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A ceremonial presence for U.S. wrestlers

August 3, 2008 | 11:05 pm

U.S. wrestlers (from left to right) Jake Deitchler, Ben Askren, Henry Cejudo, Adam Wheeler and Randi Miller.

BEIJING -- The Olympic wrestling tournament doesn't begin for more than a week, and doesn't end until shortly before the closing ceremonies.

But unlike some other U.S. teams, whose athletes will begin filtering into China well after the Games have begun, the Greco-Roman, women and freestyle wrestlers are planning to participate in Friday's opening ceremonies en masse.

"Every one of our teams wants our guys to get that experience," said Gary Abbott, a spokesman from USA Wrestling. "They're real excited."

That's partly because this U.S. wrestling team, with just two of its sixteen members having competed in a previous Olympics, is among the least experienced in recent history.

Among the first-time Olympians is Greco-Roman specialist Jake Deitchler of Ramsey, Minn., who is the first high school wrestler to make a U.S. Olympic team in 32 years.

Another first-time Olympian is freestyler Henry Cejudo, who was born in Los Angeles. He said after years of watching the Olympic opening ceremonies on TV, he's looking forward to taking part in them.

And his coach isn't worried about his wrestlers losing focus.

"I don't think we'll have trouble reminding them this is a business trip," said coach Terry Brands.

-- Kevin Baxter

Photo: U.S. National Wrestling Team members (from left to right) Jake Deitchler, Ben Askren, Henry Cejudo, Adam Wheeler and Randi Miller at the Sports Museum of America in New York City on June 20. Credit: Jonathan Fickies / Getty Images