After his face was planted to the mat, Mo Lawal showcased his raw, explosive talent. Lawal, who trains at the Olympic Center, site of this weekend’s Dave Schultz Memorial International wrestling tournament, smacked his face on the mat in the second period of his 185-pound freestyle championship against Russia’s Evengy Kolomets on Friday. “Nasty, huh? When my face hit the mat,” Lawal said. “Man that’s embarrassing. I’m like on his highlight reel.” Down 3-0, the 25-year-old responded with his own array of highlights, scoring five points in one minute to win 2-0 and 5-3 for his first Dave Schultz championship. “That’s where you see his potential,” said Kevin Jackson, the Colorado Springs-based USA Wrestling men’s freestyle coach. “He’s very explosive, as far as vertically and jumping for distance. That ability in wrestling really holds dividends because you have to cover a small space in a quick amount of time, so obviously that makes him more explosive.” Down 3-0, Lawal had a choice: conserve energy the final 1:30 of the second period and try to win the third period, or go after Kolomets with everything he had. “I was thinking, ‘I’m going to get him out of here,’” Lawal said. “I don’t want to waste a period. I want to get him out of here. Eviction time.” Lawal is raw compared with most Olympic hopefuls. He wrestled for 2½ years at Plano East Senior High School in Texas. Lawal said the teams usually had about four wrestlers and won one dual meet in his years there. “People would either flunk or or they’d quit,” Lawal said. “I had motivation. No one expected me to do anything. I’m from Texas where wrestling’s not that big. But I know that every time I wrestle I do better.” He’s improved in his three consecutive years at the Dave Schultz tournament, from third to second to first. Could the 2008 Beijing Games be in his future? “If he can get there, he’ll be unstoppable,” Jackson said. The United States’ Joe Williams was just that in the 163-pound freestyle division, allowing two points in three matches to claim first. In the final, Williams defeated Bulgaria’s Nikolay Ivanovitch Paslar 1-0, 0-1, 2-0. Paslar, who won the 2001 World Championships in Bulgaria at 149 pounds, was about a foot shorter than Williams, who has been on the U.S. Olympic team since 2001. “I’m working to be the best in the world,” Williams said. “To win gold at the World Championships this year; every match I wrestle I look to that.” Chris Bono avenged his loss to Canada’s Evan MacDonald in the opening match of the 2005 World Championships in Ames, Iowa, that eliminated him from the tournament. The U.S. freestyler scored a 2-0, 1-0 decision in the 145½-pound semifinal before he defeated fellow countryman Eric Larkin 3-0, 5-6, 4-0 in the championship. “I didn’t give it everything I had at the World Championships,” Bono said. “I thought I did, but I didn’t. I was going through some changes then. Today I’m wrestling with a free mind, a clear conscience.” Other U.S. wrestlers who claimed championships: T.C. Dantzler (163 pounds, Greco Roman), Harry Lester (145½, Greco Roman) and Nick Preston (211½, freestyle). CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0250 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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