The Washngton Post
February 5, 2000
Gutches Eager to Get Even
Rivalry With Cuba's Romero to Be Renewed

                  By Athelia Knight
                  Washington Post Staff Writer
                  Saturday, February 5, 2000; Page D01

                  U.S. wrestler Les Gutches will have a chance to renew his sometimes
                  contentious rivalry with Yoel Romero of Cuba at the FILA Freestyle
                  Wrestling World Cup, which begins today at Patriot Center.

                  Romero, the reigning world champion at 187.25 pounds, has won two of
                  three meetings with Gutches, with both victories coming in World Cup
                  competitions in 1998 and 1999. After the most recent win, last April in
                  Spokane, Wash., Romero showboated, pounding Gutches in the back and
                  parading around the ring, flexing his muscles.

                  "It's bad enough to get beat," said Gutches, the 1997 world champion.
                  "It's worse to have somebody rub it in."

                  Three months later, Gutches beat Romero in sudden death overtime at the
                  Pan American Games in Canada. Gutches retaliated by giving Romero a
                  push in the back and flexing his muscles.

                  "I don't like to lose to anybody and I don't think he does, either," said
                  Gutches, who will face Romero on Sunday.

                  In addition to Cuba and the United States, teams from Iran, Russia and
                  Ukraine will compete today in dual matches that will feature some of the
                  top contenders for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

                  "Every Olympic year is a special year for the World Cup," U.S. national
                  team coach Greg Strobel said. "The teams send their best. It's an
                  unbelievable competition."

                  Among the participants are 1999 world champion Elbrus Tedeev of
                  Ukraine (138.75 pounds); 1998 world champions Ali Reza Dabir
                  (127.75) and Ali Reza Heidari (213.75) of Iran; 1997 world champion
                  Kouramagomed Kouramagomedov (213.75) of Russia; and 1997 world
                  champion Wilfredo Garcia (119) and 1998 World Champion Alexis
                  Rodriguez (286) of Cuba.

                  Gutches, 26, won the bronze medal at the world championships last year,
                  and took gold medals at the World Cup and Pan American Games. A
                  native of Medford, Ore., and two-time NCAA champion at Oregon State,
                  Gutches is the only athlete to win USA Wrestling national titles on all five
                  age group levels (cadet, junior, espoir, university and senior).

                  He also is the only member of the U.S. team competing this weekend who
                  has Olympic experience. He placed seventh at the 1996 Olympics, a
                  disappointing showing that he somewhat avenged the following year when
                  he beat Olympic champion Khadijimurad Magomedov of Russia for the
                  world title.

                  "That was great," he said. "But it was also kind of a bummer that I didn't
                  do it the year before. . . . Winning the world title in Russia was good. But
                  winning the Olympic title in the United States would have been great."

                  Gutches is hoping to get a second chance at the 2000 Olympics.

                  "That's what this whole year is about," he said. "It will be great to do well
                  and win at the World Cup and any of the other tournaments that I wrestle
                  in. But the main thing is making that Olympic team and then putting myself
                  in a position to win the gold."

                  Five months ago, Gutches quit his job as an assistant wrestling coach at
                  Oregon State and moved to Colorado Springs to train full time with the
                  U.S. team. The trials will be June 22-24 in Dallas.

                  "I think that is a good move on his part," Strobel said. "He is focusing on
                  his training more. . . . Any time you can beat someone who has beaten you
                  before, it's an important thing."

                  Wrestling Notes: One of the hosts for the tournament is the
                  Washington-Baltimore 2012 Coalition, which is planning to bid to host the
                  2012 Olympics.

                  FILA Freestyle

                  Wrestling World Cup

                  * When: Today, noon and 7 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

                  * Where: Patriot Center.

                  * Countries Competing: United States, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Ukraine.

                  * Tickets: Available through Ticketmaster or Patriot Center box office at
                  $12.50 to $45 for individual sessions, and $55 to $99 for all sessions.

                  * Today's sessions: noon--Ukraine vs. United States; Russia vs. Cuba;
                  Cuba vs. Iran. 7 p.m.--Russia vs. Ukraine; Iran vs. United States and
                  Ukraine vs. Cuba.

                  * Sunday's sessions: 11:30 a.m.--Cuba vs. United States; Iran vs. Russia;
                  5 p.m.--Iran vs. Ukraine; Russia vs. United States.

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