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Illinois natives Durlacher, Kelly excited about return home for Chicago Cup on Feb. 6 (audio included)

Listen to Press Conference Audio

There is something special about home cooking and the "home field advantage." Athletes at all levels have found that competing where they grew up offers an exciting opportunity for them.

Such is the situation for Illinois natives Lindsey Durlacher and Mary Kelly, who will represent the United States at the Chicago Cup in Evanston, Ill, Feb. 6.

Durlacher and Kelly, both members of the 2006 U.S. World Team which competed in China, no longer live in Illinois. During a press conference on Tuesday, both talked about how much they are looking forward to competing on their home mats at this international dual meet and the importance of the Chicago Cup to them.

Durlacher grew up in Buffalo Grove, Ill., and was a NCAA runner-up competing for the Univ. of Illinois. Durlacher won a bronze medal at 55 kg/121 lbs. at the World Championships last year in Greco-Roman. Durlacher will face an opponent from China in the Chicago Cup.

"Obviously, I am real excited," said Durlacher."It is a homecoming for me to come and wrestle in front of friends and family. Some of my family and friends have not seen me compete in 10 years, since my college days. So it's quite exciting for me to make that return home and wrestle at Welsh Ryan Arena, where I have done battle numerous occasions in college wrestling, with the Wildcats and Illini going back and forth. I did not think I was making that return home. I am very excited to wrestle in front of my friends and family."

Kelly went to Mahomet-Seymour High School in Illinois, and one of the colleges that she attended was McMurray College in the state. Kelly made her first Women's World Team last year, and she placed ninth in the World Championships. Kelly will battle a Canadian wrestler at the Chicago Cup.

"Making the World Team is my biggest accomplishment thus far," said Kelly. "This has been a really exciting season for me. I've been doing well so far this season also. I just took second at the Guelph Tournament (in Canada), and took second to the same girl I am wrestling at the Chicago Cup (Carol Huyhn). This girl was fifth at the Worlds this year, and I haven't beaten her yet. I'm a little bit nervous wrestling her in front of the home crowd. My mom, dad and brother will be there. My dad is the coach at McMurray College and he is bringing his team up to the meet also. I don't get to go home very often, especially to wrestle. I am excited to see some old friends and family and teammates who are coming to watch. It should be fun."

Both Durlacher and Kelly, who compete for the New York Athletic Club, train fulltime at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Both have found this decision has helped them improve and reach high levels of success.

"That was a big determining factor in my recent success," said Durlacher. "I was the assistant coach at Northwestern and kind of hopping around at different universities, doing the coaching thing. I finally chose to make the move to Colorado Springs to the Olympic Training Center, to become a student of the sport, instead of being a teacher. It was a complete role reversal for me. That is what is paying off. I am in a program with some of the best coaching staff in the world. Some of my coaches are former World and Olympic champions. I am constantly being pushed and developing my skills as a student. My training partners are spectacular. I have some of the best available. The 60 kg guy on our team is the World champion (Joe Warren) so that is my daily partner. When you put together great partners and coaching staff, you will have some success.

"I have been going to college for the past couple of years and wrestling has been a part of that," said Kelly. "I went to the U.S. Olympic Education Center (at Northern Michigan) where you go to school and wrestle. This past year, I realized we are getting pretty close to the Olympics and I was spreading myself a little thin between school and wrestling and other things in my life. I decided I needed to make the complete commitment to wrestling. I moved to Colorado Springs to the U.S. Olympic Training Center and am not doing anything except wrestling right now. When you do so many things at once, you get a little bit stressed out physically and mentally. That will detract from all areas. You are going to be more successful if you put everything you have into one thing and that is wrestling right now.

Both athletes were asked about their ages. Durlacher, at 32, is a veteran who has many years of experience. Kelly, at 23, is just getting her international career at the Senior level started.

"Wrestling has a lot to do with age and experience," said Durlacher. "It all averages out. The average Olympic team member is about 28 or 29. Some are older and some are younger. It all depends on the individual and how healthy you stay. I don't think age is a factor. I will probably retire after the Beijing Olympics. I have yet to accomplish some goals in my career before I can get to that point…. You do have to train a little bit smarter at this age to keep up with some younger guns. My collegiate background helped me the most. I think I am peaking now. I am at the top of my game. I am wrestling the best I ever have. I am looking to accomplish great things in the future."

"I am a lot younger than some of my competition, but I have been wrestling since third grade. I have been wrestling for a long time," said Kelly. "I have had a lot of good coaches throughout the years and have great coaches at the Olympic Training Center. All of that, and included with the great workout partners is giving me the experience I need to succeed.

Durlacher talked about his recent success at the international level and why it has happened for him.

"It is a combination of experience, and I have wrestled in numerous international tournaments throughout the year,":he said. "After awhile, you get into your groove and figure out your opponents. I have became a student of the sport, studying up on my opponents. I have developed a little bit of an attitude as a wrestler, as a total complete committed wrestler. In the past I was not really committed fully to the sport. Now I realize what it takes to be the best in the world. I have started to develop that and make it a fulltime commitment and living out a daily regime of wrestling, weight lifting and video."

Kelly talked about her journey within wrestling, when she had to wrestle against boys in youth and high school competition in Illinois.

"I grew up with a very supportive family. My parents never put any limitations on me because I was a girl. Growing up, I had a few people who were against it and did their best to prevent me from wrestling. My parents are strong people. I had great teammates and coaches that I grew up with since the beginning. They knew I was serious and had potential. Everybody in my immediate circle really supported me and gave me a lot of encouragement. I really haven't had too many problems," said Kelly.
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