Lester swept the Greco and freestyle divisions
MARQUETTE—The United States Olympic Education Center men’s Greco-Roman wrestlers won the team trophy last weekend as they outshined all other competitors at the University National Championships April 20-22 in Akron, Ohio. Individually, team members claimed eight titles.
Northern Michigan University senior Harry Lester, an Akron native, used the hometown advantage to its fullest potential, taking first in both the 70-kg class of the Greco-Roman division and the 74-kg class of the freestyle division.
Lester surprised many of the spectators and athletes with his performance. He moved up from his usual 66-kg class and it had been five years since he had competed in freestyle.
“Harry just goofed around for a half hour at the end of two practices last week [to prepare for the tournament],” said assistant coach Jim Gruenwald. “If he had wrestled at 66 kg, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Since he wrestled at 74 kg, I was surprised [he won the freestyle title]. He was going up against NCAA champions and All-Americans. [If the tables were turned,] there is not a single person in freestyle that could do what he did in Greco.”
On his way to being named the Greco-Roman outstanding wrestler, he pinned NMU junior Tim Bleau (Ishpeming) in 38 seconds in the championship match, for a one-two USOEC finish in the weight class. In the freestyle finals, he beat three-time NCAA All-American Travis Paulson 3-0, 0-2, 3-0.
He went into the tournament with a light-hearted approach but, by the end, the competitor within him wanted to win.
“This competition was just for fun—nothing serious,” said Lester. “I would look over during the match and everybody would be sitting around the mat watching. It was the first time since high school my mom watched me compete. I knew the guys were a little bigger and a little stronger, but no matter who I’m wrestling, where I am and what the circumstances are, I’m going to find a way to win.”
USOEC facility users Nate Engel (St. Helena, Calif.) and Terry Allison (Pinson, Ala.) went head-to-head in the 55-kg championships match. Engel pinned Allison in the second period at 1:10.
Wrestling at 60 kg for the USOEC were sophomore Spencer Mango (St. Louis, Mo.) and senior Jake Swenson (Moroni, Utah). Mango finished first, defeating Donavan Depatto (U.S. Marines) 4-3, 4-0. Mango also competed in the freestyle division, a style he hadn’t wrestled in for three years. He placed sixth. Swenson finished the competition with a 3-1 record, earning bronze.
Junior Kerry Regner (Dalington, Pa.) was the only USOEC wrestler to compete in the 63-kg weight class. Regner placed first by defeating Geoffrey Martin (MinnKota) 7-0, 6-0 in the finals.
At 66 kg, senior Marco Lara (Long Beach, Calif.) took top honors by defeating USOEC facility user Ben Sanchez (Chicago, Ill.) 7-0, 4-0.
The USOEC entered four wrestlers in the 74 kg weight class. Junior Andrew Bisek (Chaska, Minn.) placed first by defeating fellow USOEC wrestler and NMU freshman Talan Knox 4-0, 1-1 in the final. It was Knox’s only loss of the tournament, giving him a second-place finish. Sophomore Marco Toledo (Miami, Fla.) placed eighth while freshman Chad Hemerson (Monterey, Calif.) finished with a 1-2 tournament record.
Senior Jacob Fisher (Platte City, Mo.) and junior Cheney Haight (Drem, Utah) dominated the 79-kg weight class by finishing first and second, respectively. Fisher defeated Haight in the final by a 4-0, 3-1 decision.
In the 84-kg weight class, junior Chas Betts (St. Michael, Minn.) won gold when opponent Jeremy Pederson (U.S. Marines) was unable to compete due to an injury. Freshman Mike Rossetti (Cranberry Township, Pa.) placed fifth and USOEC facility user John Kent finished fourth.
Rounding out the competition for the USOEC at 96 kg was freshman Peter Gounaridis (Leominster, Mass.). Gounaridis won all of his matches on his way to the final, but he settled for silver when he was defeated by former USOEC athlete Robby Smith (NYAC) 3-0, 4-0.
The Greco-Roman wrestlers’ next competition will be the Senior World Team Trials June 9-10 in Las Vegas.