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|Robbie Smith rolls to Greco-Roman title at FILA Junior World Team Trials|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Robbie Smith is on a mission.
He's competed in the Junior World Championships twice in Greco-Roman wrestling, but has flown back home twice without the hardware he was hoping to win.
Smith doesn't plan on returning home empty-handed this year.
Smith turned in a dominating performance in sweeping Dustin Bauman in two straight matches to capture the FILA Junior World Team Trials championship at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. on Saturday afternoon at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Smith, who competes for the New York Athletic Club, now advances to the Junior World Championships on Aug. 21-26 in Beijing, China.
"The first time I competed at the Junior Worlds I was kind of awestruck - I didn't really know what to do and was wrestling stupid like a young kid," Smith said. "Last year, I was progressing better so I could go out there and place, but I made a mental error that cost me. This year, my goal is to be a World champion - I'm not going to come back with anything else."
Smith was one of eight champions - four in Greco-Roman and four in freestyle - who were crowned on the second and final day of the Junior World Team Trials on Saturday. The other eight winners - four in each style - qualified on Friday.
The other winners Saturday in Greco-Roman included Chad Hemerson at 74 kg/163 lbs., Brandon Sitch at 84 kg/185 lbs. and Erik Nye at heavyweight.
Punching their ticket to China in freestyle on Saturday were champions David Taylor at 50 kg/110 lbs., Tyler Graff at 55 kg/121 lbs., Angel Escobedo at 60 kg/132 lbs. and Bubba Jenkins at 66 kg/145.5 lbs.
Smith, a resident-athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, downed Bauman 6-0, 4-2 in the first match in the best-of-3 finals series. Smith returned a short time later to down Bauman 4-2, 7-0 in the second match.
"Robbie has a good shot at winning it all at the Junior World Championships - anything less than that he will feel like he didn't wrestle to his potential," said Ike Anderson, USA Wrestling's National Developmental Coach for Greco-Roman. "Last year, he was 30 seconds away from finishing in the top three. He knows if he wrestles well, he can compete with any of those guys in the World.
"Robbie has improved a lot since he first came out here. He's now challenging some of the Senior guys where last year he was one of those young pups who would run over all of the Juniors. Now he can compete with the guys like (World bronze medalist) Justin Ruiz and Adam Wheeler. Not saying he beats those guys on a regular basis, but at least he can compete with them now."
Smith has been at the Olympic Training Center for about a year and a half.
"I've been training hard every day," he said. "I have great coaches with Ike and Momir (Petkovic), and I have some great training partners with Russ Davie, Justin Ruiz, Adam Wheeler, R.C. Johnson and Justin Millard. Those are some of the best guys in the World to train with. My wrestling has improved quite a bit since I came out there. I'm moving better on my feet, my par terre is getting a lot better and my par terre defense is getting a lot better. I just have to keep working and keep improving."
Hemerson, who wrestles in the U.S. Olympic Education Center program at Northern Michigan University, took two straight finals matches from Talan Knox of the Sunkist Kids.
Sitch, a Minnesota Storm wrestler, won two straight over Michael Kelly of the New York AC to earn a trip to China.
Nye made his second straight Junior World Team by sweeping University Nationals champion Kenny Lester of the Sunkist Kids in the finals.
Taylor, the Ohio high school standout who owns numerous USA Wrestling age-group titles, rolled past Penn State's Eric Caschera in two straight matches in the final round. Taylor won his two matches by technical fall as he prevailed by a combined 29-0 score in the best-of-3 series.
Graff, who competes for the Loveland Wrestling Academy, took two straight over James Nicholson of King of the Jungle in the final round. Graff, a Colorado high school standout, outscored Nicholson by a combined 25-0 score in winning by technical fall in all four periods of the series.
Escobedo, coming off an All-American season for Indiana where he placed fourth in the NCAA Championships, won his title by sweeping Brandon Precin of Northwestern in the final round. Escobedo dropped the first period of the first match before winning the next four periods to capture a gold medal at the Junior World Team Trials.
Jenkins, a Penn State wrestler, won a strong 66 kg class by downing Zack Kemmerer in two straight matches in the final round.