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More than 20 wrestlers will enter this year’s European championships with perfect records. One of them, Hohenfels 160-pounder Eric Vandal, has never lost a DODDS match.

Vandal, a junior transfer from Fort Sill, Okla., has pinned 15 of the 16 opponents he’s faced this season. It’s a source of pride, and concern, for the Hohenfels coaches, led by Brian Eisch.

“His endurance level needs to be higher,” Eisch said last Saturday after Vandal had flattened his first opponent in the sectional qualifying tournament in 54 seconds for victory No. 14.

“His matches are so short he doesn’t get much conditioning out of them.”

The situation didn’t improve. Vandal decked his next two foes in a combined 2 minutes, 40 seconds to make a solid bid for a top seed in the European tournament.

Vandal, 17, said there’s a big difference between wrestling in mat-mad Oklahoma and in DODDS-Europe.

“The training is more intense in Oklahoma,” he said. “There’s lots of competition. Most of the matches were really close.”

One change Vandal encountered in moving to Europe should help him this weekend.

“In Oklahoma, we mostly wrestled dual meets,” he said about the one-bout-per-man format. “Over here, with the tournament style, we wrestle several matches in a day.”

It’s a format that encourages strategy.

“I try to beat the man in front of me as quickly as possible,” he said. “I try to save something for the final.”

Eisch concurred.

“He won’t put his best foot forward in every match,” said Eisch, one of five coaches for the eight-man Hohenfels squad. “He saves his quality moves for a quality opponent.”

Such as the ones he’ll encounter Friday and Saturday when he goes for his first European crown.


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