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From the Video—Match One of Cormier vs. Morrison 7/24/2003 Ted Witulski/USA Wrestling

For the second year in a row, the national audience assembled in the Fargo Dome and watched two of America’s best battle to represent the United States in the World Championships. Last year’s series was contentious and controversial. This year the two wrestlers, Daniel Cormier and Dean Morrison, have less public animosity but certainly both badly want to be the number one man in America at their weight.

As the crowd readied for the first match, the juniors and women’s wrestlers warming up for their important matches cleared the floor. Among the throngs of wrestlers, Cormier and Morrison stepped forward from the crowd. Cormier wore red and Morrison wore blue. A young group of wrestlers lined up in the stands spelling out G-O C-O-R-M-I-E-R across their chests.

Cormier was coached by his collegiate coach John Smith, while Morrison was backed by USA Wrestling Developmental Coach Dave Bennett. Cormier stalked back and forth as Morrison arrived to the center. Morrison’s energy seemed amplified as he bounded in short semi-circles prior to the handshake. It seemed that Morrison had a new tact to engage Cormier with.

At the U.S. Nationals in May Cormier and Morrison faced off in the finals of the tournament. Morrison looked flat during the match as Cormier grinded the match along wearing down the older New York Athletic Club representative. With the delay in competition from the World Team Trials in June Morrison clearly looked for an alternative to the head-to-head battle he lost in Vegas.

From the sound of the first whistle Morrison darted left to right, quickly circling and changing directions reminiscent of a youthful Cassius Clay’s chattering feet. Cormier looked to take hold of a collar tie only to be frustrated by the movement of Morrison’s feet.

Cormier’s feet pounded and plodded forward as he forced a short-armed hi-c to a singled attempt. The shot was scuttled as quickly as it was released. Briefly Cormier locked into his head-tie only to have Morrison juke away again. When Cormier finally did gain solid control of the collar Morrison managed to block any attack by gripping Cormier’s right wrist in a thumb-out grip.

At the minute in point, Cormier was called for passivity. No doubt the refs were looking to swap out passive calls as they commonly do to produce some scoring in a tight contest. Morrison put Cormier in the down position and attacked ankles. Momentarily, it looked as though Morrison would have success as he locked Cormier’s left foot across his right calf. Morrison began to pivot and roll hard to his right, only to have Cormier’s backwards pressure stop the lace attack.

Within the second minute action was returned to the neutral position. The position that most coaches feel Cormier should dominate and control. Morrison’s quick tempo slowed from the first minute, as Cormier began to work the head, snapping hard on Morrison twice.

Morrison was called for passivity as quickly as the action on the feet began. Cormier was called to attention as he false-started on what appeared would be a crotch-lift attempt. The second start was clean and Cormier began to move to his left and work for a lock on a front headlock. When he couldn’t gain a lock Cormier switched to high-gut lock, but really he never made a hard attempt at scoring from top.

The two wrestlers returned to their feet and Morrison picked up the pace again for the final minute. Only briefly did it appear that Cormier wanted to match the darting pace that Morrison set; he quickly thought the better of it and returned to a solid square stance. Cormier took another lunging shot out of his left hand collar tie but Morrison had established wrist control and move out of danger quickly.

With the clock winding down the two pulled back a bit resting for the inevitable clinch.

Mat Official Stacy Davis called the two back to center, but requested that Morrison be dried again by his coach. The flip of the coin came up red, calling for Cormier to lock first. Cormier established a chest heavy lock driving Morrison back out of the meter circle as he dropped his chest trying to vie for position. Attention blue was the call, but the Mat Chairman was calling for the Official to give red the attention warning for driving Morrison back.

The second attempt at a lock was more successful as the two locked with little jockeying for position. Cormier took a much higher lock while Morrison’s long arms dropped lower to his opponent’s hips. Quickly, with the whistle, Cormier drove his left leg forward in an inside-trip attempt, running Morrison back and breaking his lock.

With his lock broken, Morrison retreated off the edge of the mat in less than five seconds. Caution and one for Cormier and the match returned to the mat for the Oklahoma State grad’s second attempt in par terre. This time Cormier aggressively attacked on a gut wrench nearly gaining the turn, before driving Morrison’s head outside of the ring and bringing the action back to the center. Cormier at this point seemed buoyed by his initial score as he bounced in the center waiting for Morrison to come to the down position. Little happened and again the action was back in the neutral position.

With a minute gone in the second period, Cormier again attempted a left side single coming off of a quick left hand touch to the collar tie. Morrison saw the shot coming and immediately capitalized by down-blocking and circling to his right for a go-behind and his first point, knotting the score at 1-1.

Early in the match the cheers were for Cormier but with the takedown chants for “New York—New York” rose from the stands, going out to Morrison a Long-Island native.

From the feet the action was slow and steady as the time wore on. Cormier once again was hit with passivity. From the bottom Cormier loaded his hips back adjusting only minimally as the Official asked for him to check his position. Cormier hit a left leg stand up and was out quickly from bottom. Morrison did not attempt to lock on the waist so no escape point was warranted.

Cormier bulled forward looking to score his own takedown but Morrison seemed satisfied to take the match to the clinch, as neither wrestler had gained the necessary three points to end the match.

As the period ended the onus would be on Morrison to score in the clinch as he would have first lock with his one offensive point. Morrison clearly had a game plan for this first lock scenario. Instead of locking over his opponent’s right arm, the more common of the clinch locks, Morrison instead chose to lock down on the opposite side. Obviously Morrison was wary of Cormier’s wrestling prowess from the upper-body position. A reputation he earned from his collegiate days as he earned the title of most likely to upset Cael Sanderson, based on his ability to throw.

The two locked cleanly and the first attack by Morrison was the match-winner as he outside stepped with his right leg grapevining Cormier’s left leg. He hopped and drove hard off his left leg teetering Cormier backwards. The two fell like a tall-tree towards the edge of the mat on the Judge’s side. The call was simple as Cormier fell into exposure.

Three points Morrison and match one of the series. One step closer to representing the United States in his home state in Madison Square Garden.

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