LAS VEGAS (Army News Service, April 1, 2007) - First Lt. Leigh Jaynes won the women's 130-pound freestyle title to lead three female Soldiers competing in the 2007 U.S. National Wrestling Championships April 6 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

A four-year National Guard veteran, Jaynes won the national crown with a 5-1, 7-2 decision over Erin Tomeo of Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club.

Two other All-Army wrestlers reached the women's finals and finished second in their respective weight classes. Two-time world silver medalist Sgt. Tina George of the Army World Class Athlete Program lost a 6-0, 4-1 decision to Marcie Van Dusen of Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club in the 121-pound division.

WCAP Sgt. Iris Smith, a 2005 world champion, got pinned 44 seconds into the second period by Kristie Marano of New York Athletic Club in the 158.5-pound division.

All three of the Army's female freestyle wrestlers qualified for the U.S. World Team Trials, scheduled for June 9-10 at Las Vegas.

In her championship match, First Lt. Jaynes almost pinned Ms. Tomeo en route to winning the first period, 5-1.

"I knew from the first two matches I wrestled today that the officials were going to be hard on calling pins," First Lt. Jaynes said. "I had to really work to get her shoulder really, really flat if I was going to pin her, and it wasn't to their standards."

First Lt. Jaynes managed a three-point throw in the second period, which she won 7-2 to secure the victory.

"I knew she was going to come out swinging," First Lt. Jaynes said. "I didn't expect anything less from Erin; she's a tremendous wrestler. I wanted to slow her down a little bit and see if I could look for an opening to score big points and maintain good position."

By winning the national crown, First Lt. Jaynes put herself in a favorable position to become the newest member of the Army's WCAP.

WCAP Commander Capt. Dominic Black told her before the tournament that winning a national championship would help meet the criteria needed to become a WCAP wrestler.

"She's a national champion," Capt. Black said afterward. "She's earned the right to be in WCAP."

First Lt. Jaynes, 26, of Mount Holly, N.J., was a combat medic with the 325th Field Hospital in Independence, Mo., before being commissioned while working on a master's degree. She now serves the 5502nd U.S. Army Hospital in Aurora, Colo., and lives and trains as a wrestler at the Olympic Training Center.

"My unit has been so awesome in supporting me in my wrestling career," she said. "They let me go anytime I need to go and they don't really ask too many questions. When I told them I wanted to put in my All-Army packet, they said 'go for it, we're behind you.' Now we're going to put in a WCAP packet and see if it goes through."

"I would love to have her on the World Class Athlete Program team," said Staff Sgt. Duaine Martin, a former WCAP wrestler who on March 1 began coaching the Army's female wrestlers. "She's been at the All-Army camp since February and she's been improving just in those two months. I know with more time that she'll be even better."

(Mr. Tim Hipps writes for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.)