10 Questions for U S Nationals champion Stephen Abas

By John Fuller | May 28, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)
STEPHEN ABAS 2002-2003 Team USA Ranking: No. 1 at 55kg/121 lbs. Years on Team USA: 4 (2001-04) Residence: Fresno, Calif. Club: Sunkist Kids College: Fresno State Univ. High School: Union City, Calif. (James Logan HS) & Moreno Valley, Calif. (Canyon Springs HS) Born: January 12, 1978 in Santa Ana, Calif. Height: 5-5 1. With as many tournaments as you have competed in, you just finished with only your second U.S. Nationals tournament. Is there a reason you have not competed in this event since 2000? Abas: The only reason was that I was still in college and the tournament was just too close to the end of the college season. I just wanted to take some time off those two years so I could just concentrate on my college and then work on the Trials. 2. Was it special winning the U.S. Nationals for the first time? Abas: People made a big deal about it saying it's my first title and everything. It's just another tournament and I plan on being dominant there for a while. In my mind it's just the first of many. 3. You defeated Eric Akin in the national finals. Was he the opponent you were expecting to see in the finals or did you feel someone else may come out of the pack this year? Abas: I thought Teague would beat him in the semis, but that just shows that anything can happen. Eric has a lot of experience and I think that played a big role in his success. 4. Who is the U.S. wrestler at your weight class that you feel has the best chance of beating you at the Trials? Abas: There's nobody that can beat me. 5. Do you still feel some disappointment over not being able to compete at the World Championships last year? Abas: I'm pretty much over that. It's in the past and there is nothing I can do about it. I am looking forward to it this year. The Worlds were supposed to be in New York in 2001 and now it has come full circle. I will get to compete in the World Championships in my home country. I am pretty excited about that. 6. There was talk that you had said you were going to go to Iran no matter what USA Wrestling decided. Is that true? If so, what was your reasoning for that decision. Abas: I was just caught up in the emotion. I couldn't believe that we weren't going to go. I was so excited just to compete in Iran in front of their great fans. It was going to be a great experience for me as a person and a wrestler. I wanted to go regardless of the threats we had. It's kind of scary knowing that there were people over there that wanted to harm us. But I didn't want to miss that experience to wrestle in Iran. 7. You have spent a lot of time at the Olympic Training Center in the past year. How much do you feel training in Colorado Springs has helped you to progress? Abas: It has helped me a great deal. Just being able to focus on freestyle and work every day, twice per day, on positions. It's incredible how much I have improved since I have been coming out there. It's a great atmosphere, great coaches and everything I need to become an Olympic champion. 8. Who have you been training with specifically? Abas: Yero Washington. 9. This will be your first time sitting out the Challenge Tournament at the World Team Trials. How do you plan to prepare for this new experience and will it be any different than your preparation in years past? Abas: It will be different. Obviously I won't be wrestling those first couple days. I want to bring a workout partner with me to get some matches in. I cut weight the same, focus the same and train the same except for not having those two days of matches. 10. Now that you have gained more international experience, where do you think you stand internationally? Are you one of the best in the world? Abas: I believe I am. I haven't had the opportunity to prove that the last couple of years. I have wrestled a lot of the top guys and have done well against them. Right now, the Cuban is the only one who has really beaten me and I think I can beat him. I have watched a lot of tape on him and I know what I have to do to beat him in our next meeting.