By Tim Hipps, FMWRDecember 26, 2011
SAN ANTONIO (Dec. 26, 2011) -- Four U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program wrestlers won national championships Dec. 16-17 at the 2011 U.S. Open in Arlington, Texas.
Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers, Staff Sgt. Iris Smith, Spc. Justin Lester and Sgt. Spenser Mango won their weight classes in the two-day tournament for men's Greco-Roman and women's freestyle wrestling.
The U.S. Army also won the Division I men's Greco-Roman team title.
Lester was named Outstanding Greco-Roman Wrestler of the Tournament after edging World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP, teammate Sgt. Aaron Sieracki, 1-0, 3-0, in the finals of the 74-kilogram/163-pound division. It was the fourth U.S. Open title for Lester, who normally competes at 66 kilograms/145.5 pounds.
In another all-Soldier finale, 2008 Olympian Sgt. Spenser Mango defeated WCAP teammate Spc. Jermaine Hodge, 1-0, 0-1, 1-0, for the 55-kilogram/121-pound crown. In a match with no scoring except from the forced par terre, Mango prevailed in the third period by defending from the bottom to win his fourth U.S. Open title.
Byers, a 2002 world champion, won his 10th U.S. Open championship with a 1-0, 1-0 victory over Sunkist Kids' Brandon Rupp at 120 kilograms/264.5 pounds. More importantly, Byers earned a spot in the best-of-three finals at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling in Iowa City, Iowa, April 21-22.
Under the Greco-Roman procedures, an athlete must win the U.S. Open and place in the top five at the World Championships in the last four years in order to move directly into the finals series. Byers placed fifth at the 2010 World Championships and second in the 2009 World Championships.
"Slow and steady," Byers said. "It is a stepping stone. I've got a lot of work to do to get this weight class qualified. I definitely want to win everything along the way, stay focused, train hard and do what we are doing."
Smith, a 2005 world champion, scored a takedown with less than 10 seconds remaining to defeat two-time U.S. World Team member Stephany Lee, 0-1, 1-0, 1-0, for her fifth U.S. Open title in the 72-kilogram/158.5-pound women's freestyle division.
"The match was near the end. I could judge the time was running out," said Smith, who had last won a U.S. Open championship in 2005. "There is a point in the match where you have to do something to win it. I think I wrestled fairly well. I still have a lot of work to do to make sure I get the medal in 2012."
In a battle of two-time U.S. World Team members at 60 kilograms/132 pounds, Sunkist Kids' Joe Betterman defeated WCAP Spc. Jeremiah Davis, 2-2, 1-0, for his third U.S. Open title.
The top seven wrestlers in each weight class earned a spot in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
WCAP Spc. Marco Lara finished third at 60 kilos/132 pounds, Staff Sgt. Glenn Garrison third at 66 kilos/145.5 pounds, Pfc. Timothy Bleau sixth at 74 kilos/163 pounds, and Sgt. Nathan Engel was fifth at 55 kilos/121 pounds.
WCAP Pfc. Timothy Bleau finished sixth and All-Army Capt. Jon Anderson was seventh in the 74-kilogram/163-pound division. All-Army Sgt. Vanessa Oswalt was seventh in the women's 55-kilogram/121-pound freestyle division.