All-Army Wrestlers Win Greco-Roman National Championship
April 18, 2007
LAS VEGAS (Army News Service, April 18, 2007) - Army World Class Athlete Program wrestler Sgt. Glenn Garrison led the All-Army Team to its fifth Greco-Roman national crown in the past seven years at the U.S. National Wrestling Championships April 6-7.
The All-Army team scored 71 points to runner-up New York Athletic Club's 39 to capture the Division I Greco team title at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Sgt. Garrison, who placed third at the U.S. National Championships in each of the previous three years, posted a convincing 6-0, 5-3 decision over Army teammate Spc. Faruk Sahin to win a gold medal in the 145.5-pound Greco-Roman finale.
"Garrison put it together," All-Army coach Staff Sgt. Shon Lewis said. "We always knew that he had the ability and the talent to do it, but for whatever reason he kept running into these little speed bumps. This weekend, he put it together and beat some quality guys. He probably beat the best guy in the weight class in the finals."
In earlier years, Sgt. Garrison, 33, struggled to get past former WCAP teammate 2nd Lt. Glenn Nieradka, a two-time national champ who retired from the mat at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Indianapolis. This time, Sgt. Garrison had to face Spc. Sahin, a two-time Turkish national champion.
"That's kind of the way his life has always been," Staff Sgt. Lewis said of Sgt. Garrison. "He's always had to fight somebody. He's never had the wimp; he always had the bully - so he's used to that. This is really going to help him go to the next level, I do believe.
"This is going to be a night that he's always going to remember. He has great support from his family. They've traveled all around the country and sometimes the world to watch him wrestle, so this is going to be a great night for the Garrison family."
Sgt. Garrison and Spc. Sahin were among four Soldiers who wrestled in the finals of the two-day tournament in which the top seven wrestlers in each weight class qualified for a berth in the U.S. World Team Trials, scheduled for June 9-10 in Las Vegas.
"It's nice to win and say you're a national champion, but we're coming back here in a couple of months to determine who's going to the Pan Am Games and the World Championships," Staff Sgt. Lewis said. "We won a team title, but that's not the only thing we want to do - we want to put people on the team."
By that, Staff Sgt. Lewis means Team USA, which he hopes to stockpile with Soldiers.
"I could sleep real well if we could put three or four guys on the team," Staff Sgt. Lewis said.
WCAP Staff Sgt. Keith Sieracki lost a 2-1, 1-1 decision in the 163-pound Greco-Roman final to two-time national champion and longtime rival T.C. Dantzler of the Gator Wrestling Club.
"I think he's beaten me eight or nine times and I know I've beaten him eight or nine times," said Staff Sgt. Sieracki, 35, a two-time winner at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials who has yet to wrestle in the Olympic Games. "It would be a coin toss to see who's won the most times. He's gotten me with the new rules (implemented in 2006), but as you can see he couldn't turn me with the reverse lift like he does everybody, so I'm slowly dialing in on him.
"If I stay healthy, by World Team Trials this year or Olympic Trials next year, I'll have my eye on the prize," Staff Sgt. Sieracki said.
After posting the most shocking upset of the tournament - a first-round 0-2, 1-1, 1-1 victory over WCAP teammate Staff Sgt. Dremiel Byers - unseeded Spc. Timothy Taylor advanced to the 264.5-pound Greco final and lost a 3-1, 3-0 decision to Russ Davie of New York Athletic Club.
"He did a great job against Byers, obviously, by beating a world champion and a several-time national champion," Staff Sgt. Lewis said of Spc. Taylor. "He was a little skittish and a little gun-shy in the finals, but he got his feet wet and now I think he really believes that he can win this weight class. That's only going to help both of them (Spc. Taylor and Staff Sgt. Byers) because they are training partners."
Staff Sgt. Byers, a 2002 world champion and one of only five Americans ever to win a Greco-Roman world title, was the ultimate team player in describing his loss to Spc. Taylor.
"He wrestled really smart and didn't try to do too much," Staff Sgt. Byers said. "He won every (coin) toss and he stayed real sound. I wasn't able to take it to him in the last 30 seconds when I was on top. He did a great job defending. My hat's off to him, he was the better man today. If you lose to somebody in your room, all you can say is 'we're tough.' I'm proud of him.
"Everybody's shocked. So am I. But I haven't looked at myself in the mirror yet. I know in here what I did wrong," Staff Sgt. Byers said while thumping his fist against his heart. "And hey, I lost to the better guy today."
Spc. Taylor, on the other hand, declined to discuss details of the match.
"We're a family, that's all I can say," Spc. Taylor said. "We do everything together so I'm not saying anything about it. It's like wrestling my brother, so that's the way it goes. He's my brother. I'm his brother - everybody's family. I'll be in his corner. He'll be in mine. I'll be in everybody's corner if I need to be. That's just how we do it."
Staff Sgt. Byers, the two-time defending national champion who defeated Davie the past two years here, worked Spc. Taylor's corner during the finale after bouncing back to finish third in the weight class.
Capt. Eric Albarracin posted victories over seventh-place finisher Spc. Jermaine Hodge and fourth-place finisher Sgt. Josh Habeck en route to a third-place finish in the 121-pound Greco-Roman division.
"Albarracin is squirrelly," Staff Sgt. Lewis said. "He always has a game plan and if you're not ready to go, he's going to get you. Even the guys who are ready to go, he gets some of them, too."
Spc. Aaron Sieracki, Keith's younger brother, took third place in the 185-pound Greco-Roman division. Capt. Phil Johnston finished third and Sgt. Brad Ahearn seventh at 211.5 pounds.
Sgt. Oscar Wood, a 2004 Olympian, finished fifth, and defending national champ Staff Sgt. Marcel Cooper was eighth in the 145.5-pound class. Second Lt. Jason Tolbert took sixth place at 132 pounds. Sgt. Jess Hargrave was seventh in the 163-pound division.
WCAP Commander Capt. Dominic Black was a two-time national champion and a silver medalist in the 211.5-pound freestyle division during his five appearances in the U.S. National Wrestling Championships.
"Just dominating," Capt. Black said of the Soldiers' performances. "It shows the depth of our team that we had two returning finalists who didn't make it back to the finals, but there were other Army athletes who stepped up and filled those voids."
(Mr. Tim Hipps writes for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.)