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WRESTLING: Cormier makes second Olympic Team, Byers gets his first chance with wins at U.S. Olympic Team Trials

June 17, 2008, 7:43 p.m. (ET)
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Daniel Cormier (Stillwater, Okla./Gator WC) made his second straight Olympic team, defeating Damion Hahn (Ithaca, N.Y./New York AC) in two straight matches at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at the Thomas & Mack Center on Sunday.

Cormier placed fourth in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. He won a World bronze medal in 2007. It was his sixth straight year claiming the U.S. team spot at his weight class.

“I’m just going to train hard. It’s my second Olympic Games. I don’t want to feel like I did coming back from Athens in 2004. Losing two overtime matches in the semis and then losing the bronze medal match. I don’t want to feel that way. I’m doing everything possible to make sure I’m prepared and ready to go when I get to China. If I do that I think I’ll be okay,” said Cormier.

Cormier is the only member of the men’s freestyle Olympic Team who has competed in a previous Olympic Games. On Friday, Brad Vering (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) made his second Olympic team in Greco-Roman with a victory at 84 kg/185 lbs.

In bout number one, the first period, trailing 1-0, Cormier scored six points with a takedown and two tilts to win, 6-1. In the second period, Cormier again opened up his offense, turning Hahn to get a 6-0 technical fall.

In bout two, scored a point in each period, on a stepout in the first period and a spin behind in the second period, for a 1-1 victory and his second Olympic berth.

“I’m confident. I’m getting to the point where I am confident in my abilities and I figure if I go out and wrestle like I’m capable, I’m going to be okay. That’s pretty much what’s been happening. These guys are tough competitors. I’ve been lucky enough, blessed to stay healthy and believe in myself. It’s been leading to victories,” said Cormier.

2002 World champion Dremiel Byers (Colorado Springs, Colo./US Army) made his first Olympic Team, but needed three matches to get by U.S. Army teammate Timothy Taylor at 120 kg/264.5 lbs.

Byers won the first match, 1-1, 4-0, but fell in the second bout, 2-5, 2-1, 1-1. In the deciding third match, Byers dominated the first period, 4-0. In the second period, Byers hit a five-point high amplitude throw to immediately finish the match.

Byers talked about the challenge of facing his friend and teammate in the Championship Series with an Olympic berth at stake.

“That’s my brother from another mother. We live that everyday with our unit. We really are family. If you look around at Nationals or you look into it, we’re the only actual team. The other guys are clubs that live all over the country and come together for one event. We’re in there pounding it out everyday with each other,” said Byers.

Byers placed second at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials to archrival and friend Rulon Gardner, who won an Olympic gold in 2000 and Olympic bronze in 2004. Byers served as Gardner’s training partner at the 2004 Olympic Games.

Gardner was in attendance, serving as the color analyst for the MSNBC coverage of the Olympic Trials. Gardner hugged Byers on center mat, and conducted the television interview with him at the conclusion of the victory.

2008 U.S. Nationals champion Ben Askren (Columbia, Mo./Sunkist Kids) defeated Tyrone Lewis (Stillwater, Okla., Gator WC) in two straight matches. It was a rematch of this year’s nationals finals, also won by Askren.

A popular two-time NCAA champion for Missouri, Askren made his first World-level team in his first full season concentrating only on freestyle.

In the first match, Askren scored a leg attack takedown in each period for a 1-1, 1-1 victory.

The second match started strong for Lewis, who was trailing by a point before throwing Askren for three points with a body lock for a 6-3 win. In the second period, Askren scored twice to win 2-0. The deciding third period went to Askren, who scored a takedown on the edge early in the period and held on for the victory.

“Number one, I work harder than a lot of people. A lot of the senior level athletes don’t want to work hard, they want to do that. Number two, I leave my mind open, I’m looking for everybody. I’m watching the Russians, I’m watching the World Champs, I’m watching them and I’m picking everything up.”

Four of the series went the full three matches, adding great drama to the final night of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials event.

At 84 kg/185 lbs., 2006 U.S. World Team member Andy Hrovat (Ann Arbor, Mich./New York AC) defeated 2005 U.S. World Team member Mo Lawal, (Temecula, Calif./Sunkist Kids) in three bouts.

Lawal won the first match, 1-1, 1-0. In the first period, after Hrovat scored on a stepout, Lawal hit a takedown with just five seconds left to win the period by scoring the last point. In the second period, he scored the only takedown of the period.

In the second match, Lawal scored the only takedown of the first period to take it 1-0. In the second period, there were no takedowns and Lawal won the coin toss. Hrovat scored a two-point counter chestlock to win period two, 2-0. With time running out in the third period, Lawal shot a double on Hrovat on the edge, but Hrovat hit another three-point chestlock to take the period 3-0 and tie up the series.

In the deciding third match, Lawal won the first period with a takedown, 1-0. The second period was scoreless, and Hrovat won the toss, scoring a takedown from the clinch, 1-0. The third and deciding period, Lawal scored a takedown out of bounds with 43 seconds left. Hrovat scored two points with seven seconds left, getting an exposure on a scramble. Although Lawal scored a takedown with two seconds left to tie the match at 2-2, Hrovat earned the spot by scoring the highest point move of the period.

Lawal had defeated Hrovat in the finals of the U.S. Nationals in 2008. Hrovat defeated Lawal at the World Team Trials in 2006 on the way to his first World Championships appearance.

At 120 kg/264.5 lbs. in freestyle, Steve Mocco (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) by defeating 2007 World Team member Tommy Rowlands (Columbus, Ohio/New York AC) in three bouts.

Mocco won the first match in two straight periods, 1-0, 1-0. In the first period, Mocco scored a takedown from the clinch. In the second period, Rowlands stepped out of bounds, giving Mocco the only point of the period.

Rowlands won the second match in two periods. He scored a three-point takedown from the clinch in the first period for a 3-0 score, then got the only point in the second period on when Mocco went out of bounds on a scramble.

The deciding third match was all Mocco, who scored a pushout to win the first period, 1-0, then two takedowns in the second period to score the victory and a spot on the U.S. World Team.

In Greco-Roman, there was an upset at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. when Adam Wheeler (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC) defeated 2005 World bronze medalist Justin Ruiz (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) in three matches.

Ruiz had advanced directly to the Championship Series finals after winning U.S. Nationals and having placed in the top five of the World during the last three years. Ruiz has competed on four U.S. World Teams, while Wheeler made his first U.S. team.

Wheeler won the first period, 2-2, turning Ruiz for exposure in the final par terre segment. In the second period, Ruiz won 1-1 by scoring the last point by defending from par terre. The last period went to Wheeler by a 1-1 score, as he received the final point defending from par terre.

In the second match, Ruiz got his offense going, hitting a gutwrench in the first period, and scoring on a two-point penalty and a reversal in the second period to win the match, 3-0, 4-0.

In the third and final match went without a point scored on the feet. Ruiz won the first period, 1-1, by scoring the last point from the defensive position in par terre. Wheeler won the second period, 1-1, scoring the last point on defense. In the third and final period, Ruiz lost the flip and defended first, but Wheeler was able to score a point when Ruiz stepped out of bounds. In the last 30-second par terre position, Ruiz was unable to turn Wheeler, almost getting a lift but running out of time, giving the period to Wheeler.

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