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Burton defeats Gutches to qualify for U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team



Charles Burton defeats Les Gutches, two matches to one, to qualify for 187.25 pound position on U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team, winning the Special Wrestle-off in Fargo, N.D., July 27

Charles Burton (Bloomington, Ind./New York AC) won the third and deciding match, 5-0, defeating Les Gutches (Corvallis, Ore./Sunkist Kids) two matches to one, to qualify for the 85 kg/187.25 pound position on the 2000 U.S. Olympic Freestyle Wrestling team.

This Special Wrestle-off Series was held at the Fargodome on the campus of North Dakota State Univ. in Fargo, N.D., Thursday, July 27

Burton won the first match, 4-1, but Gutches rebounded with a 4-3 victory in the second match. With the position on the U.S. Olympic team on the line, Burton responded by scoring three takedowns and an exposure and shut down Gutches' attack in match three. This was the first time that Burton has beaten Gutches during his career.

"This is the pinnacle of my career," said Burton. "If you can make the U.S. team, you have a great chance to win a medal at the Olympics. This has been a goal of mine for a long time. I beat a great wrestler today."

In match three, Burton opened the scoring with a single leg takedown in the first period, with 1:04 left in the period for a 1-0 lead. In the second period, Burton added a low single leg takedown with 2:14 left for a 2-0 margin. Three points are needed to win a freestyle wrestling match in regulation, and with just nine seconds left in the period, Burton scored a takedown on a counter for a 3-0 advantage. He added a two point ankle lace turn with one second left for the final 5-0 margin.

In match two, after Burton was hit for passivity, Gutches opened the scoring with a one-point gutwrench with 1:19 left in the period. Burton quickly tied the match with a one-point reversal at 1-1, then took a 2-1 lead with a one-point ankle lace turn. Gutches tied the score at 2-2 with a low single takedown with just 18 seconds left. He took the lead for good with a two-point ankle lace turn with just one second left in the period for a 4-2 lead.

In the second period, the only scoring occurred with just 18 seconds left in the period when Burton hit a low single leg takedown to trail 4-3. Gutches had strong defense on the mat, resisting Burton's attempt to score an exposure, and held on for the victory, forcing match number three.

In match one, after Gutches was placed in the par terre position for passivity, Burton turned Gutches with a gutwrench with 1:31 left in the first period and a 2-0 lead. Burton added another point on a takedown, countering a Gutches bodylock, for a 3-0 lead with 48 seconds left in the period. A one-point hand-to-hand ankle lace gave Burton a 4-0 lead at mid-break.

In the second period, Burton was hit for passivity with 1:51 to go in the match, but Gutches could not turn him. Gutches scored his lone point on a low single leg takedown with 25 seconds to go.

The Special Wrestle-off became necessary when Gutches, the 2000 U.S. Nationals champion, was unable to compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Dallas, Texas, June 22-24, due to injury. Under the Olympic Trials rules, only the national champion can delay the finals series due to injury.

Burton earned the right to challenge Gutches by winning the competition in Dallas, defeating Lee Fullhart (Iowa City, Iowa/Hawkeye) in the championship series at the weight class, two matches to one.

It was a rematch of the 2000 U.S. Nationals finals, won by Gutches. The athletes also met in the finals of the 1999 World Team Trials, which Gutches won, two matches to none.

Burton was second in the 2000 U.S. Nationals and the 1999 World Team Trials. He was also third in the 1999 U.S. Nationals. Burton won a gold medal at the Takhti Cup in Tehran, Iran this year. He was third in the 1996 NCAA Championships for Boise State Univ. and is originally from Meridian, Idaho.

Gutches is a 1997 World Champion and a 1999 World bronze medallist. He placed seventh in the 1996 Olympic Games and seventh in the 1998 World Championships. He boasts gold medals at the 1998 Goodwill Games, the 1999 Pan American Games and the 1999 World Cup. Gutches was a two-time NCAA champion for Oregon State Univ. and is originally from Medford, Ore.

The Special Wrestle-off was held alongside the Asics/Vaughan Junior Nationals and the AdvoCare Cadet Nationals, which are being held in Fargo this week. It is the largest wrestling tournament in the world, with up to 3,600 entries during the week.

The rest of the U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team was determined in Dallas and is currently in Colorado Springs, Colo. at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, participating in the first segment of the Olympic Team Training Camp. The winner of the Special Wrestle-off series is expected to join his teammates in Colorado Springs for training later this week.

Quotes 2000 U.S. Olympian Charles Burton, Bloomington, Ind. (New York AC)

"This is the pinnacle of my career. If you can make the U.S. team, you have a great chance to win a medal at the Olympics. This has been a goal of mine for a long time. I beat a great wrestler today."

"Sometimes, you have self doubt when you lose. I was able to come back and perform well after losing to Les. I knew my conditioning would be a factor to my advantage."

"What a place to beat him. I would have loved to have this culminate in Dallas, but I'll take it here. I felt good that the third match was only one hour after the second one. I felt confident in my conditioning."

"After this, I head tomorrow to Colorado Springs for the U.S. Olympic training camp."

"The best thing I did was move up a weight class. I was struggling at 167 pounds. 1999 was my first year up at this weight class. That was the best thing I have ever done. I don't cut weight and I got stronger. It was time for my body to move up."

"I'm thinking, 'Is this a dream or is this reality?' I'm not sure this is really happening. I know I've got a lot of work ahead of me now."

"I know he is a great wrestler. I know I'm in a good match every time we wrestle. I go out looking to beat up whoever I wrestle. I know Les; I've known him since we were in college. We were in the same conference. But, really, it doesn't matter who it is that you're wrestling, you just have to beat him."

For more information, visit TheMat.com, which has complete coverage of this event Or call Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling, at 701-298-2703 or 701-298-2702

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