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|World champion Velikov, U.S. World Team member Lawal added to Chicago Cup roster|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
EVANSTON, Ill. - Two changes in the lineups have done nothing to diminish the star power for the inaugural Chicago Cup.
In fact, the changes may have enhanced the appeal and anticipation of the men's freestyle wrestling dual meet between the United States and Russia even more.
Russia did not have a wrestler available at 55 kg/121 pounds, but meet organizers found a more-than-suitable replacement by plugging 2006 World champion Radoslav Velikov of Bulgaria into that spot.
It will be a battle of World champions in the opening freestyle bout of the Chicago Cup when Velikov meets American Sammie Henson at 55 kilos. Velikov beat Henson 4-0, 7-1 in the semifinals of the 2006 World meet in Guangzhou, China. Henson, a 1998 World champion and 2000 Olympic silver medalist, came back to win a bronze medal at the 2006 Worlds.
Velikov has been in Colorado Springs training for the Dave Schultz Memorial International Open, set for Feb. 8-10 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, and agreed late last week to fill the vacant spot on the Russian squad.
The dual meet is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Welsh-Ryan Arena on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston, Ill. There also will be a pair of Greco-Roman matches in addition to a pair of women's freestyle matches.
"This event will showcase America's top wrestlers in heated competition against the best wrestlers in the World," said Rich Bender, USA Wrestling's Executive Director. "Fireworks are sure to fly as the athletes attempt to establish themselves on the World's elite stage."
The American team has added 2005 U.S. World Team member Mo Lawal to its roster at 96 kg/211.5 pounds. The demonstrative, high-energy Lawal, who became a fan favorite in Iran with his entertaining style during the U.S. team's trip to the Takhti Cup last month, replaced past Olympian Daniel Cormier in the lineup.
Lawal has bumped up one weight class this year after previously competing at 84 kg/185 lbs. Lawal was ranked No. 1 in the World last year before being upset in the 2006 U.S. World Team Trials. Lawal placed third in the World Team Trials at 84 kg.
Even without anybody at 55 kg, the Russians still have plenty of firepower in their lineup. Russia's Alan Dudaev, another late addition to the Chicago Cup, won a gold medal at the 2005 World Championships. Dudaev is scheduled to meet 2006 World silver medalist Mike Zadick of the United States at 60 kg/132 lbs.
Russia's Shamil Batirov (66 kg/145.5 lbs.) and Georgi Ketoev (84 kg/185 lbs.) were 2005 Junior World champions while Rustam Agaev (96 kg/211.5 lbs.) was fifth in the 2004 Olympics. Heavyweight Aleksey Voronin was second in the 2005 World University Championships.
The team from Russia also is expected to compete at the Dave Schultz Memorial International.
Five of the seven members of the 2006 U.S. World Team are scheduled to compete, including Zadick, Henson and 2006 World bronze medalist Donny Pritzlaff (74 kg/163 lbs.). Also on the team are 2006 World Team members Andy Hrovat (84 kg/185 lbs.) and Tolly Thompson (120 kg/264.5 lbs.). Thompson is a past World bronze medalist.
"I've never been in one of these international duals, so it will be fun to have a dual in the U.S. against Russia," Zadick said. "Russia has tough wrestlers and they are the best team in the World right now. They are not coming over here to lose and they're not coming over here for sightseeing. They love to beat Americans and laugh at them afterwards. It works both ways."
Jared Frayer, second at the 2006 U.S. World Team Trials to eventual World champion Bill Zadick, will compete in the Chicago Cup at 66 kg/145.5 lbs.
2006 World bronze medalists Lindsey Durlacher (55 kg/121 lbs.) and Harry Lester (66 kg/145.5 lbs.) of the U.S. are scheduled to compete in Greco-Roman bouts against athletes from China.
Lester is scheduled to meet 2006 World champion Li Yanyan of China, who won the World title last September in Guangzhou, China. Durlacher is scheduled to face Li Shujin of China, who competed in the 2005 World Championships but did not place in the top 10. The meet carries special meaning for Durlacher, who grew up in nearby Buffalo Grove, Ill., and was a two-time All-American for the University of Illinois.
"Obviously, I am real excited," Durlacher said. "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."
Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann (63 kg/138.75 lbs.) and 2006 World Team member Mary Kelly (48 kg/105.5) of the U.S. are scheduled to compete in women's freestyle matches against wrestlers from Canada. Kelly is from Mahomet, Ill., located just south of Chicago.
McMann is scheduled to face Megan Dolan of Canada. Dolan placed 13th in the 2006 World Championships. Kelly is scheduled to face Carol Huynh of Canada. Huynh is a past World silver medalist who placed fifth at the 2006 World Championships. Huynh beat Kelly two weeks ago in the finals of the Guelph Open in Canada. Kelly, who placed ninth in her World Championships debut last year, is 0-5 in her career against Huynh.
"This has been a really exciting season for me," Kelly said. "(Huyhn) was fifth at the Worlds, 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."
Tickets to the event are free. In order to gain admittance to McGaw Hall/Welsh-Ryan Arena, fans must call the ticketing number and reserve their complimentary ticket. For further information and tickets, contact Kate Cox at 866-860-3234 or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The event is sponsored by USA Wrestling in alliance with World Sports Chicago, the group that is bidding to host the 2016 Olympics.
CHICAGO CUP - USA VS. RUSSIA DUAL MEET
7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007, Welsh-Ryan Arena, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.
U.S. FREESTYLE LINEUP
55 kg/121 lbs. - Sammie Henson, Flintstone, Ga. (Sunkist Kids)
60 kg/132 lbs. - Mike Zadick, Solon, Iowa (Hawkeye WC)
66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Jared Frayer, Cambridge, Mass. (Gator WC)
74 kg/163 lbs. - Donny Pritzlaff, Madison, Wis. (New York AC)
84 kg/185 lbs. - Andy Hrovat, Ann Arbor, Mich. (New York AC)
96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Mo Lawal, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC)
120 kg/264.5 lbs. - Tolly Thompson, Cedar Falls, Iowa (Sunkist Kids)
Coaches - Kevin Jackson, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Sean Bormet, Naperville, Ill.
RUSSIA FREESTYLE LINEUP
55 kg/121 lbs. - Radoslav Velikov (Bulgaria)
60 kg/132 lbs. - Alan Dudaev
66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Shamil Batirov
74 kg/163 lbs. - Murad Gadzhimuradov
84 kg/185 lbs. - Georgi Ketoev
96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Tokhtar Temrezov
96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Rustam Agaev
120 kg/264.5 lbs. - Aleksey Voronin
Coaches - David Musul'bes, Alan Bestaev, Valeri Tedeev
Bulgarian coach - Simeon Chterev
U.S. GRECO-ROMAN PARTICIPANTS
55 kg/121 lbs. - Lindsey Durlacher, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC)
66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Harry Lester, Akron, Ohio (USOEC/Gator WC)
Coaches - Steve Fraser, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Ivan Ivanov, Marquette, Mich.
CHINA GRECO-ROMAN PARTICIPANTS
60 kg/132 lbs. - Li Shujin
66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Li Yanyan
Coach - Li Guo
U.S. WOMEN'S FREESTYLE PARTICIPANTS
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Mary Kelly, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC)
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Sara McMann, Iowa City, Iowa (Sunkist Kids)
Coach - Terry Steiner, Colorado Springs, Colo.
CANADA WOMEN'S FREESTYLE PARTICIPANTS
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Carol Huynh
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Megan Dolan
Coach - Martin Calder
Lineups are tentative and subject to change.