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Fullhart, Byers, Marano named Outstanding Wrestlers at U.S. National Championships in Las Vegas, Nev., April 10

4/10/2004 Gary Abbott/USA Wrestling

With stunning victories over respected finals opponents, the Outstanding Wrestlers at the U.S. National Wrestling Championships were Lee Fullhart (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC) in men’s freestyle, Dremiel Byers (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) in men’s Greco-Roman and Kristie Marano (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) in women’s wrestling.

The competition was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev. It was the most important qualifying event for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Wrestling, set for Indianapolis, Ind., May 21-23.

The champions earn the No. 1 seed and advance directly to the Championship Series at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, a major advantage in the qualifying

Fullhart won his first U.S. Nationals title by defeating 2003 World silver medalist Cael Sanderson (Ames, Iowa/Sunkist Kids) 5-2 in the finals at 84 kg/185 lbs. A key to the victory was a two-point exposure by Fullhart late in the opening period that gave him a lead he never relinquished. It was Fullhart’s first career U.S. Nationals title.

Sanderson has beaten Fullhart in the finals of the U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials for the last two years. It was not Fullhart’s first win over Sanderson, as he won one of the three matches at the 2002 World Team Trials event.

Byers, a 2002 World Champion, defeated 2000 Olympic champion and 2001 World Champion Rulon Gardner (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) by a 3-1 margin at 120 kg/264.5 pounds. Trailing 1-0, Byers scored a three-point throw from a body lock position for the winning points. Last year, Gardner defeated Byers to make the U.S. World Team, and had beaten Byers in two previous meetings earlier this season. It was Byers fourth career U.S. Nationals title.

Marano, a two-time World Champion and seven-time World medalist, pinned 2003 World silver medalist Sara McMann (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) in the finals at 63 kg/138.75 pounds. McMann had defeated Marano at the U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials the last two years at this weight division. Marano moved up a weight division and won a Special Wrestle-off to make the last two World teams.

Except for Sanderson, the entire 2003 U.S. World Team in men’s freestyle won their weight classes at the U.S. Nationals this year, and enter the Olympic Trials with the top position.

Capturing their fifth U.S. Nationals titles were Joe Williams (Iowa City, Iowa/Sunkist Kids) at 74 kg/163 lbs. and Kerry McCoy (Bethlehem, Pa./New York AC) at 120 kg/264.5 lbs.

Williams defeated Joe Heskett, Grover Beach, Calif. (Gator WC) in the finals, 4-0 . Williams had beaten Heskett in the finals of the U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials a year ago. Williams was a 2001 World bronze medalist.

Mc Coy, a 2003 World silver medalist, won a highly anticipated battle against young star Steven Mocco (N. Bergen, N.J./New York AC), 3-0. McCoy scored a takedown and a turn for his points against Mocco.

Winning his fourth career U.S. Nationals title was Eric Guerrero (Stillwater, Okla./Gator WC) at 60 kg/132 lbs., with a 3-1 win over Mike Zadick (Iowa City, Iowa/Hawkeye WC), 3-1. Guerrero also beat Zadick at the 2003 World Team Trials.

Capturing their second career U.S. Nationals titles were Stephen Abas (Fresno, Calif./Sunkist Kids) at 55 kg/121 lbs. and Daniel Cormier (Stillwater, Okla./Gator WC) at 96 kg/211.5 lbs.

Abas defeated 1998 World Champion and 2000 Olympic silver medalist Sammie Henson (Highland Mills, N.Y./Sunkist Kids), 3-0 in the finals.

Cormier scored an overtime takedown to break a 3-3 tie and defeat Dean Morrison (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) 4-3, at the 6:44 mark.

Winning a first career U.S. Nationals title was 2003 World Team member Jamill Kelly (Stillwater, Okla./Gator WC), who stopped defending U.S. Nationals champion Chris Bono (Gilbert, Iowa/Sunkist Kids), 4-3.

In men’s Greco-Roman, 1996 Olympic silver medalist Brandon Paulson (Coon Rapids, Minn./Minnesota Storm) defeated Lindsay Durlacher (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) , 4-2 in the finals. It was Paulson’s fourth U.S. Nationals title. He and Durlacher have met the in the U.S. Nationals finals for the last three years.

At 96 kg/211.5 lbs, , Justin Ruiz (W. Salt Lake City, Utah/New York AC) scored a 2-2 overtime referee’s decision over 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Garrett Lowney (Kaukauna, Wis./Minnesota Storm). The key to the victory was a takedown by Ruiz with just four seconds left in overtime to tie the bout. The match was awarded to Ruiz in the tiebreaking procedure because Lowney had more passivity calls against him.

2000 Olympian Jim Gruenwald (Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) scored his final point in overtime from the clinch to defeat Glenn Nieradka (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) , 3-0 at 6:13. It was Gruenwald’s second career U.S. Nationals title. Gruenwald was fourth at the 2003 World Championships.

Another U.S. Nationals champion for the second time was Brad Vering (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) who defeated Jake Clark (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Marine Corps), 3-1, in overtime at 8:38. Vering placed fifth at the 2002 and 2003 World Championships.

Two Greco-Roman wrestlers were U.S. Nationals for the first time, Faruk Sahin (Ft. Carson, Colo./U.S. Army) at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. and Darryl Christian (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) at 74 kg/163 lbs.

Sahin defeated teammate Oscar Wood (Fountain, Colo./U.S. Army), 4-0. Wood, a No. 8 seed, was a surprise finalist. Sahin, an immigrant from Turkey, received his U.S. citizenship earlier this winter and was competing in his first U.S. Nationals.

Christian stopped Steven Woods, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force), 3-2 in the finals. It was Christian’s first time in the gold-medal match at U.S. Nationals. The U.S. was not able to qualify for the Olympics at this weight class, however the placewinners will still advance to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

Three two-time World silver medalists were able to win their weight class at the U.S. Nationals this year, Patricia Miranda (Colorado Springs, Colo./Dave Schultz WC) at 48 kg/105.5 lbs., Tina George (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) at 55 kg/121 lbs. and Toccara Montgomery (Cleveland, Ohio/Cumberland College) at 72 kg/158.5 lbs.

Miranda scored an 11-0 technical fall over Clarissa Chun (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC), 11-0 in the finals in 4:49. It was Miranda’s third U.S. Nationals title.

George defeated Tela O'Donnell (Colorado Springs, Colo./Dave Schultz WC) , 4-2 in the finals. It was a rematch of last year’s U.S. Nationals finals, won by O’Donnell. It was Goerge’s second career U.S. Nationals crown.

Montgomery won her fourth U.S. Nationals crown with a 3-1 win over Stephany Lee (Honolulu, Hawaii/Missouri Valley).

Marano, Miranda, George and Montgomery won at the four Olympic weight divisions, and will be the No. 1 seeds at the Olympic Trials. These are the only weights that will be contested in the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis.

Winners at the three non-Olympic weight classes were Malinda Ripley (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) at 51 kg/112.25 pounds, Na’Tasha Umemoto (Portland, Ore./Sunkist Kids) at 59 kg/130 lbs. and Ali Bernard (New Ulm, Minn./Minnesota Storm) at 67 kg/147.5 lbs.

Ripley won her second career U.S. Nationals title, while high school students Umemoto and Bernard were first-time winners.

The top eight placewinners at the Olympic weight classes advance to the Olympic Team Trials. In the three women’s non-Olympic weights, the top four placewinners advance to Indianapolis.

Winning the team awards in men’s freestyle were the Sunkist Kids in Div. I and the Gator WC in Div. II.

Winning the team awards in men’s Greco-Roman were the New York AC in Div. I and the U.S. Air Force in Div. II.

The women’s team champions were the Sunkist Kids, followed by the Dave Schultz WC.

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