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WRESTLING: U.S. Olympic men’s freestyle wrestling team story ideas and tidbits.
Note: The freestyle team will have its press conference at the Main Press Center Knossos room on Monday, Aug. 16 at 1:30 p.m.
55 kg – Stephen Abas· Competing in first Olympic Games· Comes from a family of wrestlers. His older brother Gerry Abas was a four-time All-American at Fresno State. Brother Greg Gascon competed at Univ. of Wyoming. Brother Norman Abas also wrestled· Three-time NCAA champion for Fresno State, one of the top sports achievements in school history· Practices Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art which combines dance and fighting techniques· He won a Junior World title in 1998, an early indication of his vast abilities.· Abas beat 2000 Olympic silver medalist Sammie Henson in the finals at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Henson made a comeback in an attempt for a second Olympic squad.· Trained at the USOTC in Colorado Springs in 2004 with a goal to improve and win Olympics
60 kg – Eric Guerrero· Competing in first Olympic Games· One of three past Oklahoma State wrestlers on the Olympic freestyle team.· Three is the word for Guerrero, after winning three California state high school titles and three NCAA titles· An avid fisherman and outdoorsman. One of his hobbies is “noodling,” an extreme form of fishing.· Guerrero is a devoted husband and father, who enjoys spending free time with his family.
66 kg – Jamill Kelly· Competing in first Olympic Games· One of three past Oklahoma State wrestlers on the Olympic freestyle team· Considered major longshot just a few years ago. He was never a high school state champion, nor an NCAA All-American, a common level of achievement for Olympic wrestlers. Also lost in finals of NJCAA College Nationals when he competed for Lassen College.·
His victory in 2003 World Team Trials was one of the top upsets in recent wrestling history. To make the U.S. team, he beat three established stars, 2001 World Team member Bill Zadick, 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Lincoln McIlravy and 2001 and 2002 World Team member Chris Bono.
74 kg – Joe Williams· Competing in first Olympic Games· Comes from family of wrestlers. Older brother Steve won two NJCAA Junior National titles. Younger brother T.J. won two NCAA titles for Univ. of Iowa· His older brother Steve passed away from an asthma attack when visiting at Joe’s home.·
Named ASICS Tiger High School Wrestler of the Year, from Mt. Carmel HS in Illinois. Attended same high school as football stars Donovan McNabb and Simeon Rice.· Decided to spend most of 2004 training in Colorado Springs at the U.S. Olympic Training Center to improve his performance.
In 2003, he did not place at the World meet.· Williams was USA Wrestling’s John Smith Award winner, as the nation’s top freestyle wrestler, for 2001 and 2002 seasons. No other wrestler has won the John Smith Award two times.· Competed for some legendary coaches. In high school, he was coached by Bill Weick, who is one of the best prep coaches in history. In college, he was coached by Dan Gable, the greatest college coach of all time in any sport.
84 kg – Cael Sanderson· Competing in first Olympic Games· Became the first undefeated four-time NCAA Div. I wrestling champion, when he went 159-0 for Iowa State Univ. His achievement was named No. 2 greatest college sports achievement by Sports Illustrated.· Comes from family of wrestlers. Older brothers Cody and Cole were also stars at Iowa State Univ. Younger brother Cyler is one of nation’s top high school wrestlers. Father Steve served as one of his coaches. Mother Debbie active with USA Wrestling in Utah.
An accomplished artist, studied art history at Iowa State· Appeared on a Wheaties box which has become a popular collectors item. Named as one of the most sexy men in sports by SI for Women. Won an ESPY award as nation’s top college athlete. Has reached legend status within wrestling. Everywhere he goes, he is swamped for autographs, especially by kids.
96 kg – Daniel Cormier· Competing in first Olympic Games· One of three past Oklahoma State wrestlers on the Olympic freestyle team· Lost his infant daughter Kaedyn in an automobile accident in 2003. Cormier received an extension on his World Team Trials matches the next week, then came back to win a Special Wrestle-off for the team about one month later.· His dad, Joseph Cormier, was shot to death on Thanksgiving 1986 when Daniel was seven. He has lost friends and family to death in accidents, including a friend on the Oklahoma State basketball team involved in the fatal airplane crash. Much of his strength comes from his wife, Robin, and his mother, Audrey, who have helped him through his challenges.· Came from a state, Louisiana, not known for its wrestling heritage. Attended junior college in Kansas (Colby CC) before going to Oklahoma State. Lost his final college match in NCAA finals to Cael Sanderson of Iowa State, now his Olympic teammate.
120 kg – Kerry McCoy· Competing in second Olympic Games (2000, 5th; 2004). Only past Olympian on men’s freestyle Olympic Team.· Won his 2003 World silver medal in his home of New York on the mats in Madison Square Garden. Many friends and family were there to witness his highest wrestling achievement.· At one point, he was the most powerful student-athlete in the NCAA structure, serving as the chair of the NCAA Student Athlete Advisory Committee.· Has a passion for computers, the internet and technology.· Works as an assistant wrestling coach at Lehigh Univ.
Coaches· Of the freestyle coaches, two are head coaches at Div. I college wrestling programs, Bobby Douglas (Iowa State) and Tom Brands (Virginia Tech). Brands was recently hired as the head coach at Virginia Tech, after a decade as an assistant coach for the Univ. of Iowa. Also on the staff is a Div. I assistant coach, Zeke Jones at West Virginia Univ.· All of the coaches have past Olympic success. Tom Brands (1996) and Kevin Jackson (1992) were Olympic champion. Zeke Jones was an Olympic silver medalist (1992). Bobby Douglas was a two-time Olympian, placing fourth in the 1964 Olympic Games. · Jackson and Jones won World gold medals the same year, 1991, in Varna, Bulgaria. · Jones, Brands and Jackson were all members of the only U.S. World Teams to win the World Team Title, the 1993 World Team (Toronto, Canada) and the 1995 World Team (Atlanta, Ga.)
Jones and women’s Olympic coach Tricia Saunders are from the same youth wrestling club in Ann Arbor, Mich., coached by 1980 Olympian Mark Johnson.· Douglas coached Zeke Jones throughout his career, first when Jones was a student at Arizona State then during his Olympic freestyle career.
General information· 2002 U.S. men’s freestyle World Team did not get to compete in the World Championships in Tehran, Iran, because of a threat of violence against the team which was shared with USA Wrestling by the U.S. government prior to the scheduled departure. Of the 2004 Olympians in freestyle, five of the athletes were on that 2002 team that missed a chance to compete there: Abas, Guerrero, Williams, Sanderson and McCoy. Olympic Coaches Bobby Douglas and Tom Brands were also coaches of that team.· The United States has won more Olympic medals in freestyle wrestling than any other nation.
International stories· Georgia won the 2003 World Team title, edging the United States, Iran and Russia in the standings. Iran was the 2002 World Champion team, and Russia was the 2001 World champion team.· Russia features the Saitiev brothers, both past Olympic champions. Buvaisa (who competes now at 74 kg) was a 1996 Olympic champion. Adam (who competes at 84 kg) was a 2000 Olympic champion.· Eldar Kurtanidze of Georgia has won two straight World titles at 96 kg, and is a past Olympic medalist, winning bronze medals in 1996 and 2000.· The 2003 World Championships in New York featured champions from a former Soviet republic in every single weight class. The champions were Dilshod Mansurov (Uzbekistan, 55kg), Arif Abduallaev (Azerbaijan, 60 kg), Irbek Farniev (Russia, 66 kg), Buvaisa Saitiev (Russia, 74 kg), Sajid Sajidov (Russia, 84 kg), Eldar Kurtanidze (Georgia, 96 kg), Artur Taimazov (Uzbekistan, 120 kg).”
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