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SCHULTZ MEMORIAL NOTES: A healthy Van Dusen improves; Cal Poly freshman Novachkov makes his mark

A healthy Van Dusen reaches new level of wrestling

Marcie Van Dusen of the Sunkist Kids is excited about wrestling every day. It was a lesson she learned last year when she missed the season with an injury.

She had a very successful fall last season at 55 kg/121 lbs., when Van Dusen won gold medals at the Sunkist Kids International, the Henri Deglane Challenge in France, the New York AC Holiday International and the Ivan Yarygin Memorial International in Russia. Included in her wins was a victory over two-time World silver medalist Tina George of the U.S. Army, who was ranked No. 1 at the time.

A severe knee injury forced Van Dusen to miss the rest of the season, taking her out of the U.S. Nationals and the World Team Trials. George went on to earn the U.S. team spot without Van Dusen in the field.

Since going through rehabilation last spring, Van Dusen, a California native who is a U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athlete, has been healthy and wrestling well. The Dave Schultz Memorial International is part of her competition plan to reach the top of her weight class this year and in the future.

"I feel good out there right now," said Van Dusen, after handling Canada's Brittany Laverdure in the semifinals. "I have been like that for awhile this year. I just have to keep it up and keep riding it."

The Schultz Tournament is the first of three straight weeks of international tournaments for Van Dusen, who will travel with a U.S. tour team to France and Ukraine for competition the next two weekends. This will be the first time she has gone on this grueling a travel schedule for tournaments.

"I've done two tournaments in a row before," said Van Dusen. "This will be tough, but I am excited about it."

Van Dusen defeated Russia's veteran Natalia Karamchakova in the finals of the Schultz event. It was a good win against a talented athlete she has never faced before, but worked out with in training sessions at the U.S. Olympic Training Center over the past week. Van Dusen believes the quality of her wrestling is better than ever in her career.

"I think I am ahead of where I was last year when I got hurt," said Van Dusen. "I was wrestling at an equal level for a long time. I felel I have climbed the mountain a bit more."

Because of the injury last year, Van Dusen will never take for granted her health, nor the opportunities that she has every time she gets to compete.

"Every day we have on the mat is a gift," said Van Dusen. "I take that to practice with me every day. That was the lesson I have learned."

Cal Poly freshman Novachkov reaches Schultz freestyle semifinals

Of the four freestyle semifinalists at the Dave Schultz Memorial International in freestyle at 55 kg/121 lbs., three were members of international teams competing in the tournament. The one American in the semifinals, of the 13 entered in the division, was a bit unexpected.

Filip Novachkov of Sunnyvale, Calif., a freshman who is taking a redshirt year at Cal Poly, was the only American to survive the first session of action on Saturday at the Dave Schultz Memorial without a loss.

At least six of the entries at the division have been ranked in the top 10 in the division within the United States, yet it was young Novachkov who reached the round of four. He scored wins over veterans Grant Nakamura and Jess Zobeck to reach the semifinals.

Novachkov was seventh at the ASICS Junior Nationals in freestyle last summer at 125 pounds and has been a Junior Regional finalist. These are hardly finishes that might put him in contention for a medal at a top Senior-level international tournament only a few months later.

Novachkov was born in Bulgaria, but moved with his family to the United States three and a half years ago. He is not yet a U.S. citizen, but expects to receive his citizenship in a little over a year. His brother Boris, who is lighter and younger, has also been a three-time age-group national champion within USA Wrestling, winning two Junior National titles and a Cadet National title.

Matt Azevedo of the Sunkist Kids, the U.S. Nationals runner-up at this weight class, was among the Americans who didn't reach the semifinals at 121 pounds. An assistant coach at Cal Poly, he works out with Novachkov often. Although Novachkov has trouble in bouts against Azevedo, the young wrestler does very well against the rest of the lightweights in the room.

"He's tough. He has a good feel on the mat," said Azevedo.

"With coach Matt, we go a lot of freestyle in practice," said Novachkov. "That really helps me."

After Novachkov lost his semifinal match to Hyo-Sub Kim of Korea, Novachkov drew his coach Azevedo in the consolation semifinals, losing a tight 1-0, 1-0 decision.

"I never wrestled him in a tournament," said Novachkov. "This was my first freestyle tournament this year. Matt is very tough. I can always learn from him."

Like others on his college team, Novachkov has goals of winning an NCAA Div. I title some day. He also would like to compete in freestyle and represent the United States in the future.

"That was a good experience out there," said Novachkov of his day at the Dave Schultz Memorial.
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