WRESTLING: Van Dusen is proving that she's up for the challenge
Although she is the top wrestler in her weight class in the nation, Marcie Van Dusen still had something to prove to herself and the wrestling world when she stepped onto the mat at the Women's World Cup in China on January 19. After a disappointing 10th place finish at the 2007 World Championships in Azerbaijan, Van Dusen knew that she needed to step up her game. The World Cup, the international dual meet championships, provided the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that she had improved."We had to fix a lot in my wrestling, work on a lot,"Van Dusen said."I am preparing better now. I am doing my homework, watching videos and knowing what to expect in my opponents."In the USA vs. Japan dual, Van Dusen faced five-time world champion and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Saori Yoshida of Japan. Van Dusen won the match 4-1, 2-2. Not only did she beat the reigning world champion, but Van Dusen also ended Yoshida's 119-match winning streak."It is nice to know that everyone is beatable,"said Van Dusen."It's nice to have that in my pocket, to take it out and look at it."Van Dusen's win over Yoshida shook up the women's wrestling world. Yoshida had never dropped an international match and recently told Sports Illustrated her goal was to complete her career undefeated."Marcie has wrestled this match in her head, she's studied film,"National women's coach Terry Steiner said."She felt like it was her time to do something. She wrestled her match and didn't get caught up in Yoshida's record."In addition, Van Dusen's win over Yoshida served as a catalyst for her teammates and helped Team USA beat Japan to reach the championship dual with China. Ultimately the team finished second, losing to China in a tight 4-3 finals. A big part of preparing for the World Cup for Van Dusen was listening to her coaches, and trusting them. Ultimately, that paid off and she excelled at the competition. With a combined 3-0 record at the World Cup, Van Dusen also had wins over Nataliya Synyshyn of Ukraine in the first round and Dogmei Sun of China in the final. Her performance at the World Cup earned Van Dusen TheMat.com Wrestler of the Week honors."That's how you gain confidence,"Steiner said."You beat quality people consistently. She won three tough matches back to back. That's more of a tell-tale sign than anything."Van Dusen's strong performance at the World Cup competition followed a first-place finish at New York Athletic Club Holiday International in November, which included a win over Ukrainian Tetyana Lazareva. Lazareva had previously beaten Van Dusen at the 2008 World Championships."It's good to know that I fixed what I was doing wrong,"Van Dusen said. Van Dusen still faces of number of challenges this spring, because she did not place in the top eight at the World Championships. The United States has not yet qualified in her weight class for the Olympics. It's the only weight class left that the USA needs to qualify for the Olympics in women's wrestling."Before we can have any Olympic aspirations, we have to qualify the weight class,"Steiner said. The responsibility for qualifying the weight class will most likely fall on top-ranked Van Dusen's shoulders, a four-year member of the U.S. women's freestyle national team."I think there is pressure on me,"said Van Dusen,"but I think I am the most qualified and I wouldn't have it any other way."The next opportunity to qualify Team USA for the Olympics in the 55 kg/121 lbs. weight class will come at the Pan America Championships, in Colorado Springs, Colo. There, Van Dusen must place first in the weight class in order to qualify it for the Olympics. Two other international competitions later this spring will give the U.S. its last chance to qualify for the Olympic Games, if Van Dusen falls short at the Pan American Championships. In the next few weeks, Van Dusen has a busy competition schedule. She heads to the Chicago Cup on February 5, to compete against Poland in a dual meet, and then will return to Colorado Springs for the Dave Schultz Memorial February 8-10."Really, we have to focus on one match, one event at a time,"said Steiner. While the Pan American Championships loom in the future, Van Dusen will focus first on the other events where she will face international and American talent. Only after those competitions are completed can she turn her attention fully to the Pan American Championships and an Olympic bid."I am taking it one tournament at a time,"Van Dusen said."In the back of my mind I know that it is coming up. I have two great events to prepare for the Pan Ams, and then I have two weeks after the Dave Schultz Memorial to get ready."Van Dusen is not alone in her goal of reaching the Olympics. A handful of other American wrestlers in the 55 kg/121 lbs. weight class will challenge her for a spot in the Games. Her growth in recent years and her dedication to the sport sets her apart."Marcie has grown a lot as a person and an athlete,"Steiner said."Her professionalism right now is a huge thing. She is putting her nose to the grindstone and doing what she needs to do."Steiner says she is focused on all areas of the sport including getting more drills in, weight lifting, watching video, and controlling her weight. She must also remain healthy, as injuries have hampered her in recent seasons. These extras may give her the edge she needs to stay on top of her weight class, and earn a spot at the Olympic Games in Beijing."I am taking care of myself a lot more,"said Van Dusen."I go to bed early, take care of my body, take naps, and don't go out on the weekends. I am a lot more aware of what affects me. I think that makes me a more mature athlete."Most of all, Van Dusen is enjoying the sport of wrestling now more than ever. That enthusiasm is a big part of what is driving her bid to make it to the Olympics."I think that I have always worked hard, but I didn't always enjoy the work,"Van Dusen said."After being injured so much I value it a lot more. Before it was work when I stepped onto the mat, but now I am excited to get to practice. I am able to appreciate it after all the injuries I've dealt with."