WRESTLING: T.C. Dantzler knocks off Cuba's Herrero, now one win away from qualifying weight class for Olympics
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.-The final seconds of the match ticked down and T.C. Dantzler raised both arms in the air as a boisterous group of fans cheered wildly. Dantzler took a huge step toward qualifying his weight class for the 2008 Olympic Games, knocking off Cuba's Odelis Herrero 3-0, 3-1 early Friday afternoon at 74 kg/163 lbs. to move into the finals of the Pan American Championships. Dantzler, who lost to Herrero in the Pan American Championships and Pan American Games in 2007, now advances to face Peru's Sixto Ochoa in the finals on Friday night at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Ochoa placed second at the 2007 Pan American Games. A win over Ochoa would qualify the U.S. for the Olympics at 74 kilos."T.C. wrestled a real solid match and didn't make any mistakes,"U.S. National Coach Steve Fraser said."He didn't overreact and overcompensate for things. He stuck to his game plan and had great defense. He wrestled a very smart match."Dantzler beat Ochoa in their only previous meeting in 2003. The U.S. did not qualify for the Olympics at 74 kilos in 2004, the only time in American history the U.S. has failed to qualify a division for the Olympics. Qualifications for the Olympics started in 1992. Russia is the only country that has qualified every weight class since then."T.C. just has to follow the same game plan in the finals,"Fraser said."If he does that, he will be tough to beat."Past World bronze medalist Justin Ruiz (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) won his first two matches in the round-robin format at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. He needs two more wins to win his division and qualify his weight class for the Olympics. Ruiz will face Brazil's Luiz Fernandes, whom he beat in the finals of the 2007 Pan American Games, and Cuba's Yosvani Goichochea. American Joe Betterman came up short of qualifying for the Olympics at 60 kg/132 lbs. Betterman (Chicago, Ill./USOEC/New York AC) fell to past Olympic and World silver medalist Roberto Monzon of Cuba 6-0, 4-0 in the quarterfinals. The U.S. still has two more chances to qualify for the Olympics at 60 kilos. Greco-Roman qualifiers remain in May in Rome and in Serbia. The three-day Pan American Championships continue Saturday with competition in women's freestyle and Sunday with the freestyle competition. The Americans placed two wrestlers in the finals in the weights it has already qualified for the Olympics. Chas Betts (St. Michael, Minn./USOEC/Minnesota Storm) advanced to the finals at 84 kg/185 lbs. Russ Davie (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) also reached the finals at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. Betts will face Cuba's Yunior Estrada in the finals and Davie will meet two-time World champion Mijial Lopez of Cuba in the finals. Jacob Curby (LaGrange, Ill./USOEC/Gator WC) fell to Endrix Arteaga of Venezuela 5-4, 1-3, 2-1 in the quarterfinals at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. Josh Habeck (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) lost his first two matches at 55 kg/121 lbs. He will wrestle two more matches in the round-robin format in his weight class in the second session.