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|Loaded 163 freestyle class includes Paulson twins, Lester, Churella, Poeta at University Nationals|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
AKRON, Ohio - You could watch just one weight class and still receive more than your money's worth during the University Nationals freestyle competition.
That's how loaded the bracket is at 74 kg/163 lbs.
You start with NCAA champion Trent Paulson and his twin brother, NCAA All-American Travis Paulson. Then you mix in past NCAA runner-up Ryan Churella and NCAA All-American Mike Poeta.
To top it off you have Greco-Roman standout Harry Lester, a 2006 World bronze medalist who is back competing in his hometown of Akron. He is competing in freestyle for the first time in more than five years. Lester said he is wrestling freestyle just for fun. He is considered a top contender to win a World title in Greco-Roman this year.
Each wrestler won their first bout on Saturday morning.
The 163-pound class certainly was fun to watch on Saturday. The freestyle finals are set for Sunday at the University of Akron's Athletics Field House.
The top two finishers in each weight class at University Nationals qualify for the U.S. World Team Trials on June 9-10 in Las Vegas.
Travis Paulson placed fourth at the 2006 World Team Trials while Trent Paulson knocked off past World medalist Joe Williams in the first round of last year's World Team Trials.
Trent Paulson won the University Nationals last year and competed at the World University Championships. Travis Paulson was fourth at the 2006 University Nationals.
Field House is packed as freestyle competition starts
The University of Akron Athletics Field House, as expected, was packed with wrestlers, coaches, spectators and workers as the freestyle competition started Saturday morning at the University Nationals and FILA Cadet Nationals.
There are a record 490 wrestlers competing in the University Nationals in freestyle, an increase of more than 100 from 2006. There are 378 wrestlers competing in the FILA Cadet Nationals in freestyle.
The Greco-Roman competition on Friday drew 114 wrestlers for the University Nationals and 215 competitors for the FILA Cadet Nationals.
The large number of competitors made for an even longer day for athletes Saturday as an hour was added to the competition. Wrestling ran from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with the second session set for 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Spenser Mango takes his shot in freestyle
Spenser Mango, a 2006 World University champion in Greco-Roman, is competing in freestyle for the first time in three years.
Mango, who bumped up a weight to win University Nationals in Greco-Roman on Friday at 60 kg/132 lbs., is wrestling in freestyle this weekend at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. Mango won his first two matches on Saturday.
Mango normally competes at 55 kg/121 lbs. internationally.
Ware, Meneely back on the mat together in Akron
Todd Meneely beat Teyon Ware in the freestyle finals of the 2002 Junior Nationals. Two of the nation's best prospects coming out of high school were back on the mat together Saturday at the University Nationals.
Ware, a two-time NCAA champion for the University of Oklahoma, is competing at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. at the University Nationals in freestyle. Ware placed second as a senior at the 2006 NCAA meet. Ware has bumped up a weight class this year after wrestling at 60 kg/132 lbs. last year.
Meneely, a 2007 NCAA Division II champion for the University of Nebraska at Omaha, is wrestling at 60 kg/132 lbs. at the University Nationals in freestyle. Meneely, who still has two years of college eligibility left after starting his college career at Iowa, cut down to 132 for University Nationals after wrestling 149 this past season in college.
Ware and Meneely both won their first matches on Saturday.
Ware competed at the U.S. Nationals on April 7, but did not place in the top seven. The top seven finishers qualified for the World Team Trials.
Coming Up: Finals for University Nationals, FILA Cadet Nationals
The third and final day of the University Nationals and FILA Cadet Nationals is set for Sunday at the University of Akron.
Sunday's freestyle competition will start at 9 a.m. with the finals set for around 11 a.m.