By Tim HippsMarch 31, 2009
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, March 31, 2009) - The All-Army wrestling team will march into Las Vegas Convention Center in search of its ninth Greco-Roman crown in the past 10 years at the U.S. National Wrestling Championships April 9-11.
Following a dominating performance, in which they won 40 of 42 matches at the 2009 Armed Forces Wrestling Championships March 14-15 in Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, the Soldiers are expected to dominate again in Las Vegas.
"Realistically, without stretching anything, we have the possibility of having a guy in the [Greco-Roman] finals of every weight class with the exception of 74 kilos," said All-Army coach Shon Lewis, who leads the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program wrestlers at Fort Carson, Colo.
WCAP wrestlers Spc. Jermaine Hodge (55 kilograms), Spc. Aaron Sieracki (84 kilos) and Sgt. Kevin Ahearn (96 kilos) won gold medals in both the Greco-Roman and freestyle disciplines at the Armed Forces Championships, where Soldiers squared off in a two-day, round-robin format against the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy.
All three Soldiers should be in the hunt to reach the national Greco-Roman finals in Las Vegas, where the All-Army team has won four consecutive Greco team titles. Hodge and Sahin both finished third at the 2008 national championships. Sieracki, who finished fourth, is now ranked number one in his weight class.
Staff Sgt. Glenn Garrison, who recently defeated top-ranked arch-rival Joe Betterman during a match in Slovenia, is a strong contender at 60 kilos.
The All-Army team stacks the 66-kilogram weight class with top-seeded Spc. Faruk Sahin and second-seeded Staff Sgt. Oscar Wood, a 2004 Olympian.
Sgt. Brad Ahearn returns to defend his national crown at 84 kilos. Seven-time national champion Staff Sgt. Dremiel Byers, a 2008 Olympian, anchors the All-Army team at 120 kilos.
Spc. Timothy Taylor, Byers' training partner in Beijing, is ranked second among the heavyweights. Sgt. Iris Smith, a 2005 world champion, will compete in women's freestyle.
"We could possibly have six, if not more, in the finals at nationals," Lewis said.
Minnesota Storm Wrestling Club won the Greco-Roman national team title in 1999 and New York Athletic Club took the trophy in 2004.
"We're going to go in there with the aspirations of getting it done and coming away with another team title and some individuals as national champions," Lewis said.
The U.S. National Championships are a steppingstone to the 2009 U.S. World Team Trials, scheduled for May 30-31 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The World Championships are set for Sept. 21-27 in Herning, Denmark.
(Tim Hipps writes for Family and MWR Command Public Affairs)