Soldiers Pace Military Wrestlers in World Team Bids
By Douglas Ide
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 29, 2001 Army Sgt. Keith Sieracki is seeking redemption in New York.
It's a shot Sieracki has been after since the U.S. trials for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He won the trials in the 167.5-pound Greco-Roman weight class, but a controversial court ruling denied him a spot on the U.S. team. Now, after a convincing win at the World Team Trials June 22-24 in Cincinnati, Sieracki is heading to wrestling's World Championships in New York.
"I'm going to ... prove to everybody that I should have been in the Olympics in 2000 by going out and winning a medal," he said after his finals victory in Cincinnati against the New York Athletic Club's T.C. Dantzler.
Sieracki and Sgt. Dominic Black led a powerful soldier squad in Cincinnati. Six Army wrestlers went to the finals of the team trials and eight placed on the U.S. national team, a first according to coach Shon Lewis. Black wrestles in the freestyle 213.75-pound weight class.
Marine Sgt. Marcel Cooper also grabbed gold in Cincinnati, besting Army Sgt. Keith Wilson in the Greco-Roman 152-pound weight class finals.
Sieracki dominated Dantzler 9-0 in their first bout in the best-of-three finals competition. He scored a five-point lift and throw just over a minute into the match, and pushed his lead to 7-0 before the end of the period. A two-point penalty against Dantzler finished the scoring.
The second bout was closer. Sieracki edged Dantzler 4-0 on the strength of two one-point lifts in the first period. A penalty point against Dantzler and a one- point reversal for Sieracki closed out the match.
"I knew in the second match he was going to come out (strong)," he said. "I just had to brawl with him. I could see in the last minute when he was coming after me he wanted it as much as I did. I just had to stay focused and stay in position to win the match and get out of there with a level head."
The road to New York was a bit rougher for Black and Cooper.
Chad Lamer of Coralville, Iowa, built an early lead in his first match against Black with a one-point takedown followed by a three-point gut and hold. Black battled back, but lost 7-4.
"I was a little slow," Black said of the match. "I gave up a big move ... a four-point swing. I was a little flat. I've been sitting around for three days."
Sieracki, Cooper, Black and other U.S. Nationals champions didn't have to wrestle until the last day of competition. The rest of the field competed the first two days for a chance to upset the champs on the last day. The finals bouts were best of three.
Black returned to the mat determined to prevent Lamer from scoring two- and three-pointers. The second match was a defensive struggle for the freestylers, ending in a 3-1 win for Black. Halfway through the third match, Black hit a three-point takedown off a lifting double to win eventually, 5-0.
"You don't lose matches giving up one-pointers, you lose matches when you give up two- and three-pointers," Black said after his victory. "That's what I did in the first match, but I was able to stop that in the second and third."
Cooper also needed three matches against Wilson to win the 152-pound Greco-Roman title. All three matches went into overtime. In the first, a two-point penalty against Wilson gave Cooper a 2-1 victory. Wilson bounced back in the second match, which stood at 2-2 at the end of the second period. A one-point penalty against Cooper in overtime gave Wilson the match. In the rubber match, Cooper led 2-0 going into overtime. A one-point penalty against Wilson in overtime gave Cooper the match and the title.
Other Army wrestlers in the finals of the World Team Trials included Pfc. Glenn Garrison (138.75 pounds, Greco-Roman), Spc. Jason Loukides (213.75 pounds Greco- Roman) and Spc. Dremiel Byers (286 pounds Greco-Roman), who took Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner to overtime in both matches before losing. Byers had just come off a National Training Center rotation before the meet and hadn't even finished inprocessing to the Army's World Class Athlete Program.
"No one but our team knew what Byers has been going through," coach Lewis said. "He had approximately half a workout to prepare for this tournament ... and he came back and competed at the world-class level. We're going to have a lot of championships with him."
U.S. Nationals champion Air Force Senior Airman Jeff Cervone lost to former Olympian Brandon Paulson 3-2 and 5-0 in the Greco-Roman 119-pound weight class finals.
Final Results - Military Wrestlers
119 pounds Air Force Senior Airman Jeff Cervone, 2nd. Navy Petty Officer 1st class Steven Mays, 5th.
127.75 pounds Marine Sgt. Duaine Martin, 3rd.
138.75 pounds Army Pfc. Glenn Garrison, 2nd. Army Sgt. Glenn Nieradka, 3rd. Marine Sgt. James Shillow, 4th. Air Force Senior Airman Jacob Hey, 5th.
152 pounds Marine Sgt. Marcel Cooper, 1st. Army Sgt. Keith Wilson, 2nd. Army Pfc. Gordon "Oscar" Wood, 3rd. Air Force Senior Airman Steve Woods, 6th.
167.5 pounds Army Sgt. Keith Sieracki, 1st. Marine Lance Cpl. Jake Clark, 4th. Marine Cpl. Joey Clark, 6th.
187.25 pounds Air Force Senior Airman Aaron Sieracki, 5th. Marine Sgt. Kenny Owens, 7th.
213.75 Army Spc. Jason Loukides, 2nd. Marine Cpl. Al Sankey, 3rd. Marine Sgt. Tipton Peterson, 5th. Master Sgt. Greg Gibson, 6th.
286 pounds Army Spc. Dremiel Byers, 2nd. Air Force Senior Airman Corey Farkas, 3rd. Army Pfc. Paul Devlin, 4th.
127.75 pounds Army Sgt. Jason Kutz, 6th.
213.75 pounds Army Sgt. Dominic Black, 1st.
101.25 pounds Marine Lance Cpl. Miriam Jenkins, 5th.
(Douglas Ide is deputy public affairs officer at the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center, Alexandria, Va.)