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FEATURE: U.S. World Teams complete domestic training camps, as athletes and coaches are ready for Wo

Gary Abbott USA Wrestling

The U.S. World Wrestling Teams have now completed their domestic training camps, in preparation for the World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 26-Oct. 2.

The men 's freestyle and women's freestyle teams held their final workouts at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. on Tuesday, Sept. 13. The men's Greco-Roman team had already finished its U.S. training camps over the past weekend in Colorado Springs.

The last scheduled workouts for both the men's freestyle team and the women's freestyle team were at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The focus in both practice sessions was on the seven individual World Team members on each team who will represent the U.S. at the World Championships.

The men's freestyle practice was in the wrestling room in Sports Center II, where daily wrestling practices are conducted year round. National Freestyle Coach Kevin Jackson and U.S. World Team coach Mike Duroe gave some final instructions to the athletes prior to the workout. Duroe handed each of the World Team members a workout schedule for their time back at their homes, prior to the team's departure for Hungary on September 19.

The practice concentrated on warming up, getting in a strong drill, and each World Team member having one live match. Coach Jackson told the athletes to work with intensity so the practice could be short.

"I feel real good and ready," said Mo Lawal (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC), who competes at 84 kg. "The rush for me will be right after weighins. I am satisfied with my conditioning and my technique. I am good to go."

"I am excited," said Lawal, who will be competing in his first World meet. "I will go out and give it 100 percent and wrestle smart. If I do that, I get my gold medal. That is what it takes. We learn new stuff at every camp, game plans, par terre wrestling, setups."

"Camp has been awesome," said Chris Bono (Gilbert, Ariz./Sunkist Kids), the 66 kg wrestler who will be on his third U.S. World team. "I have been pushed to the limit. I am in the best shape in my life. I have improved in all areas of my concentration. I am ready. I am excited to get home now to see my wife and kids for a few days."

"I am ready to go," said 2004 Olympian Daniel Cormier (Stillwater, Okla./Gator WC), who wrestles at 96 kg. "We trained hard, harder and smarter than ever before. I think I have done everything right. I have prepared myself mentally and physically to be the best. I am focused on being the World champion. It is the first time I have not had distractions off the mat prior to competing."

The women's freestyle team was having its final U.S. practice at the same exact time, in a different gym in Sports Center I. National Freestyle Coach Terry Steiner and National Resident Coach Izzy Izboinikov were holding individual workouts with the World Team members, which included some drilling and live wrestling, including short matches.

The women's team travels over the weekend to Prague, Czech Republic, where they will have their final training camp with the Czech athletes, leading up to their arrival in Budapest just prior to the competition.

Two of the World Team members, Stephanie Murata (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) at 51 kg and Katie Downing (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) at 67 kg started their workouts 30 minutes prior to the rest of the team. Both received personalized instruction from Steiner, Izboinikov and other coaches.

"I am excited about this trip," said Murata, a past World silver medalist who has competed on a number of U.S. teams. "We have a lot of support. Women's wrestling has come a long way. It is amazing where we are now, in terms of workout partners, coaches and support staff. It is nice to see, and it is very helpful to the athletes."

"My weight class will be very challenging, but I never shy away from a challenge," said Murata. "It means more if you beat everyone to win. I am not planning on an easy draw. I am ready for everyone. We have had a lot of preparation. I am hoping it will pay off over there."

"I feel great," said Downing, who will compete in her first World Championships. "This is fun. This is icing on the cake, all of this. Even the conditioning doesn't hurt as much when you are training for the Worlds. I was ready yesterday. We could go tonight and get started, I am that ready."

This workout was very relaxed, with each World Team member pairing off with training partners and working directly with the coaches. Each athlete has different needs, and have had different challenges during the training period.

"I didn't wrestle much during July and August because of my back," said Jenny Wong, a 2003 World bronze medalist who will compete at 48 kg in Budapest. "I think things will be fine for me, as I got lots of wrestling in this month. When I was healing, I did lots of conditioning, video training and mental training. I think it will work out for the best for me. My workout partners and coaches have been tremendous."

"It has been one adverse blow after another for me during training," said 2003 World bronze medalist Sally Roberts (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC), who competes at 59 kg. "I overcame this. I can take it to the opponents. I feel really good. My conditioning will not be a problem, it is really good. I am going to wrestle to the best of my ability. I'm only going there to win."

"I feel I am ready. Camp has been great," said 72 kg wrestler Iris Smith (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army), who is competing in her second World meet. "We had a bunch of new bodies at camp. I had a number of new looks in training. It was the largest and strongest training camp I can remember. I totally feel ready. I can't wait to go over there and handle business."

The excitement about the task at hand is not just from the athletes, but is a feeling that is also shared with the coaching staff and team leaders.

"We've had some good training this summer," said men's freestyle World Team Coach Mike Duroe. "I have been around a long time, and this is the best series of training camps we've had."

Duroe explained how the first training camp, which was held in Fargo, N.D. during the week of the ASICS/Vaughan Junior and Cadet Nationals, set the tone for the entire summer of workouts.

"Fargo was a different environment, and it was well received by the guys," said Duroe. "We put them up on the stage, and they got a little nervous, and it gave them some variety. Here in Colorado Springs, Coach Terry Brands has put them running on the cog trail in the mountains. Kevin Jackson has done a good job of giving me, Joe Seay and Terry Brands the chance to run a variety of workouts. It has all been positive."

"We have concentrated a lot on new rules, tactics and strategies," said Duroe. "We have areas of concentration for each guy. If you improve on your areas of concentration, you will be successful. We have an unbelievably talented group. If they come to compete, they will have a great deal of success."

The women's freestyle team coaches are equally upbeat about the team's prospects going into the World Championships.

"I think our training camps went well," said National Women's Coach Terry Steiner. "Our first camp was extremely successful. We pushed them hard and got in great condition. The second camp concentrated on individual preparation. We had some good times and some bad times. We are coming together at the right time. I am hoping our best is yet to come."

"We are not going there to take second place," continued Steiner. "We know the competition is strong. If you make a U.S. team, you should be ready to step on the podium and medal. Every one of these athletes are capable of a great performance."
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