Les Sigman (right) wins the World Team Trials. Larry Slater photo.
Les Sigman ready to make run at a medal at his first World Championships
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Les Sigman is in the best shape of his life.
And he's planning to use that to his advantage when he competes in his first World Championships on Sept. 12 in Moscow, Russia.
Sigman will battle the best freestyle heavyweights on the planet when he steps on the mat at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. He competes on the final day of the seven-day event.
"I'm feeling really good and I'm feeling energized" Sigman said. "We just had back-to-back World Team Camps and I'm in really good shape right now. I need to push the pace and make my shape a factor. I need to keep moving, hit my attacks and get my opponents tired."
Sigman, who just turned 29, has turned in a superb season. He knocked off returning World bronze medalist Tervel Dlagnev in the finals of the U.S. Open and U.S. World Team Trials this year.
Sigman wrestles for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, where he trains in State College, Pa., under Penn State coaches Cael Sanderson and Casey Cunningham.
"When Les is firing on all cylinders, he's capable of beating anybody" said Sanderson, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist. "I know he's planning on going in there and winning it. The bottom line is he's real close to a dream come true. Now he needs to go out there and fight for that honor."
Sigman just completed the final World Team Camp in the United States. The U.S. World Freestyle Team leaves on Tuesday and will train in Germany briefly before heading to Russia for the Worlds.
Sigman has worked closely with U.S. World Team Coach John Smith, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time World champion.
"Coach Smith has helped me make a lot of good adjustments on my finishes from my feet" Sigman said. "I've really connected with him. He's been behind me and he's been real supportive. He is real positive in his approach."
Sigman will have a little rooting section of his own in Moscow. His mother Donna, his grandmother Shirley and his brother Luke plan to make the trip. His college coaches from Nebraska-Omaha, Mike Denney and Ron Higdon, also are traveling to Russia for the tournament.
Dlagnev will be in Russia as a training partner for Sigman.
"It's great to have that caliber of wrestler as a training partner" said Sigman, who won four NCAA Division II titles for Nebraska-Omaha. "We've always pushed each other to get to the level we're at. It's been great to be able to wrestle Tervel in practice."
Sigman also owns a win this season over the other returning World bronze medalist, Greece's Ioannis Arzoumandis. He also has defeated 2008 Olympian Steve Mocco.
Sigman beat Arzoumandis en route to winning the Dave Schultz Memorial title in February and he beat Mocco to win the Hargobind International earlier this season.
"It definitely helps that I've wrestled a lot of the top foreign wrestlers" Sigman said. "It's good to get that experience and good to know I am right there with the best guys. I know I have all the tools to win a World title. I just have to go out there and put it all together. It's exciting to have that opportunity."