Army Captures Sixth Straight Wrestling Title
By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 26, 1997 Army earned its sixth straight wrestling title at the 1997 armed forces wrestling championships held March 22-22 at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla.
Army won five of six head-to-head team matches and claimed the most medals -- including six individual titles. But, its six-year dominance in the sport may be slipping as the other military services made major improvements.
Army captured 14 of 48 available awards (six gold medals, five silver and three bronze) this year and edged Marine Corps by one award (6-3-4). Navy grapplers won 11 medals (3-4-4) in finishing third, while Air Force finished fourth, taking 10 medals (1-4-5).
Last year, Army won nearly a third of the 60 medals available and captured 11 of 20 individual titles.
Some service wrestling coaches said they believe the parity has to do with changes sanctioned by the amateur wrestling national governing body -- USA Wrestling. Complying with USA Wrestling rules eliminated two weight classes and set new weight limits for the remaining eight. The shifts increased the number of eligible wrestlers in each weight class.
"Those changes helped us, the Navy and the Air Force," said Dan Mello, who coaches the Marine Corps team from Quantico, Va. "Army has dominated this competition over the past years. These changes narrow and strengthen the field, and allow us to maneuver our best wrestlers against theirs. The numbers [at Pensacola] showed we matched up pretty well."
The Greco-Roman discipline limits athletes to wrestling with their arms, hands and upper body. The event penalizes wrestlers for using their legs, knees and feet for take-downs and holds.Freestyle wrestlers have no such restrictions.
Last year, Army struggled through the freestyle competition, only to dominate the Greco-Roman events to earn its fifth straight armed services title. This year was a replay of 1996. Army Greco-Roman wrestlers claimed four individual titles, two second place finishes and a third while winning all three head-to-head team events.
Heading Army's Greco-Roman effort were returning armed forces champions Sgt. Shon Lewis and Spc. Kenny Owens, who captured titles in new weight classes.
Lewis, winner of the 135.5 title last year, captured three decisions in battling to the 151.8 title. These victories included a pair of overtime wins -- one a referee's decision after battling Marine Corps Cpl. Marcel Cooper of Quantico to a scoreless tie.
Under USA Wrestling rules, grapplers winning by decision must score at least two points to earn the win. Should neither score two points in regulation, they wrestle an additional two-minute overtime to decide the match. If no one scores enough points in the overtime, the officials judging the match will select a winner -- often based on speed, skill, stamina and strength during the overtime period.
Owens, winner of the 180.5-pound title in 1996, earned three decisions in winning the 187-pound title. His closest bout came in a 4-3 decision over Marine Corps Sgt. William Carr (Quantico).
Army's other two Greco-Roman gold medals came from newcomers Pvt. Herbert House and Spc. Dremiel Byers. House, also of Benning, took two superiority decisions (victories by 10 or more points) in winning three matches and the 136.8-pound title. His closest was a 2-0 decision over Air Force Airman 1st Class Paul Gagich, the 1997 freestyle champion.
Byers, assigned at Fort Bragg, N.C., earned wrestling's heaviest weight class title by winning two decisions and a pinfall in the 275-pound division. One was a 4-1 decision over former Olympic silver medalist Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Greg Gibson of Quantico.
Army's two other titles came in freestyle competition. Spc. Miguel Spencer, the 1996 armed forces champion at 163 pounds, earned most valuable freestyle wrestling honors in winning the 187-pound title. Teammate Spc. Glenn Nieradka (Benning) grabbed the title at 151.8, taking three decisions.
The Pensacola tournament saw only two multiple gold medal winners -- both Marines. Cpl. Duaine Martin of Quantico -- a freestyle gold medalist at 125.5 pounds last year -- took both freestyle and Greco-Roman titles at 127.6. Three of Martin's six victories were by superior decision, while the toughest was a referee's decision over Army's Spc. Jason Tolbert (Benning).
Meanwhile, Quantico's 2nd Lt. Dan Hicks added two more gold medals to his 1996 freestyle title when he claimed both wrestling crowns at 213.4 pounds. "The thing that's scary about Hicks is that he's just now learning to wrestle at the national level," said Mello. "He walked in last year with a lot of natural talent and did quite well at the Olympic trials. Now we looking to build on that talent and get Dan ready for Sydney [site of the 2000 Summer Olympics]."
Marines claimed two other gold medals, both in freestyle competition. Quantico's Sgt. Keith Wilson, a Greco-Roman bronze medalist last year at 163 pounds, captured the 176.2-pound freestyle title. He went on to take silver in Greco-Roman.
The other winner was Gibson, the 220-pound Greco-Roman silver medalist at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Gibson captured the 275-pound freestyle title.
Navy took second place behind Army in the Greco-Roman competition, and Navy coach Rob Hermann said his team's performance in Greco-Roman shows Navy will have some good wrestlers in the future.
One is Petty Officer 1st Class Nathaniel Jackson, named most valuable Greco-Roman wrestler in winning the 176.2 Greco-Roman championship. Jackson, assigned to the National Navy Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., won the 163-pound title last year and earned two decisions and a pinfall in this year's tournament to claim another armed forces title.
"Nate's category was one of the most competitive in the armed services, and he controlled all of his matches from the first whistle," said Hermann, the U.S. Greco-Roman coach at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. "He came to camp ready to wrestle, and he probably wrestled the best meet of his career."
Navy wrestlers also took the two lightest weight categories, winning both freestyle and Greco-Roman titles at 118.8 pounds. In the freestyle competition, Seaman Erik Strunk of USS Briscoe captured the gold medal. One of his three wins was a 9-1 victory over Army Spc. Keith Idelburg (Benning), last year's 114.5-pound Greco-Roman champion.
The third Navy title went to Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Waugh of Pensacola. Waugh used three victories, including one referee's decision over Idelburg, to claim his first armed forces title.
While Air Force claimed only one championship, its freestyle team put the only blemish on Army's team title. Led by Gagich, 2nd Lt. Shayne Kiefer (Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Airman 1st Class Charley Carbaugh (Kadena Air Base, Japan), Air Force won the first three bouts of its freestyle head-to-head with Army. It then held off a late Army surge to forge a 15-15 tie -- the only match Army failed to win.
In winning his freestyle title, Gagich beat House, 4-0, then lost a 5-3 decision to Marine Corps Maj. Dan Pantaleo (Quantico). He then earned the medal with a 10-0 superior decision over Navy Seaman Michael Green (USS Nimitz). Gagich serves at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
All wrestling teams are now preparing for the 1997 U.S. national wrestling competition, slated for April 22-27 in Orlando, Fla.
54 kilograms (118.8 pounds) -- 1. Seaman Eric Strunk (N, USS Briscoe), 2. 2nd Lt. Shayne Kiefer (AF, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo.), 3. Spc. Keith Idelburg (A, Fort Benning, Ga.), 4. Staff Sgt. Eric Wetzel (MC, Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Va.).
58 kilograms (127.6) -- 1. Cpl. Duaine Martin (MC, Quantico), 2. Airman 1st Class Charley Carbaugh (AF, Kadena Air Base, Japan), 3. 2nd Lt. Kevin Hare (A, Fort Sill, Okla.), 4. Seaman Lewis Combs (N, Oceana Naval Air Station, Va.).
63 kilograms (138.6) -- 1. Airman 1st Class Paul Gagich (AF, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.), 2. Pvt. Herb House (A, Benning), 3. Maj. Dan Pantaleo (MC, Quantico), 4. Seaman Michael Green (N, USS Nimitz).
69 kilograms (151.8) -- 1. Spc. Glenn Nieradka (A, Benning), 2. Capt. Jay Antonelli (MC, Quantico), 3. 1st Lt. Wes Winterstein (AF, Peterson), 4. Seaman Peter Blackmore (N, Cecil Field Naval Air Station, Fla.).
76 kilograms (176.2) -- 1. Sgt. Keith Wilson (MC, Quantico), 2. Ensign Jake Zweig (N, USS Merrimack), 3. Senior Airman Corey Davis (AF, Offut Air Force Base, Neb.), 4. Spc. Keith Sieracki (A, Benning).
85 kilograms (187) -- 1. Spc. Miguel Spencer (A, Benning), 2. Senior Airman Jeff McCoy (AF, Peterson), 3. Lt.j.g. Tom Storey (N, USS Nashville), 4. Cpl. Alex Strobal (MC, Quantico).
97 kilograms (213.4) -- 1. 2nd Lt. Dan Hicks (MC, Quantico), 2. Ensign Josh Feldman (N, Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla.), 3. Staff Sgt. Russell Putney (AF, Peterson), 4. Pvt. Jeffrey Zachary (Fort Eustis, Va.).
125 kilograms (275) -- 1. Gunnery Sgt. Greg Gibson (MC, Quantico), 2. Spc. Dremiel Byers (A, Fort Bragg, N.C.), 3. Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Lamb (N, Pensacola), 4. Airman 1st Class Cory Farkas (AF, Peterson).
Head-to-Head Freestyle Team Competition
Army tied Air Force 15-15
Marine Corps def. Navy 22-9
Army def. Navy 18-15
Marine Corps def. Air Force 21-12
Army def. Marine Corps 17-13
Navy def. Air Force 21-11
54 kilograms (118.8 pounds) -- 1. Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin Waugh (N, Pensacola), 2. Idelburg, 3. Wetzel, 4. Kiefer.
58 kilograms (127.6) -- 1. Martin, 2. Spc. Jason Tolbert (A, Benning), 3. Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Mays (N, Pensacola), 4. Carbaugh.
63 kilograms (138.6) -- 1. House, 2. Gagich, 3. Cpl. Curt Onstad (MC, Quantico), 4. Seaman Raphael Santana (N, USS Vincennes).
69 kilograms (151.8) -- 1. Sgt. Shon Lewis (A, Benning), 2. Cpl. Marcel Cooper (MC, Quantico), 3. Winterstein, 4. Seaman Joshua Wiseman (N, USS Shasta).
76 kilograms (176.2) -- 1. Petty Office 1st Class Nathaniel Jackson (N, Bethesda Naval Medical Center, Md.), 2. Wilson, 3. Nieradka, 4. Senior Airman Steve Woods (AF, RAF Mildenhall, England).
85 kilograms (187) -- 1. Sgt. Ken Owens (A, Benning), 2. Storey, 3. Airman 1st Class Aaron Sieracki (AF, Peterson), 4. Sgt. William Carr (MC, Quantico).
97 kilograms (213.4) -- 1. Hicks, 2. Staff Sgt. Derrick Waldroup (A, Benning), 3. Feldman, 4. Putney.
125 kilograms (275) -- 1. Byers, 2. Lamb, 3. Gibson, 4. Farkas.
Head-to-Head Greco-Roman Team Competition
Army def. Air Force 27-1
Navy def. Marine Corps 14-13
Navy def. Air Force 19-12
Army def. Marine Corps 17-12
Army def. Navy 22-9
Marine Corps def. Air Force 21-8
Gold Silver Bronze Total
Army 6 5 3 14
Marine Corps 6 3 4 13
Navy 3 4 4 11
Air Force 1 4 5 10
W L T Points
Army 5 0 1 11
Marine Corps 3 3 0 6
Navy 3 3 0 6
Air Force 2 3 1 5