Mark Manning of Lincoln, Neb., who has served as the head coach of the 2001 U.S. World Freestyle Team, will be unable to attend the World Freestyle Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, Nov. 22-25.

Manning works as the head coach of the University of Nebraska wrestling team and will not be able to lead the U.S. team due to his professional responsibilities with his Div. I wrestling program.

The World Championships of Wrestling were originally scheduled for Madison Square Garden in New York City, Sept. 26-29. After the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, the competition was postponed. FILA, the international wrestling federation, reassigned the competition on October 10.

Zeke Jones of Morgantown, W.Va., who has served as the assistant coach of the 2001 U.S. World Team, will assume the duties as the team's head coach.

Jones is an assistant coach at West Virginia Univ. He was a 1991 World Champion and 1992 Olympic silver medalist as a freestyle wrestler, and competed on the two U.S. World Teams to claim the World Team Title (1993, 1995).

Manning participated in all of the U.S. World Team Training Camps, and has worked closely with the USA Wrestling national coaching staff and the other volunteer coaches to help prepare the U.S. team for the World Championships.

"I have a very young team at Nebraska, and I believe I am really needed to direct this program," said Manning. "I have talked to our athletic directors about this. I would miss a tournament and our first dual meet if I attended the Worlds. I feel an obligation to my college and the athletes."

"I spent six to seven weeks with the World Team during August and September," said Manning. "I am very committed to the World Team. It's not an easy choice for me. I can't be in two places at one time."

Manning has been one of the most dedicated volunteer freestyle coaches in the USA Wrestling family.He has served on the coaching staff of eight of the last nine U.S. World and Olympic teams, as well as a number of other major events.

"I would love to see Mark on board, but I understand his decision," said Jones. "Mark's contributions to this team have been tremendous. He has been a longtime coach of U.S. teams, and has worked often with these athletes. He is one of the reasons that the U.S. freestyle teams have excelled in recent years, with his knowledge, expertise and friendship."

Working with Jones will be the USA Wrestling professional coaching staff, including USA Wrestling National Freestyle Coach Kevin Jackson and USA Wrestling Freestyle Developmental Coach Dave Bennett.

Other outstanding coaches who are planning to assist Jones at the World Championships will be Greg Strobel of Bethlehem, Pa., Tom Brands of Iowa City, Iowa and John Smith of Stillwater, Okla.

Both Manning and Jones have high expectations for the U.S. freestyle team that will compete in Sofia, Bulgaria.

"I have never been around a team so coachable and so poised," said Manning of the U.S. freestyle team. "With all of the world events taking place, they have come back with a great attitude. They have been very impressive and have stuck with the plan to be World Champions."

"This group can do well, no matter what the circumstances," said Jones. "We can be World Champions, as individuals and as a team. No matter what adversity they face, they can come out smelling like roses. Each guy in each weight class can be a World Champion."

A number of athletes will also not be able to compete in the World Championships because of the schedule change. Freestyle athlete Cael Sanderson (Heber City, Utah/Sunkist Kids) and Greco-Roman athlete Garrett Lowney (Freedom, Wis./Minnesota Storm) were unable to participate due to the conflict with their college season. Sanderson wrestles for Iowa State and Lowney competes for the Univ. of Minnesota. Two members of the U.S. Women"s World Team, Tina George (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) and Iris Smith (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) are unable to participate, as they have begun basic training with the U.S. Army.

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