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2012 Olympics Preview — Greco-Roman: 121, 132 & 145.5 pounds
By Mike Finn
(Editor’s Note: This is the third of 11 weekly previews of the of this summer’s Olympics in London. In last week’s WIN eNews, we looked at the 138- and 158-pound weight classes in women’s freestyle. Next week, WIN will preview the final three Greco-Roman weight classes with an American entry and eventually the seven men’s freestyle weight classes before the start of the Games on August 5.)
55 kilos / 121 pounds (Competition held August 5)
U.S. Entry: Spenser Mango, 25, St. Louis, Mo.
This marks the fifth straight year Mango will represent the U.S. on the world stage. A graduate of the United States Olympics Education Center in Marquette, Mich., his best finish since came in the 2008 Olympics where he finished eighth in Beijing. In those Games, Mango defeated Romania’s Virgil Munteanu before losing to eventual bronze medalist Eun-Chui Park of Korea.
Since then, Mango has competed in every World Championship, highlighted by a ninth-place finish in 2009 in Herning, Denmark. In that event, Mango opened with a win over Estonia’s Anar Zeinalov before losing to World champion Hamid Soryan of Iran. In the consolation bracket, Mango defeated Spain’s Joaquim Abellan before losing to Turkey’s Erhan Karakus.
In the last two Worlds, Mango failed to win a match; falling to Russia’s World champ Nazir Mankiev in 2010 and to Arsen Eraliev of Kyrgyzstan in 2011.
But Mango, whose younger brother Ryan is a junior All-American at Stanford, made a major change in his life in 2011 when he joined the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program and is stationed in Colorado Springs, Colo.
• Hamid Sorian, Iran — The 27-year-old wrestler has won five World Championships (2005, ’06, ’07, ’09 and 2010), but failed to place in his only other Olympics in 2008, when the Iranian claimed fifth place; losing to eventual gold medalist Nazir Mankiev in the quarters and to Eun-Chul Park of Korea in the bronze medal match.
• Nazir Mankiev, Russia — The 2008 Olympic champion has competed in just one World-level event since claiming gold in Beijing: the 27-year-old finished third in the 2010 Worlds, where he defeated Spenser Mango of the U.S. in a first-round match. In claiming gold in 2008, Mankiev won all five matches, including a quarterfinal bout again Iran’s Hamid Sorian.
• Royshan Bayramov, Azerbaijan — The 25-year-old World champion is expected to compete in his second Olympics; falling to Nazir Mankiev of Russian in the 2008 gold medal match. Bayramov, whose first World Championship experience came in 2005, has medaled in three Worlds — silver in 2006, bronze in 2009 and gold in 2011, when he defeated Elbek Tazhyiev of Belarus in the championship.
• Roman Amoyan, Armenia — The 28-year-old has competed in one Olympics (2008) and six other World Championships (2003, ’05, ’06, ’07, ’09, ’10); earning a bronze medal at Beijing four years ago before claiming a silver medal in 2009 and a bronze in 2010.
60 kilos / 132 pounds (Competition held August 6)
U.S. Entry: Ellis Coleman, 20, Oak Park, Ill.
This marks the first World-level competition that Coleman, a student at the USOEC at Northern Michigan, will compete in the Senior division. But the former prep star from River Forest High School in Oak Park has made a name for himself the past two years by finishing third in the Junior Worlds and for creating an internet sensation for his “flying squirrel” moved he displayed last summer. In a quarterfinal win over Mehdi Zeidvand of Iran, Coleman literally jumped over the head off his opponent and as he was moving head first into the mat, Coleman locked his arms around Zeidvand’s waste and reverse lifted the Iranian to his back for a five-point move.
Coleman unfortunately lost his 2011 World semifinal to Ion Luchita of Moldavia before coming back to beat Florin Mocanu of Romania for third place.
One year earlier Coleman also took home the bronze despite losing a first-round bout to Chingiz Labazanov of Russia before coming back to win three straight consolation matches.
Note: The United States did not qualify this weight class for the 2008 Olympics. At this year’s Olympic Trials, Coleman defeated both Jeremiah Davis, the 2009 and 2010 World Team member, and Joe Betterman, who competed in the 2011 Worlds.
• Omid Noroozi, Iran — Noroozi has represented his country in the last three World Championships and medaled in just one: claiming gold in last year’s Worlds, where he defeated Almat Kebispayev in the championship match. In his two other Worlds, the 26-year-old finished tenth in 2009 and ninth in 2010.
• Zaur Kuramagomedov, Russia — The 24-year-old has competed in two Worlds since joining the Senior circuit in 2007; finishing 15th in 2010 and third in 2011; losing in the second round of both tournaments to Noroozi).
• Almat Kebispayev, Kazahkstan — The 25-year-old has competed in two Worlds and medaled in both; earning bronze in 2010 and silver in 2011. His only loss in five bouts two years ago came to Hasan Aliyev, before winning four more matches in last year’s Worlds where his only loss came in the finals to Noroozi.
66 kilos / 145.5 pounds (Competition held August 7)
U.S. Entry: Justin Lester, 28, Akron, Ohio
Despite winning two World bronze medals and competing in the 2011 Worlds, this marks the first Olympics for Lester, who used to go by the middle name of Harry before he temporarily “retired” from the sport for one year after losing to Jake Deitchler in the 2008 Olympic Trials.
Lester, a former four-time Ohio state champion at Cuyahoga Falls Valley Christian Academy, originally planned on wrestling folkstyle at Iowa State in 2004 before deciding to focus on Greco-Roman wrestling. He was one of the first wrestlers to attend the United States Olympic Education Center in Marquette, Mich.
After finishing sixth in the 2004 Olympic Trials, Lester would compete in five World Championships, finishing third in both 2006 and 2007. At the 2006 Worlds in Guangzhou, China, Lester lost a second-round match to Kanatbeck Begaliev of Kyrgyzstan, but came back to win three straight consolation bouts, including a bronze medal match over Seref Eroglu of Turkey. One year later in Baku Azerbaijan, Lester won four straight matches before losing to Farid Mansurov of Azerbaijan. He topped Tamas Loerincz of Hungary for third place.
Now a member of the Army’s WCAP, Lester also competed in 2005 and 2009 (wrestling at 163 pounds that September) but failed to win a bout … before qualifying for the 2011 Worlds, where he finished fifth at 145.5 pounds. In last year’s Worlds, Lester won his first four bouts — including a quarterfinal match against Begaliev, before losing a semifinal to Manukhar Tskhadaia of Georgia and the bronze medal bout to Pedro Herrera of Cuba.
• Saeid Abdvali, Iran — The Iranian is just 21 years old and has competed in two World Championships; losing in the second round in 2010 … before winning a gold medal last September in Istanbul, Turkey, where he won all five bouts, including a gold medal match against Georgia’s Manukhar Tskhadaia, who defeated Lester in the semis.
• Armen Vardanyan, Ukraine — This marks the third Olympic Games for the 29-year-old, who finished fifth in 2004 — winning two of three bouts — before capturing a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics, where he eliminated American Jake Deitchler in consolation after losing to Kanatbek Begaliev of Kyrgyzstan. The Ukrainian has wrestled in six different World Championships and earned two medals: silver in both 2003 and 2010 (when he beat another U.S. wrestler, Faruk Sahin, in the quarterfinals).
• Vitaly Rahimov, Azerbaijan — This is the third Olympic appearance for the 27-year-old, who competed at 132 pounds in 2004 — splitting two bouts in Athens — and 2008, when he earned a silver medal in Beijing. Before moving up to 145.5 pounds in the 2010 Worlds — where he earned a bronze medal — Rahimov also competed in four other Worlds, but never placed.