Abas places second in USOC Male Athlete of the Month voting for April

By Melissa Brown | May 14, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. - The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) today named curler Debbie McCormick and swimmer Michael Phelps as the April 2003 USOC Athletes of the Month. The USOC Team of the Month honor was awarded to the Debbie McCormick Curling Team. Finishing second among the male nominees for Athlete of the Month was wrestler Stephen Abas (Fresno, Calif.), who won an individual gold medal at 55kg and helped lead the United States to the team title at the World Cup of Freestyle Wrestling in Boise, Idaho Apr. 5-6. It was the second straight year that Abas has won a gold medal at this major international competition. In his matches, Abas won four bouts, two by technical fall, one by pin and one by decision. His pin over Alexander Kontoev of Russia in 1:19 got the USA off to a great start in its final dual meet, which clinched the team victory. Other wins were a 10-0 technical fall over Ben Vombaur of the World Select Team, an 11-0 technical fall over Vasili Zehir of Germany, and a 6-0 decision over Gevork Markaryan of Ukraine. The only opponent to score a point on Abas was Kontoev prior to the pin by Abas. In winning the Male honor, Phelps (Baltimore, Md.), who won three U.S National titles, broke a world record, an American record and a U.S. Open record all while leading his team to the inaugural Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool title. At the 2003 ConocoPhillips Spring Nationals Apr. 1-5, Phelps became the first man to win U.S. National titles in three different strokes at the same championships. He took the 200m freestyle, the 200m backstroke and the 100m fly. On Apr. 6 at the Duel, Phelps dominated the competition against the Australian team, winning the 400IM in world record time, the 100m fly in American record time and the 200m fly, as well as swimming the fly leg on the U.S. Open record-breaking medley relay. Phelps scored 15 points for the American team and helped win another seven, as the Americans topped the Aussies 196-174. Placing third in the ballotting for men was Judo's Jimmy Pedro (Lawrence, Mass.), who finished third in the male athlete balloting. The 1996 Olympic bronze medalist and 1999 World judo champion continued his comeback in typical form this April, winning both the British Open and National Championships at 73kg. Pedro was a college wrestling star at Brown University. Among women, McCormick (Rio, Wis.) garnered the female athlete award after skipping Team USA to the gold medal in the 2003 World Curling Championships, marking the first time the U.S. women have ever won this event in its 25-year history. Track and field star Deena Drossin (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) finished second in balloting for female Athlete of the Month honors, after she set a new American record of 2:21:16 in finishing third overall at the Flora London Marathon Apr. 13. Third among the female nominees was Judo's Nicole Kubes (Fort Worth, Texas). At 16 years of age, Kubes has become one of the youngest national champions, winning the Apr. 18 USA Judo Nationals in Las Vegas, Nev. Although she did not place in the top three, women's wrestler Tela O'Donnell (Homer, Alaska) received a first-place vote, after capturing the Outstanding Wrestler award at the University Nationals in St. Joseph, Minn. The Debbie McCormick Curling Team was selected for April Team of the Month honors for its historic win at the 2003 Women's World Curling Championships Apr. 5-13. Finishing in second place among the Team of the Month nominees was the U.S. Swimming Team, which dominated at the inaugural Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool. Results (first place points in parentheses) MEN 1. Michael Phelps, swimming, 67 (60) 2. Stephen Abas, wrestling, 38 (9) 3. Jimmy Pedro, judo 28 (9) Also receiving first place votes: John Shuster WOMEN 1. Debbie McCormick, curling, 56 (48) 2. Deena Drossin, track and field, 45 (15) 3. Nicole Kubes, judo, 31 (6) Also receiving first place votes: Tela O'Donnell TEAM 1. U.S. Women's Curling Team 68 (60) 2. U.S. Swimming Team 56 (18)