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Armed Forces Sends 30 Wrestlers to Olympic Trials

By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 16, 1996 – The U.S. military is sending 30 wrestlers to U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling trials in Concord, Calif.

Athletes will compete for 10 spots on the U.S. team competing at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Rob Hermann of Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla., coaches the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team.

Ten of the 30 wrestlers earned automatic Olympic trial bids by winning weight classes at the armed forces tournament at Quantico Marine Corps Base, Va., in March. The other 20 earned positions through regional and national competition.

Army leads the military delegation heading to California with 15 wrestlers. Marine Corps is sending eight grapplers, while Navy has six and Air Force one.

Leading the armed forces team is Army Spc. Rodney Smith of Fort Benning, Ga., a bronze medalist at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain. Smith will again compete at 149.5 pounds and will compete against two other armed forces wrestlers, Army teammate Spc. Laurence Jackson (Fort Benning, Ga.) and Marine Corps Sgt. Keith Wilson (Quantico).

Six wrestlers will compete for the 105.5 pound title, with the Marines sending three in the lightest weight class. Two-time armed forces champion Cpl. Jeremy Walker will battle Marine Corps teammates Sgt. George Williams and Staff Sgt. Eric Wetzel for a shot at Atlanta. All three wrestle out of Quantico. Navy competitors are Petty Officer 3rd Class Bob Demeritt (USS Kitty Hawk) and Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike Kimmerly (USS Gunston Hall). Army is sending 2nd Lt. Ben Runkle of Fort Benning.

Army Spc. Keith Idelburg of Fort Benning is one of three military wrestlers competing at 114.5 pounds. Idelburg, winner of the 1996 armed forces Greco-Roman title, will compete against Army teammate Spc. Andrew Norden (Fort Benning) and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Mays of Pensacola.

At 125.5 pounds, the services are sending four wrestlers, led by Army Spc. Jason Tolbert (Fort Benning). Tolbert beat Marine Corps Cpl. Duaine Martin (Quantico) for the armed forces title in March. Martin, Marine Corps Cpl. John Gonzales (Quantico) and Army Capt. Trevor Humphrey (Fort Benning) will compete with Tolbert for the weight class title.

The 163-pound class also has multiple entries, with Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathaniel Jackson of Bethesda Naval Medical Center, Md., leading four Olympic hopefuls. Also vying are Army Specialists Keith Sieracki and Miguel Spencer (Fort Benning) and Air Force Senior Airman Jeremy Edwards (Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.).

It's also crowded in the superheavyweight class, where three wrestlers hope to earn the Olympic spot. Army Capt. Jeffrey Green (Fort Benning) won the armed forces title, but will face challenges from Army teammate Staff Sgt. Ed Mitchell (Fort Benning) and Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Matt Lamb (Pensacola).

A pair of junior officers will compete at 220 pounds. Army 1st Lt. Jerry Jackson (Fort Benning) and Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Dan Hicks (Quantico) qualified in regional competition. Hicks beat Jackson for the armed forces freestyle title in March, but the two did not compete in the Greco-Roman meet.

Another Army-Marine Corps rematch may occur at 180.5 pounds. Army Spc. Kenny Owens (Fort Benning)and Marine Corps Sgt. Chris Vike (Quantico) both earned slots. Owens beat Vike at the armed forces tournament, but Vike earned a spot through regional competition.

Army Sgt. Derrick Waldroup (Fort Benning) and Navy's Lt. j.g. Tom Storey (USS South Carolina) may also renew acquaintances at 198 pounds. Both qualified for Greco-Roman through the armed forces tournament, with Waldroup winning the 198 title and Storey taking gold at 220. The two met in the 198 freestyle competition, with Storey earning the top spot.

Army's Sgt. Shon Lewis of Fort Benning is the only military wrestler competing at 136.5 pounds. Lewis qualified by winning the class at the armed forces tournament.

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