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Cuba Wins Seven Pan Am Wrestling Golds

August 4, 2003

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ Cuba tuned up for the Greco-Roman wrestling world championships in style by winning all seven gold medals at the Pan American Games.

Not even Sydney Olympics star Rulon Gardner could stand in the way of the Cubans. Gardner lost 5-0 to Mijian Lopez in the heavyweight class Sunday, earning instead one of four silver medals the Americans won.

The U.S. team managed two bronze as well, but that’s hardly the medals haul the Americans came for.

``It’s always a disappointment,″ Gardner said. ``We want to come here as a team and represent our nation. The Cubans came here and won every weight class.

``But the way we look at it, the disappointment now breeds success in the future.″

Along with Lopez, Cuba’s winners were Ernesto Pena, Luis Mendez, Filiberto Azcuy, Juan Luis Maren, Roberto Monzon and Lazaro Rivas. For Rivas, it was a fifth straight victory over Brandon Paulson of Anoka, Minn.

``I have the world championships in a month and a half and I hope to meet him in the final, and I know I can beat him,″ Paulson said. ``I hate winning silver. I’ve won too many of them.″

Other U.S. silver medalists were Brad Vering of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Justin Ruiz of Salt Lake City. The bronze winners were James Gruenwald and T.C. Dantzler, both of Colorado Springs.

Angelo Mota gave host Dominican Republic its first medal Sunday _ a silver. He lost at 145 1/2 pounds to Maren.

Gardner, who scored the biggest upset of the 2000 Olympics when he stunned previously unbeaten Alexander Karelin of Russia, has had a strong season. He had a toe amputated last year after a snowmobiling accident when he became lost in the Wyoming wilderness.

But he wrestled well enough to beat world champion Dremiel Byers for a spot on the 2003 U.S. team for worlds, and he easily made the finals here.

Then came Lopez, who has shut out Gardner all three times they met this year.

Lopez, only 20, is taller and more athletic than Gardner. That makes a difference, the American said.

``It’s almost like Spiderman reaching out to grab you from nowhere. That’s freaky,″ Gardner said.

``When you look at the momentum of a match, you give up the first points and the second points and then you are playing catchup.″

None of the Americans ever caught up to the Cubans.

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