 lbs. - Matt Azevedo, Arroyo Grande, Calif. (Sunkist Kids)
LOSS Majid Yousefi, Iran, 0-1 (Clinch), 0-3.

66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Jared Frayer, Cambridge, Mass. (Gator WC)
WIN Omid Kadkhodaee, IRI, pin 1:35
LOSS Eric Larkin,USA, 0-1, 0-2

66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Eric Larkin, Tempe, Ariz. (Sunkist Kids)
WIN Arash Rabiee, Iran, 2-1, 7-0
WIN Jared Frayer, USA, 1-0, 2-0
LOSS Nasrolah Fadaee, Iran, 0-2, 1-2

96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Mo Lawal, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC)
WIN Amin Mardani, Iran, 1-0, 4-0.
WIN S. Amiri, Iran, 1-0, 3-1.
WIN Jafar Daliri, Iran, 3-1, 1-0.
Has qualified for gold medal finals against Amir Moradi, Iran

96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Kyle Cerminara, Lewiston, N.Y. (New York AC)
LOSS Amir Moradi, Iran, 0-5, 0-2 (Clinch).
Cerminara eligible for wrestlebacks

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