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Justin Lester named 2011 USA Wrestling Greco-Roman Wrestler of the Year

Justin Lester competing at 66 kg at the 2011 World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, where he placed fifth at his weight. Larry Slater photo

Justin Lester (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) was named 2011 Greco-Roman Wrestler of the Year by USA Wrestling. It is the first time that Lester has won this prestigious award.

Lester placed fifth at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. at the 2011 World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey in September, the top placement among U.S. Greco-Roman wrestling. His performance qualified the U.S. to compete in 2012 Olympic Games at the weight class.

Lester started the World Championships on a tear, winning his first four matches. He defeated Aleksandar Maksimovic of Serbia, 1-0, 2-1 and Alberto Mota Brea of the Dominican Republic, 4-0, 4-0. Lester then stopped Pan Zheng of China, 1-0, 6-2. In the quarterfinals, Lester defeated Kanatbek Begaliev of Kyrgyzstan, 0-4, 2-0, 4-3.

He dropped a semifinal bout to Manuchar Tskhadaia of Georgia, 0-4, 0-4. In the bronze-medal bout, he lost a close battle to Pedro Herrera of Cuba, 0-1, 0-1.

Lester qualified for the U.S. World Team, with a victory at the World Team Trials in Oklahoma City, Okla. in June, stopping Army teammate Glenn Garrison in two straight matches in the finals series.

He won two U.S. Open titles during the 2011 calendar year. In April, he won the U.S. Open title in Cleveland at 66 kg/145.5 lbs., defeating Garrison in the finals. He was also the U.S. Open champion at 74 kg/163 lbs. in December 2011, beating Army teammate Aaron Sieracki in the finals, 1-0, 3-0. He now has four career U.S. Open titles.

He won a gold medal at 74 kg at the Granma Cup in Cuba. Lester also won two major international tournaments held in the United States in 2011, the Dave Schultz Memorial International and the Sunkist Kids International. He added a silver medal at 74 kg at the New York AC International.

Lester, who competed under the name Harry Lester for most of his career, has won two World bronze medals in his career, claiming medals at the 2006 and 2007 World Championships. He also competed at the 2005 and the 2009 World Championships for the United States.

Prior to joining the U.S. Army program, Lester attended Northern Michigan Univ. and competed for the USOEC Greco-Roman program. He was the first USOEC Greco-Roman wrestler to win a U.S. Open title, make a Senior U.S. World Team and win a World medal on the Senior level.

Among his other honors include a gold medal at the 2007 Pan American Games and a bronze medal at the 2005 University World Games. He was a 1999 Cadet World champion in freestyle, and was also fifth at the 2003 Junior World Championships.

A native of the Akron, Ohio area, he was a Cadet and Junior Nationals champion in high school and also won four state high school titles for Cuyuhoga Falls Valley Christian Academy. He attended Iowa State prior to transferring to Northern Michigan.

2011 – Justin Lester, Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S. Army
2010 – Justin Ruiz, Meridian, Idaho, New York AC
2009 - Dremiel Byers, Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S. Army
2008 - Adam Wheeler, Colorado Springs, Colo., Gator WC
2007 - Brad Vering, Colorado Springs, Colo., New York AC
2006 - Joe Warren, Colorado Springs, Colo., New York AC
2005 - Justin Ruiz, Colorado Springs, Colo., New York AC
2004 - Rulon Gardner, Wellsville, Utah, Sunkist Kids
2003 - Jim Gruenwald, Colorado Springs, Colo., Sunkist Kids
2002 - Dremiel Byers, Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S. Army
2001 - Rulon Gardner, Cascade, Colo., Sunkist Kids
2000 - Rulon Gardner, Afton, Wyo., Sunkist Kids
1999 - Dremiel Byers, Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S. Army
1998 - Matt Lindland, Lincoln, Neb., Sunkist Kids
1997 - Rulon Gardner, Gilbert, Ariz., Sunkist Kids
1996 - Dennis Hall, Stevens, Point, Wis., Sunkist Kids
1995 - Dennis Hall, Stevens Point, Wis., Sunkist Kids
1994 - Dennis Hall, Stevens Point, Wis., Sunkist Kids
1993 - James Johnson, Phoenix, Ariz., Sunkist Kids
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