NOTES FROM AKRON Two Univ of Oregon wrestlers keep competing University level sets records along with other tournament tidbits

By Gary Abbott | April 13, 2008, 4:26 p.m. (ET)
Univ. of Oregon wrestlers keep competing after program is stopped

There were two competitors at the University Nationals in freestyle wearing bright yellow tie-died t-shirts that were very hard to miss. The t-shirts read "Save Oregon Wrestling."

Both are wrestlers from the Univ. of Oregon, which dropped its Div. I varsity wrestling program at the end of the college season this year. Oregon wrestlers Kyle Bounds was entered at 74 kg/163 pounds and Charlie Alexander was wrestling at 120 kg/264.5 pounds.

Bounds won three matches on Friday, and will compete in Sunday's quarterfinals against Michael Chaires of the Cavalier WC. Alexander dropped his first match, but won two in the consolation rounds and remains alive in the quest for a bronze medal.

Although the wrestling team at Oregon competed in its "final" events at the Pac-10 Championships held on its campus, then the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, these two athletes are wrestling with hopes of landing with a college program for next year.

"They are supporting us to continue wrestling until the end of the year," said Bounds. "This gives us an opportunity to get seen. This gives us a chance to show our abilities for all of the coaches who are here. We are just advertising, you could say."

Alexander, who was one of two Oregon wrestlers to qualify for the NCAA Championships this year, talked about the ups-and-downs of the season in which there has been a fierce fight within the state and around the country to save the program.

"After the NCAA's it was weird," said Alexander. "Actually, it was even worse after the Pac-10s. They were held in Eugene this year. It was a weird feeling thinking it was the last match to be held at Mac Court."

Neither wrestler has made plans for next year yet. Both would welcome a change in decision by the administration in the upcoming weeks. However, Alexander, a redshirt freshman, and Bounds, a sophomore, are facing the unpleasant possibility of seeing their team split up and ending up in other places by the fall. Both have faith that the effort to save the program at Oregon will succeed, but perhaps not in time for them.

"Eventually, they will turn it around, but I am not sure it will happen this year," said Alexander.

Entry records set in University Nationals

Both the freestyle and Greco-Roman divisions at the University Nationals have set entry records this year. The University Greco-Roman Nationals had 155 entries this year, up from 114 last year, which is an increase of 41 wrestlers. In the University Freestyle Nationals, there are 552 entries this year, up from 490, which is an increase of 62 wrestlers. The University Men's total comes to 707 participants, up 103 from last year.

The FILA Cadet division is slightly down, with 360 freestyle entries and 182 Greco-Roman entries. This is a decrease of 50 athletes from the combined totals last year.

Local stars Joe Heskett, Harry Lester return home as coaches

Ohio is proud of its wrestling heritage, and two of the state's top wrestling heroes hailed from the Akron area. Joe Heskett, the assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State, and Harry Lester, the two-time World bronze medalist Greco-Roman star, have been visiting with friends and well-wishers as they participated in the University Nationals as coaches.

Heskett made his mark at Walsh Jesuit High School. Lester competed at nearby Cuyuhoga Falls Valley Christian Academy. Heskett went away to Iowa State for college, then spent some time at Cal Poly on its coaching staff. Lester made his mark as a member of the U.S. Olympic Education Program at Northern Michigan Univ. Both still have family in the area.

Lester was a double champion last year at the University Nationals, winning both the freestyle and Greco-Roman divisions. By turning 25 in 2008, Lester is too old to compete here, so he was here to help coach and support his USOEC teammates in Greco-Roman program.

Heskett is in his second year as an assistant coach at Ohio State, working with head coach Tom Ryan and his staff to build a strong program there. Ohio State placed second as a team at the NCAA Championships this year.

St. Edward continues its excellence on the mat and in the classroom

Wrestling is big in Ohio, and the most prominent program in the state historically has been St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio, in the Cleveland area. St. Eds has been producing champion high school wrestlers for decades, and has put hundreds of talented athletes into the college ranks. St. Edward is

St. Ed head coach Greg Urbas was at the FILA Cadet Nationals today. St Edward wrestlers have always been active with USA Wrestling, participating at all of the age-group levels available. Urbas is coaching four athletes in the FILA Cadet freestyle event today, but would have had more, except for many of his top athletes are older than the 17-year age limit.

"This tournament is great," said Urbas of the FILA Cadet Nationals. "It is a must for wrestlers."

He is proud of his team, not only for its performance on the mat but also with their attention to academics. He credits St. Eds assistant coach John Heffernan for providing the leadership within the program that encourages their wrestlers to excel in all aspects of their life. They take pride in their athletes going on to college and succeeding as students"

"Heffernan tells our wrestlers that they will not always be wrestling, and they need to do well in school," said Urbas.

In addition to supporting his athletes at the event, Urbas, who is very active with USA Wrestling Ohio, assisted the volunteers helping run the tournament at the head table.