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|NOTES FROM LAS VEGAS: Cary Kolat coming back, to compete in freestyle qualifying tournament at 66 kg/145.5 lbs.|
By Craig Sesker and Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
LAS VEGAS - It's been a long time since Cary Kolat wrestled on the international level.
He retired after the 2000 Olympics before coming back briefly a few years later. He last wrestled in 2003.
But Kolat still believes he has something left and that's why he's making another comeback on Friday at the U.S. Nationals. Kolat made weight Thursday afternoon at the Las Vegas Convention Center and will compete in the freestyle qualifying tournament on Friday at 66 kg/145.5 lbs.
If Kolat finishes in the top eight in the qualifying tournament, he will land a spot in the second and final day of the freestyle competition on Saturday. The eight qualifiers from Friday will join the top eight seeds in Saturday's competition at 145.5. The top seven finishers then advance to June's World Team Trials in Las Vegas.
Kolat made four straight World and Olympic Teams from 1997 through 2000 at 138.75 lbs. He won a silver medal at the 1997 World Championships, won a bronze medal at the 1998 Worlds, placed fourth at the 1999 Worlds and took ninth at the 2000 Olympics.
Among the interested observers when Kolat takes the mat on Friday will be USA Wrestling National Freestyle Coach Kevin Jackson.
"I haven't seen Cary train and compete in a few years, so I'm not really sure to what expect," Jackson said. "It will be interesting to see if he can make it through the qualifying tournament (Friday) and make it to the second day on Saturday. It will be fun to watch him and see what he can do."
Kolat ran into more than his share of bad luck at major international events. He had a number of calls overturned and had to re-wrestle parts of matches after protests were made in his matches during the four years he was a World or Olympic Team member.
"Cary really should've been a World champion in 1997 and 1998," Jackson said. "He got burned by a number of poor calls that really hurt him in those years. And then the same thing happened to him at the 1999 Worlds and the 2000 Olympics where the officials made some really poor calls and decisions that went against him. It's really unfortunate because he could've won a couple of World titles and could've won the Olympics."
Kolat has a first-round bye and will meet the winner of the first-round match between Eric Stevenson and 2007 NCAA 141-pound champion Derek Moore in the second round. Moore was named Outstanding Wrestler at the NCAA tournament.
Jackson said he wishes Kolat would have kept competing full-time after the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
"We had a lot of guys retire too young after the 2000 Olympics," Jackson said, "and that really hurt our overall program in freestyle."
Kolat isn't too old to excel in freestyle. He turns 34 next month and is a month younger than American Bill Zadick, who won a World freestyle title last year at 145.5.
TV schedule: ESPNU to air two U.S. Nationals shows
ESPNU will broadcast two shows on a tape-delayed basis from this weekend's U.S. Nationals.
ESPNU will broadcast a 90-minute show with highlights from the men's freestyle and men's Greco-Roman competition. The first airing is scheduled for May 2 at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
In addition, there will be a second 60-minute show featuring the women's freestyle finals. That show is scheduled for May 1 at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
ESPNU also plans to broadcast the U.S. World Team Trials. That event is set for June 9-10 in Las Vegas. The World Team Trials are scheduled to be aired on a tape-delayed basis on June 27 at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
Father and son Bancrofts wrestling side by side in Las Vegas
With the addition of the Veterans Nationals to the variety of events being held in Las Vegas each year, it opens up many opportunities for family wrestling stories. The Bancroft wrestling family was one of the good stories for this week.
George Bancroft III of JC Wrestling won a Veterans Nationals Greco-Roman title on Wednesday in Div. E at 138.75 pounds. His son George Bancroft IV qualified for the finals of the FILA Junior Greco-Roman Nationals at 70 kg/154.25 lbs. on Thursday.
"This is a neat little thing," said father George III. "I'm getting older. This is an opportunity to be on the mats with my sons. It is great to hear you name over the loudspeaker along with them. It makes you feel good."
"We have tried to wrestle together in another tournament, but something always came up. He was hurt, or I couldn't do it. We were finally able to put it together here," said George III.
George IV drew Vincent Salminen of the Minnkota WC in the gold-medal match. His father George III was coaching in the corner, along with Shawn Sheldon, a two-time Olympian and the 2006 U.S. World Team Greco-Roman Coach.
"It doesn't matter whether he wins or he loses," said George III about his son prior to the finals. "He perseveres. He overcomes these situations. He is a good kid and I am proud of him."
George IV jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first period against Salminen on a nice armspin, which he turned twice. Salminen got his first point when he defended in the bottom par terre position. When Salminen threw George IV for three points from the reverse lift, the bout was tied at 4-4, giving the period to Salminen.
In the second period, Salminen hit two three-point throws on George IV, ending the team by technical fall to take the title. The Bancrofts were not able to be national champions side-by-side, at least not yet.
There will another opportunity for George III to wrestle with one of his sons in another week. His five-year old son Aaron Henry Gable Bancroft will be wrestling in the Tarheel Tournament in North Carolina, and his dad also plans to wrestle there.
Canadian college wrestlers competing at U.S. Nationals
The U.S. National Championships is for U.S. citizens only, yet two of the athletes in Friday's U.S. Women's Nationals compete in college wrestling in Canada.
Leo McGee of the Univ. of Calgary was in Las Vegas today to support the efforts of two of his athletes in the women's field, Rachel Holthaus at 48 kg/105.5 lbs. and Kelli Rasmussen at 51 kg/112.25 lbs. Both of these Canadian college wrestlers actually hail from Minnesota.
The star of the Univ. of Calgary women's wrestling team is two-time Junior World champion Ali Bernard, who was registered to compete here and drew the No. 4 seed at 72 kg/158.5 lbs. but did not enter. Like Holthaus and Rasmussen, Bernard is also from Minnesota.
"It is really good for Canadian wrestling," said McGee of his American imports. "At the Univ. of Regina, we jumped hard into women's wrestling. We fund it like it's women's basketball. They bring a lot to the table, with the skill level of these kids."
Bernard was the CIS Canadian college champion this year for the third straight time. Holthaus placed fourth at the CIS Championships and Rasmussen, competing up a weight class at 55 kg/121 lbs. placed fifth.
Holthaus went to Regina after a year at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
"Her work ethic lifts everybody around her," said McGee. "Some of the athletes in Canada haven't been exposed to the level of training that a Rachel Holthaus has been around."
McGee, who plans to continue to recruit American athletes for his college program, says that competing in Canada has a lot to offer talented athletes.
"Maybe there are some athletes out there who don't want to go to an Olympic Training Center," said McGee. "What we offer is a high level of training and a super level of competition, including a regional and national championships in college. They get a lot of matches competing in Canada."
Coming Up: Senior wrestlers take the mat with women's freestyle taking center stage
The Senior-level wrestlers hit the mats on Friday with the entire women's freestyle competition being held, along with qualifying tournaments for men's freestyle and Greco-Roman, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The top seven finishers in each weight class from U.S. Nationals qualify for June's U.S. World Team Trials in Las Vegas.
Returning U.S. Nationals champions in women's freestyle include Clarissa Chun (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) at 48 kg/105.5 lbs., Patricia Miranda (New Haven, Conn./Sunkist Kids) at 51 kg/112.25 lbs., Sharon Jacobson (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC) at 55 kg/121 lbs., Sally Roberts (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC) at 59 kg/130 lbs., Sara McMann (Iowa City, Iowa/Sunkist Kids) at 63 kg/138.75 lbs., Katie Downing (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) at 67 kg/147.5 lbs. and Kristie Marano (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) at 72 kg/158.5 lbs.
Roberts, a two-time World bronze medalist, will not compete this weekend. She is out with an injury.
The women's finals are set for 6 p.m. Friday.
Friday's qualifying tournaments for men's freestyle and Greco-Roman will pare down the field before Saturday's final day of competition. The top eight finishers in each weight class from the qualifying tournament advance to join the eight seeded and/or separated wrestlers for the second and final day of the competition in both styles.
Weight classes with 19 or fewer entrants will not have a qualification tournament.
All seven freestyle weight classes will have a qualification tournament in freestyle. In Greco-Roman, there will be three weight classes (66 kg, 74 kg and 84 kg) with a qualification tournament Friday. All of the Greco-Roman wrestlers at 55 kg, 60 kg, 96 kg and 120 kg will compete on Saturday only.
The finals in men's freestyle and Greco-Roman are scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday.
Also on Friday, the Western Junior freestyle competition will be held.
Interesting matchups on tap in qualifying tournament
There are no shortage of interesting matchups in Friday's qualifying tournament in freestyle.
Among them is a first-round matchup between veteran Danny Felix and rising star Franklin Gomez at 60 kg/132 lbs. Gomez beat Felix 1-0, 1-0 two weeks ago in the finals of the Northeast Regional in Brockport, N.Y.
Another good early battle should come at 84 kg/185 lbs. when NAIA national champion Willie Parks meets two-time NCAA Division II champion Tom Meester.
Another wrestler to watch on Friday at 185 is Travis Pascoe, who came through the qualifying tournament last year to place a surprising fourth overall. Pascoe is unseeded again this year.
The heavyweight class includes a promising young standout in Tervel Dlagnev, who won titles at the Midlands Championships and NCAA Division II Championships this season. Dlagnev has trained extensively with World bronze medalist Tolly Thompson.