U freshmen wrestlers take on the world

Monica Wright

It appears the Gophers wrestling team is out to prove they are the hardest-working team in Minnesota. And it’s summer.
Just two weeks after junior heavyweight Garret Lowney made the Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team, freshmen Damion Hahn and Jared Lawrence represented the U.S. at the Junior World Freestyle Championships in Nantes, France.
The championship team, comprised of nine wrestlers in nine different weight classes, takes the best wrestlers between the ages of 17 and 20 from the world team trials held in May.
Despite being a veteran of the 1999 championship, Hahn was no less excited about making the prestigious team again.
“I was pretty fired up, I made the team last year and went to Sydney so I was happy to make it again,” Hahn said. “I did better last year when I took fourth in my class than this year.”
Hahn, wrestling at 187.25 pounds, failed to qualify for the semifinals after losing to 1999 silver medalist Taras Danko of the Ukraine.
The loss had a familiar feel for the Hahn, who was eliminated by Danko the year before.
But Hahn feels such international experience gives him an edge as a collegiate wrestler for Minnesota.
“At the tournament you see completely different styles, and I think that makes you a better wrestler,” Hahn said. “U.S. guys are go-go-go when they wrestle, while the foreign wrestlers sit back and wait for you to do something, for an opportunity to score, and they explode into it.
“There are advantages to each style, and it’s good to experience something different.”
The loss gave Hahn an eighth-place finish.
Because the tournament is set up in a pool format, wrestlers are pitted against one another randomly.
And while the pool worked against Hahn, Lawrence found success at 157 pounds. After defeating three wrestlers and advancing to the semifinals, Lawrence lost 7-3 to Murat Umarov of Russia, earning a bronze medal in his weight class.
Lawrence’s medal helped the U.S. team to a second-place finish behind Russia.
But placing so high in the world class tournament doesn’t mean a break for Hahn or Lawrence, who will return to Minnesota and immediately began working at a summer wrestling camp.
Hahn simply regards this international experience as a natural progression in his wrestling career.
“My ultimate dream would be to go to the Olympics like Garrett Lowney,” Hahn said. “What he’s done at 20 is unbelievable. I’d like to be there someday, so we work hard and stay motivated.”

Monica Wright welcomes comments at [email protected]