(Las Vegas, NV) Wrestling is a family sport. There is a tradition of athletes at all levels who follow their fathers, brothers or other relatives into the sport, and create a family legacy of excellence.
This tradition goes right up to the highest level of wrestling, the Olympic level. Wrestling fans can expect to see many family-oriented stories in the headlines during the Olympic process this year, leading right into the big show, the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling in Las Vegas, Nev., June 13-15.
Perhaps the most common family act in wrestling is the brother act, where two or more brothers strive for excellence side-by-side and attempt to make the Olympic team together. If you go back into history, you have brother acts such as the Scherr twins (Bill and Jim), the Schultz brothers (Dave and Mark), the Koslowski twins (Dennis and Duane), the Banach Brothers (Ed and Lou) and others who have been successful in this quest.
Perhaps the most prominent of the brothers combinations who are expected to challenge for spots on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team are the Zadicks in men’s freestyle. Bill Zadick was a 2006 World champion at 66 kg, and his younger brother Mike was a 2006 World silver medalist at 60 kg. These Montana natives, who were stars at the Univ. of Iowa, are seeking to continue this legacy of championship brothers on the Olympic squad.
If you check the U.S. rankings on the Senior level, you can find a series of brothers who have the ability and the experience to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials and be on the raised staged together in Las Vegas. Below is a list of some of the brother acts to expect this year:
• Henry Cejudo (55 kg freestyle) and Angel Cejudo (60 kg freestyle)
• Keith Sieracki (74 kg Greco-Roman) and Aaron Sieracki (84 kg Greco-Roman)
• Travis Paulson (74 kg freestyle) and Trent Paulson (74 kg freestyle)
• Justin Ruiz (96 kg Greco-Roman) and Brandon Ruiz (120 kg Greco-Roman)
Of this group, a number of these brothers have already made past U.S. World Teams. Henry Cejudo, Keith Sieracki and Justin Ruiz have already reached No. 1 in their weight class in the past. The Paulson twins, who were stars together at Iowa State Univ., are both ranked nationally in the same weight class in freestyle. However, Trent Paulson also holds a national Greco-Roman ranking.
There is also a possible sister act that could happen in women’s freestyle. Sara Fulp-Allen (48 kg) and Katherine Fulp-Allen (51 kg) are both ranked in the top 10 nationally. Sara is a former U.S. Nationals champion and an age-group World Team member. The Fulp-Allens are truly from a wrestling family. Their father, Lee Allen, was a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman team.
There is another prominent father-daughter combination that is expected to be showcased at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Mary Kelly, a 2006 U.S. World Team member at 48 kg, is the daughter of Jerry Kelly, a NCAA runner-up in college for Oklahoma State. Her uncle Jerry Kelly was a NCAA champion for the Univ. of Iowa.
You can expect tons of publicity for the Hazewinkel family during this Olympic cycle, as well. Sam Hazewinkel has won two U.S. Nationals titles at 55 kg in Greco-Roman. His father Dave and his uncle Jim were both members of the 1968 and 1972 U.S. Olympic Teams in Greco-Roman. This is a great example about how the Olympic legacy can be passed on from one generation to another.
There could be a prominent brother-sister act on display in Las Vegas, but it will feature both sports that will be contested there. This year, the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling and Judo will be held side-by-side for the first time. Currently ranked No. 2 in the nation in men’s freestyle is Steve Mocco at 120 kg. Mocco won two NCAA titles during his career. His sister Katie Mocco is ranked No. 1 in women’s judo at 78 kg. Although they are not scheduled to compete on the same day, the Mocco family will be in the news during the week in Las Vegas.
The family stories go beyond parents and siblings. They also go into husband and wife stories.
The most prominent pairing at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials will be 2004 Olympic silver medalist Patricia Miranda and her husband Levi Weikel-Magden. This story got some tremendous play in 2004, as they were married during that Olympic year. The update on this is that Weikel-Magden has become the primary coach for Miranda. They now live together at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., preparing for the Olympic year as a coach and athlete.
There are a few other husband-wife Olympic stories in the plot that may unfold in Las Vegas. Lee Fullhart, who placed second at the 2004 Olympic Trials at 84 kg in freestyle, is married to Doreen Fullhart, who is a top Olympic hopeful in weightlifting. There is another wrestling-weightlifting marriage to consider. Casey Cunningham, a No. 2 ranked star in 74 kg in men’s freestyle, is married to Olympic gold medalist weightlifter Tara Nott.
There is also a prominent uncle-nephew combination to watch in Las Vegas. Matt Azevedo, a U.S. Nationals runner-up at 55 kg in freestyle, has a prominent uncle, John Azevedo, who earned a spot on the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team in freestyle. They have a very close relationship. Azevedo now works and trains at Cal-Poly SLO, where uncle John is the head wrestling coach. Matt wrestled for John at Calvary Chapel High School at the end of his prep career. Las Vegas natives can also claim Matt as their own, because Matt wrestled the start of his high school career in Nevada.
You can even find some stories about prominent cousins in the Olympic quest. Alaina Berube, a top hopeful at 63 kg in women’s freestyle wrestling, is not the first USA Wrestling star from her family. Her cousin Jackie Berube won a silver medal at the Women’s World Championships for USA Wrestling. Jackie also was a top Olympic hopeful in women’s weightlifting.
There could also be some other family acts who emerge as the Olympic year unfolds. It is easy to see why wrestling is such a family-oriented sport. Come join the entire wrestling family as it celebrates the best in our sport at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.