2003 Greco Roman World Team Trials preview at 74 kg 163 lbs

By Gary Abbott | June 08, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)
Keith Sieracki of the U.S. Army won his fourth career U.S. Nationals title this year, showing the consistency that has made him one of the nation's best Greco-Roman wrestlers in recent years. A consistent winner against American opponents, Sieracki lacks a World medal to show for all of his tremendous wrestling. In fact, Sieracki has only wrestled at the World level once, competing on the 2001 U.S. World Team. He just missed out on the U.S. Olympic Team in both 1996 and 2000, so is motivated for another run at the Games in 2004. Sieracki is a tremendous pummeller, who does not give up many points when he is wrestling well. He also has been known to toss an opponent once he has established his dominance. He met a surprise finalist at the U.S. Nationals in Las Vegas, defeating young Ken Cook of the Cyclone WC in the finals, 6-1. Cook wrestles at Iowa State, but has been a tremendous Greco-Roman talent since high school in California. His performance in Las Vegas was the best of his career, and gives him great confidence that he will be a force in this style for many years to come. A third place finish at the U.S. Nationals was disappointing to T.C. Dantzler of the New York AC, who was the No. 1 ranked man last year at this division. After many years of coming close, Dantzler avenged a series of losses to Sieracki in the past with a victory at the 2002 World Team Trials. Dantzler is one of the reasons that sports fans should buy wrestling tickets in Indianapolis. He can throw with the best of them, as evidenced by his explosion of points during last year's World Championships as well at this season's Titan Games. Taking fourth at the U.S. Nationals was Darryl Christian of the Dave Schultz WC, who was No. 3 on the national team last year. Christian, a USOTC resident athlete who did his college wrestling at Oregon, has emerged as a talented Greco-Roman athlete who competes with great passion. 2000 Olympian Heath Sims of the Dave Schultz WC place fifth at the U.S. Nationals, and continues to be competitive. Sims has the ability to be No. 1 at this weight class, based upon a decade of experience at the highest level. The sixth spot in Las Vegas went to young Brandon McNab of the New York AC, a USOTC resident who has been specializing in Greco-Roman since high school, just like Sims did. McNab did a stretch living and training in Europe, and has tasted what it takes to make it in international wrestling. The final qualifying spot from the U.S. Nationals went to veteran Keith Barkers of the U.S. Marines, who has been placing on the national level for a number of years now. Barkers will be a difficult draw for whoever he pairs with in the Challenge Tournament. A few other athletes who have done some time in the U.S. Marines have also qualified for the Challenge Tournament Former Marine Keith Wilson, now competing for the Gator WC, made the field by winning a Regional title. (Wilson, a Team USA member a number of times, may possibly drop to 145.5 pounds). Joey Clark, one of the Clark brothers athletes who made their name in Greco-Roman as a Marine, also qualified through the Regional Championships. Also making the field is current Marine athlete Jess Hargrave, who scored a medal at a major international tournament to earn his ticket to Indianapolis. Although he qualified by winning a Regional event at 85 kg, veteran Jeff Funicello of the Sunkist Kids has competed at this division for most of his career, and will be expected to drop down for the World Team Trials. As in every weight, the NCAA finalists from this year are also eligible to enter in Greco-Roman. There is no way to know if Ryan Bertin of Michigan, Alex Tirapelle of Illinois, Matt Lackey of Illinois and Troy Letters of Lehigh have a desire to try Greco-Roman, but it would be interesting if they gave it a try this year. This division has some interesting subplots that should make the Challenge Tournament full of drama. The response by T.C. Dantzler to losing his spot at the top of the ladder should be very interesting. Dantzler has never won a U.S. Nationals title, so he is quite comfortable wrestling in the Challenge Tournament. He would love another shot at young star Kenneth Cook, who will need to show if he is truly a threat for this Olympic cycle. Proven athletes like Darryl Christian and Heath Sims should make the battle even more exciting. Whoever comes out of the scramble will have to face Keith Sieracki, who has the confidence, experience, skill and desire to remain right where he wants to be - at No. 1. A Sieracki vs. Dantzler showdown could produce some great sparks, but Sieracki will be ready for whoever emerges as the finals series challenger. 2003 U.S. Greco-Roman Nationals results at 74 kg/163 lbs. 1st - Keith Sieracki (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) dec. Kenneth Cook (Ames, Iowa/Cyclone WC), 6-1 3rd - T.C. Dantzler (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) dec. Darryl Christian (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC), 3-0 5th - Heath Sims (Newport Beach, Calif./Dave Schultz WC) dec. Brandon McNab (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC), 6-0 7th - Keith Barkers (Quantico, Va./U.S. Marine Corps) dec. Sasa Petkovic (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC), 3-1 2003 Greco-Roman World Team Trials qualifiers at 74 kg/163 lbs. National champion - Keith Sieracki (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) National placerwinners - 2. Kenneth Cook (Ames, Iowa/Cyclone WC); 3. T.C. Dantzler (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC); 4. Darryl Christian (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC); 5. Heath Sims (Newport Beach, Calif./Dave Schultz WC); 6. Brandon McNab (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC); 7. Keith Barkers (Quantico, Va./U.S. Marine Corps) NCAA Div. I finalists - Ryan Bertin (Ann Arbor, Mich./Cliff Keen WC); Alex Tirapelle (Champaign, Ill./Illinois WC); Matt Lackey (Champaign, Ill./New York AC); Troy Letters (Bethlehem, Pa./Lehigh WC); Regional champions - Keith Wilson (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC); Joey Clark (S. St. Paul, Minn./Minnesota Storm); Medalist at Group A Tournament - Jess Hargrave (Quantico, Va./U.S. Marines)