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|U.S. Nationals Women’s preview at 67 kg/147.5 lbs.|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
2005 World bronze medalist Katie Downing of the Sunkist Kids has taken over this weight class in the past few seasons. Downing defeated two-time World champion Kristie Marano during the 2005 year, after placing behind Marano in previous seasons. Marano has since moved up a division, and Downing has not looked back.
Downing made the World Team again last year, but did not place at the World Championships in Guangzhou, China. Downing won the Dave Schultz Memorial and the Guelph Open, and claimed silver medals in events in France and Ukraine. She seems to have a renewed focus, and looks for an impressive showing in Las Vegas. Of the athletes who have been competing at this weight this year, Downing clearly has the most experience and the best achievements. Opening up her offense is one of the keys to Downing's continued improvement.
Elena Pirozhkov of Northern Elite, who became eligible to compete for the United States this past year, has emerged as a top challenger to Downing. Originally from Russia, Pirozkhov was a top wrestler in high school and now trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. She won gold medals at the Sunkist Kids International and the Klippan Ladies Open in Sweden and has other international placements. She lost to Katie Downing at the Dave Schultz Memorial this year.
Heather Martin of the New York AC, a past U.S. Nationals runner-up, is a top challenger and has placed at the U.S. Nationals a number of times. Her only event this year outside of the college season was at the Sunkist Kids International, where she lost to Pirozkov and placed third.
Randi Miller of the Gator WC won a number of medals at this weight class and would be a title contender, except she has dropped in weight to 138.75 lbs. If Miller decides to go back to this division, where she placed second at last year's nationals, she is an instant contender. Stefanie Shaw was fourth at this division at the U.S. Nationals a year ago, but has since also dropped to 138.75 lbs. Like Miller, she would make an impact here.
There is a variety of other wrestlers who will be seeking to make their name at this division this year, none who have the experience to be considered title contenders. Amberle Ebert of Missouri Valley College was second at the U.S. Women's Collegiate Nationals and won the recent Missouri Valley Showcase. Her college teammate, Emily Rinehart, is also a top collegian, but may choose to drop down to 138.75 pounds, where she wrestled at the College Nationals.
Ashley Sword, a former national team member, returned from injury to win the Missouri Valley Showcase, and could be a challenger if she is in the field at Las Vegas.
Four wrestlers who placed at the U.S. Nationals last year have not been active this season, but could return to attempt to be All-Americans again this year. They are Michelle Hooker of Missouri Valley College, Shelly Ruberg of the Cumberlands, Andrea Hale of Lassen College and Marina Piccolotti of California Women.
Two others to watch are Sheila McCabe of San Diego Hot Beaches and Jade Prudent of Menlo College, both from the women's college circuit.
2006 U.S. Nationals results at 67 kg/147.5 lbs.
1st - Katie Downing, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) dec. Randi Miller, Arlington, Texas (USOEC), 1-0, 2-0
3rd - Heather Martin, Wellington, Ohio (New York AC) tech fall Stefenie Shaw, Waterford, Conn. (USOEC), 6-0, 6-0
5th - Michelle Hooker, Austin, Texas (Missouri Valley College) pinned Shelly Ruberg, Ueras, Ohio (Cumberland College), 1:07
7th - Andrea Hale, Chicago, Ill. (Lassen College) tech fall Marina Piccolotti , Pacifica, Calif. (California Women's), 6-0, 7-0
TheMat.com rankings at 67 kg/147.5 lbs. for February 2007
1. Katie Downing, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
2. Elena Pirozkhov, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Northern Elite)
3. Heather Martin, Wellington, Ohio (New York AC)
4. Sheila McCabe, El Cajon, Calif. (San Diego Hot Beaches)
5. Amberle Ebert, Reedsville, Wis. (Missouri Valley College)
6. Michelle Hooker, Austin, Texas (Missouri Valley)
7. Shelly Ruberg, Ueras, Ohio (Univ. of the Cumberlands)
8. Sara Hilliard, Marshall, Mo. (Missouri Valley College)
9. Emily Rinehart, Marshall, Mo. (Missouri Valley College)
10. Jade Prudent, Houston, Texas (Menlo College)