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2004 Olympic Teams determined; Olympic medalists Gardner, Hall, Lowney return to Games; First Women's Olympic Team selected

5/23/2004 Jason Bryant/USA Wrestling

Dennis Hall earned his trip to Athens and it’s safe to say that Hall wrestled more this weekend than anyone else in his quest to make the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team.

The 1996 Olympic silver medallist scored the winning takedown at the 16:54 mark to beat another 1996 Olympic silver medallist, Brandon Paulson, in the third match in the best-of-three U.S. Olympic Team Trials Championship Finals at 55 kg in Greco-Roman.

Hall came from the Challenge Tournament, winning three matches, and won the first and last matches against Paulson in the best-of-three, it was the 10:54 of extra wrestling that got the 9,458 fans at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Ind. into a frenzy

Paulson led 2-0 at the end of the first period after he scored two points on a high-arching gut wrench a minute into the match. With 45 seconds to go, Hall was back-peddling and hit Paulson for a three-point front headlock throw that made Olympic gold medallist Kendall Cross, seated on press row, and the rest of the RCA Dome stand and say “Wooh.”

Paulson earned an escape with 30 seconds to go after a review and tied the match at 3-3 and sent the match between two Olympic medallists into overtime. After the two went through the extra period, both were even in cautions and passives.

P.A. Announcer Ed Aliverti made the announcement, “They’re all even, they’ll continue to wrestle!,” and that was met with a thunderous applause.

Hall tried another front headlock throw, but was out of bounds two minutes into the extra period. At the 13:30 mark, the crowd started applauding, attempting to fire up either wrestler. After 14:00 mark, the clock reset five more minutes as Hall and Paulson continued.

“USA! USA!” chants ran through the arena in bursts.

At the 16:54 mark, Hall got confirmation on the winning takedown and he and Paulson were met with a standing ovation

Two more Olympic medallists qualified to make return trips to the Olympic games by winning the best-of-three Championship Series of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. The 2000 Olympic bronze medallist Garrett Lowney and 2000 Olympic gold medallist Rulon Gardner will join Hall, and represent the United States for a second time.

Lowney was the first to qualify in Greco-Roman, coming from the Challenge Tournament and beating U.S. National champion Justin Ruiz with two overtime decisions at 96 kg. Lowney won the first on criteria, and the second 2-0 on a takedown and a caution point. The former Minnesota Golden Gopher avenged his loss to Ruiz at the U.S. Nationals and wrestled five times in order to make the U.S. Olympic Team.

Like Lowney, Gardner also had to go through the Challenge Tournament in Greco after losing to World champion Dremiel Byers in the U.S. Nationals in Las Vegas last month. Gardner scored a pair of 2-1 overtime victories over Byers on Sunday, and scored the winning points in both bouts when Byers broke his lock from the clinch first.

Jim Gruenwald made his second Olympic team, beating Joe Warren 3-0 in the second match of their best-of-three series at 60 kg.

Oscar Wood, who found himself watching the Challenge Tournament after being named the top-seed after the provisional suspension of U.S. National champion Faruk Sahin at 66 kg. Wood lived up his top billing, finishing off 2000 Olympian Kevin Bracken 3-0 in the final match of Bracken’s career. Bracken left his shoes in the center of the mat after Wood beat him in their second match of the Championship Series.

Brad Vering earned his first Olympic berth by defeating Jake Clark 3-1 in overtime in the second match of their best-of-three Championship final at 84 kg. Clark broke his lock from the clinch down 2-1 to give Vering the final point needed for the victory.

Keith Sieracki won the last two bouts in his best-of-three series at 74 kg against U.S. National champion Darryl Christian to earn the top ranking on the U.S. National team in a weight that the U.S. failed to qualify for the Athens Games. Sieracki scored the winning point in overtime from the clinch when Christian was penalized a point for a caution for tripping Sieracki to his back.

In Women’s Freestyle, Patricia Miranda, Tela O’Donnell, Sara McMann and Toccara Montgomery are the first women to qualify for the United States as Women’s Freestyle Wrestling will make its debut in Athens at the 2004 Summer Games.

The four wrestlers took the first two matches in the best-of-three Championship Series to qualify.

The biggest surprise was O’Donnell, who pinned 2003 World silver medallist and five-time world team member Tina George in both bouts at 55 kg. Unlike the first bout, O’Donnell trailed as George went up 6-1 at the break, using a headlock and a two-point exposure, countering an O’Donnell shot. O’Donnell took George down and powered her over with a half-nelson, securing the fall at 4:12.

Montgomery beat Kristie Marano 4-3 in the second match of their series, sending the 2003 World champion Marano home instead of to Athens at 72 kg.

Miranda (48 kg) and McMann (63 kg) won both their matches with relatively little difficulty, but Miranda did hold off Clarissa Chun in their first match 6-4, but Miranda cruised to a 10-0 technical fall at 4:51. McMann won by a pair of technical falls (10-0, 15-2) over Alaina Berube.

Kerry McCoy will be the only U.S. freestyler to make a return appearance to the Olympic Games after he finished off Tolly Thompson in the second match of their best-of-three series. McCoy left little in doubt in who the best heavyweight in the U.S. is with his 8-0 win over Thompson. McCoy, who finished sixth in the 2000 Sydney games is looking to improve upon his 2003 World silver medallist finish.

Cael Sanderson and Lee Fullhart went the full three matches at 84 kg, with Sanderson prevailing two matches to one, and making his first Olympic team. Fullhart won the second match on criteria (fewer passivities) after trailing Sanderson 2-0 as they went into overtime. Fullhart tied the match with two takedowns in the extra period. Sanderson won the final bout 4-1, scoring four quick points in a first period scramble on the edge of the mat.

Jamill Kelly, a 2003 U.S. World team member, also made his first U.S. Olympic team, beating Jared Lawrence in the best-of-three series that also went the distance at 66 kg. Lawrence dropped the first match in Sunday’s first session, but rallied to win the second bout in overtime before falling 5-1; Kelly scored on a three-point throw from the clinch at the start of the second period to give him the advantage.

Daniel Cormier continued his impressive performance at this year’s trials. Cormier won the right to represent the U.S. at 96 kg by dominating former U.S. world team member Tim Hartung in two matches. After Cormier’s fall in the first match, he continued scoring seemingly at will against a battered Hartung. Cormier scored five takedowns and added a first period two-point gut wrench to win 7-0.

Sammie Henson’s quest to return to the Olympics fell short after he lost twice to 2003 World team member Stephen Abas at 55 kg. Abas jumped to a 3-0 lead on three takedowns to sweep the best-of-three series in the first two matches. Henson was a 2000 Olympic silver medallist.

Four-time U.S. World team member Eric Guerrero earned the Olympic berth at 60 kg, besting Mike Zadick in two matches. Guerrero jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second match of the Championship Finals. Guerrero was a member of the 2003 World team and will be making his first Olympic appearance.

Two-time World team member Joe Williams earned his first Olympic berth, but had to rally from an early deficit in his second match against Joe Heskett to compete his two-match sweep in the Championship Finals at 74 kg.

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