MARQUETTE, Mich.–United States Olympic Education Center Greco-Roman wrestler Harry Lester of Akron, Ohio, placed third Sept. 25 at the World Championships in Guangzhou, China. Lester defeated Seref Eroglu of Turkey in the bronze-medal match, 4-3, 4-3.
“[Lester] wrestled great,” said U.S. World Team coach Shawn Sheldon. “He is intense. He’s powerful. He will be around a long time.”
This was Lester’s second trip to the World Championships. He suffered a disappointing defeat in the first round of competition last year, so he was determined to do better this time.
“I knew if I got a second chance, I wouldn’t waste it,” said Lester. “I had to show everybody what I had—what kind of heart I have and how I can wrestle…[bronze] is not the color I wanted. Even though I lost, I gave everything I had. I am satisfied with the way I wrestled. I beat good guys this year. I have only been here twice and I have talked to people who have been here a lot and have never medaled.”
Lester started the competition beating Kim Min Chul of Korea, 3-3, 5-4, 8-0, but lost his second match to Kamatzbek Begaliev of Kyrgysztan, 7-0, 0-5, 3-1. He came back, winning two straight repechage matches for a chance to compete in the bronze-medal round. Lester overtook Gurbimaer Singh of India, 6-0, 3-0, in the first and Nikolay Gergov of Bulgaria in the second, 3-0, 1-2, 1-1.
The USOEC’s Greco-Roman team was designed as a development program. In only seven years, it’s starting to stand on its own, producing medalists at the national and international levels. Lester’s bronze is the third world-level medal won by USOEC athletes since June, but is considered special due to the prestige of the competition.
“[Lester’s] win lends credibility to our program in the wrestling community,” said USOEC assistant wrestling coach and two-time Olympian Jim Gruenwald. “We want [USOEC] wrestlers to be legitimate contenders at the world level. Harry has broken that barrier.”
USOEC teammate Jake Fisher of Platte City, Mo., traveled to China as Lester’s training partner. The USOEC’s Chas Betts of St. Michael, Minn., also made the trip to train with another member of the U.S. World Team. They were joined by USOEC head wrestling coach and 1996 Olympian Ivan Ivanov, who coached Lester during the competition.
People interested in learning more about Lester’s experience in China can read his blog at www.nmu.edu/usoec.
Media Relations Coordinator