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Wrestlers vie for spots in European finals

Matt Fischer, top, presses Lakenheath's Kristian Manibusan to the mat in Kaiserslautern, in December, on his way to winning the 113-pound match.

The race for DODDS-Europe wrestling supremacy begins Saturday at four strategically placed locations across the continent, with Alconbury, Aviano, Ramstein and Patch each hosting a sectional qualifier ahead of the European championship Feb. 15-16 at Wiesbaden.

Here’s how the postseason system works.

Teams don’t qualify; it’s all individual competition at this stage.

The top two finishers in each weight class advance to the European championships. That’s 14 weight classes, multiplied by four sectional sites, for a total of 112 advancing wrestlers. The only caveat: if there are three or less wrestlers competing in a weight class at a sectional, only the champion of that class will automatically advance. That will likely be the case in a handful of instances.

Wrestlers not among that qualifying group are not necessarily done for the season. Early next week, a committee led by DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore will consider nominations from coaches and select deserving wild-card entries.

The combined group of qualifiers and wild cards — totaling 12 in each weight class — will compete at Wiesbaden for European championships. There, points accrued by individual wrestlers will also count toward crowning an overall European team champion.

All clear? Here’s a brief look at each Saturday sectional.

Alconbury: The incongruous fit of Wiesbaden at the Northern Sectional serves to separate DODDS-Europe’s largest schools while hurling AFNORTH, Brussels, Lakenheath, Menwith Hill, Rota, SHAPE and the host Dragons into the weekend’s largest meet.

But with several of those school fielding rosters in the single digits, the meet’s total field of 85 is only marginally larger than the other sectionals, which include between 74 and 81 wrestlers.

The 126-pound matchup between SHAPE’s Karl Kristensen and Alconbury’s Dallin Cazier figures to be among the site’s most competitive.

Ramstein: The formidable host will deploy a sturdy team of 28, two per weight class, in hopes of making a team run at defending champion Patch at the Europeans. But first, the Royals will have their hands full with visiting Bamberg, Baumholder, Bitburg, Incirlik and Kaiserslautern.

The Red Raiders have the talent to make a dent in the Royals roster. Matt Fischer, last year’s 106-pound European champion, has bulked up to 113 this season with undefeated results.

Patch: Like Ramstein, the host Panthers will field the maximum roster of 28 in hopes of defending its sectional turf and sending the largest possible contingent on to Wiesbaden.

Patch is the elephant in the room of DODDS-Europe wrestling, a reigning dynasty pursuing a fifth consecutive team championship.

Grapplers from Ansbach, Heidelberg, Hohenfels and Vilseck hope to slow the Patch machine.

Ansbach heavyweight Rahim Beatty is a wrestler to watch at 285 pounds.

Aviano: Black Forest Academy crashes the otherwise all-Italy proceedings, adding its roster of 13 to the sectional round’s slimmest field. Naples, Sigonella and Vicenza round out the bracket.

Brandon Mowery of the host Saints has been dominant fluctuating between 113 and 120 pounds in an unbeaten regular season, while the matchup of Mowery’s Aviano teammate Daniel Dinges and Naples rival Miles Davis at 145 pounds figures to be among the day’s best.

broomeg@stripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @broomestripes

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