MARQUETTE, Mich. – When Harry Lester traveled to Marquette from Akron, Ohio, and walked through the doors of the United States Olympic Education Center, no one could have imagined the success he would have in just three short years. His resume was impressive, but it only reflected his success in folkstyle and freestyle wrestling. He had yet to prove himself in the Greco-Roman style.
USOEC coach Ivan Ivanov saw Lester’s potential, but knew he had a difficult road ahead to reach the top. Through hard work and dedication, Lester transformed into the No. 1 Greco wrestler at 66 kilograms in the country. A title he has held for two consecutive years.
A modest Lester credits Ivanov for his success.
“Ivan has gotten me to the point where I am,” says Lester. “I came to the USOEC and started working with him in the winter semester of 2003. I don’t think anyone else could have helped me develop my style.”
Lester’s dominance in the 66-kg class has led him to Guangzhou, China, where he will compete in the 2006 World Championships Sept. 23-Oct. 3. He made his debut at last year’s competition in Budapest, Hungary, which proved to be bittersweet. He was happy to have made the USA World Team, but was disappointed in his performance, losing his first-round match against Edaurd Kratz of Germany.
Lester knows what went wrong and doesn’t plan on letting it happen again.
“Last year, I had a mindset, but I didn’t follow through,” says Lester. “This year, I have a mindset, too. But I know what I have to do and I plan to follow through [this time].”
His high hopes for last year’s tournament made it a difficult to accept the defeat, but it didn’t dash his optimism or confidence for this year.
“I feel more prepared [for this competition] because of the training I’ve been through this year,” Lester says. “It’s a big tournament, but I look at it the same way as others.”
Having the backing of the USOEC, his coaches and family will help Lester during the competition, but most important is the encouragement he receives from his wife Ashley.
“[Her support] is crucial,” says Lester. “She understands every part of me in regular life and wrestling. She knows when to talk to me and when to leave me alone.”
Only time will tell if Lester’s second trip to the World Championships will prove brighter than his first. People interested in following his progress can read his blog on the USOEC web site: www.nmu.edu/usoec.