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Kristie Marano earns dramatic fall over Iris Smith in battle of World champions in finals of U.S. Nationals



LAS VEGAS - The bright lights of Las Vegas were shining on Mat 1 early Friday night.

And that was good news for Kristie Marano.

As most wrestling people around the world already know, Marano performs at her best when the spotlight is on her in the biggest matches.

That was evident when the two-time World champion executed a sweet leg sweep to catch World champion Iris Smith and pin her to win the U.S. Nationals women's freestyle championship at 72 kg/158.5 lbs.

It was a dramatic end to an action-packed final round at the Las Vegas Convention Center as Marano (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) won the featured bout of the evening.

Marano, who owns a record eight World-level medals, won her ninth U.S. Nationals title.

"I haven't wrestled her since 1998 or 1999 - it has been a long time," Marano said. "She pushed me and she is a great competitor. It was exciting to win it like that. I'm not sure she walked into something - I think it was my judo instinct."

Marano was joined in the winner's circle by fellow U.S. Nationals champions Stephanie Murata (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) at 48 kg/105.5 lbs., Patricia Miranda (New Haven, Conn./Sunkist Kids) at 51 kg/112.25 lbs., Marcie Van Dusen (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) at 55 kg/121 lbs., Leigh Jaynes (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) at 59 kg/130 lbs., Sara McMann (Iowa City, Iowa/Sunkist Kids) at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. and Katie Downing (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) at 67 kg/147.5 lbs.

Van Dusen was named Outstanding Wrestler after beating past two-time World silver medalist Tina George (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) in the finals. The Sunkist Kids won the team title with 70 points, followed by the New York Athletic Club with 43 and the Gator Wrestling Club with 35.

The U.S. Nationals champions for women clinch automatic berths into the best-of-3 final round for June's U.S. World Team Trials in Las Vegas. The top seven finishers in each weight class at the U.S. Nationals advance to the U.S. World Team Trials.

Van Dusen, a past World University champion who has been hampered by knee injuries the past couple of years, is healthy now and put on an impressive showing in downing a top veteran in George in the final round. Van Dusen used a series of first-period turns to take command en route to a 6-0, 4-1 win.

Van Dusen won her first U.S. Nationals title.

"Tina is a really good competitor," Van Dusen said. "I had to keep myself to the side so she wouldn't have a straight-on angle on me. It was a big win for me. It's my first national championship."

The explosive Jaynes also could have been a candidate for OW after hitting a pair of big moves to knock off 2006 U.S. World Team member Erin Tomeo 5-1, 7-2 in the finals. Jaynes, a 2006 World bronze medalist in Beach and Sombo wrestling, won her first U.S. Nationals title.

"Erin is naturally an aggressive wrestler and I knew she was going to come out swinging - I didn't expect anything less from her," Jaynes said. "I knew it was going to be a fight. I wanted to slow her down a bit to score good points."

Murata rallied to score a second-period fall over 2006 U.S. World Team member Mary Kelly in the finals. Kelly won the first period 4-3 and was in deep on a double-leg shot in the second period. But Murata answered the shot with a strong counter and was able to catch Kelly for the fall. Murata won her ninth U.S. Nationals title.

"I think the first period reinforced what I needed to do," Murata said. "I needed to be aggressive and I didn't do it in the first period."

Miranda, a 2004 Olympic bronze medalist who won a bronze medal at the 2006 World Championships, fell behind early in her finals match with long-time foe Jenny Wong. Wong countered a shot attempt to score two early points on her way to a 2-1 first-period win. But the relentless Miranda came back with her strong arsenal of leg attacks and took the final two periods 1-0, 1-0. She held off a late charge as a determined Wong tried to gain a late takedown.

Miranda won her sixth U.S. Nationals title.

"Someone who is as good on defense as Jenny Wong really knows how to use her leverage and her hips," Miranda said. "One of her strategies is to keep matches close and she is very good defensively. I think she was waiting for me to take a bad shot so she could score."

McMann avenged a loss from the finals of February's Dave Schultz Memorial International by scoring a 4-0, 1-0 win over Randi Miller. McMann took command early by shooting in on a single, lifting Miller's leg in the air before tripping her to the mat for a takedown.

McMann, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, won her sixth U.S. Nationals title.

Downing, a 2005 World bronze medalist, won her third U.S. Nationals title with a 1-0, 5-2 win over Elena Pirozkhov. Downing is seeking to make her third straight World Team.

"I had to change things up, open up a little more, work on a lot more offense," Downing said. "I have been working on more offensive leg attacks."

WOMEN'S FREESTYLE - U.S. NATIONALS CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES

48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Mary Kelly, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC) pinned Stephanie Murata, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids), 3-4, 0:39

51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Patricia Miranda, New Haven, Conn. (Sunkist Kids) dec. Jenny Wong, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids), 1-2, 1-0, 1-0

55 kg/121 lbs. - Marcie Van Dusen, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) dec. Tina George, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army), 6-0, 4-1

59 kg/130 lbs. - Leigh Jaynes, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army) dec. Erin Tomeo, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids), 5-1, 7-2

63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Sara McMann, Iowa City, Iowa (Sunkist Kids) dec. Randi Miller, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC), 4-0, 1-0

67 kg/147.5 lbs. - Katie Downing, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) dec. Elena Pirozkhov, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Gator WC), 1-0, 5-2

72 kg/158.5 lbs. - Kristie Marano, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC) pinned Iris Smith, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army), 1-0, 0:44
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