USOEC wrestlers ready for first bout

Laura Conway

The USOEC men’s Greco-Roman wrestling team will be traveling to Arizona for its first big event of the national and international season, the Sunkist Kids International Open.  Weigh-ins are on Friday, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m.  The athletes will then wrestle from 9 a.m. preliminaries through finals matches on Saturday Oct. 23.

This tournament has been a long-time favorite for wrestling and is being brought back to the Wells Fargo Arena at Arizona State University.

Last year, the USOEC took fifth in team standings at the end of the 2009 Sunkist Open with one of the athletes, Nate Engel (55kg/121 lbs), receiving the Outstanding Wrestler award for the Greco-Roman competition.  The team also had members medal in at least five of the seven weight classes, sometimes two in one weight class.

New head coach Rob Hermann, former Navy coach and past Olympic head coach, hopes to keep that record going, if not improve on it.

“This is the biggest preseason tournament for our boys to go to; they will have practice matches. Basically, my goal (for this tournament) is to leave everything on the mat,” Hermann said.

However, he views this tournament as a warm-up for the season. He wants the wrestlers to try the skills they’ve been working on in practice but in a tournament scenario where a negative turn out won’t affect them so much.

“I want them to try some things, treat it as a practice match by taking risks and trying the moves we’ve been teaching in practice,” Hermann said.

Senior Paul Tellgren (55kg/121 lbs.) has been working on his new moves, conditioning and mental toughness since last year.

“Last year I got a bronze medal.  I wrestled well, but I was lagging in experience.  It was the first tourney of the year, and I was adjusting to a new coach. My confidence is much better this year. I know I’m going to win it. I believe and know I can come out on top,” Tellgren said.

On the same note, he does have some unfinished business he wants to take care of on the competition mat.  There was a wrestler two seasons ago, Jesse Phielke, who got the better of him; Tellgren is determined to not allow that to happen again.

“This year is kind of a personal (event). Two years ago, at Fila Junior finals he beat me and now I just want to dominate him this year.  With the coaching adjustments, I’ve been able to get more knowledge and wrestling smart, wrestling all the way through six minutes, even a few seconds after the whistle. No mistakes this time,” Tellgren said.

For other athletes, this will be their first time back at this tournament in a while.  For freshman Ethan Dondlinger (85kg/185 lbs), formally a Marine wrestler, it has been three years.

“I haven’t wrestled at Sunkist since I was 19, and I had no experience in Greco at that time.  I definitely expect to improve now that I’ve had more Greco mat time,” Dondlinger said.

Sunkist tends to have a lot of national competitors and fewer foreign competitors in the last couple years.  Dondlinger isn’t worried about that; he says there will still be some stiff competition there.

“It’s definitely a warm-up for university and senior nationals.  There’s still going to be good matches there; the Marines, the Army, and a lot of the USOEC guys will be there.  That’s why I’m not worried about the international experience.  I’m just looking for matches because I only have one year of experience in Greco,” Dondlinger said.