This Saturday and Sunday in Iowa City, Iowa, USA Wrestling will conduct its Olympic Team Trials. Win here, and you're an Olympian, set to represent Team USA at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympiad in August.
You must qualify for the Team Trials - USA Wrestling doesn't let just anyone in. Here's the short version of how you could have qualified: 1) go win (or place) in international tournaments; 2) win the NCAA Championship that was just wrestled a few weeks ago; or 3) win the "Last Chance" qualifier tournament that USA Wrestling held this past weekend. One (or more) of those things gets you into the pool.
One of the biggest changes Cael, Cody, and Casey effected in the move to Happy Valley was the development of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club (NLWC). The NLWC trains Olympic (and World) Team hopefuls throughout the year, in anticipation of this Team Trial. Naturally, having a bunch of world class wrestlers training year-round - and making World and Olympic teams - can be attractive to top high school recruits who harbor dreams of winning Gold medal(s).
Two NLWC members - Franklin Gomez and Jaime Espinal (silver medalist at London 2012) - already qualified for the Olympics for their home country (Puerto Rico). And now, this weekend, a bunch of NLWC members hit the mats to try to rep the USA. Let's take a look.
57kg (125.5 lbs)
|1||Tony Ramos||Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)||IOWA|
|2||Tyler Graff||New York Athletic Club (NYAV)||WISC|
|4||Coleman Scott||Sunkist Kids||OKST|
|6||Sam Hazewinkel||Sunkist Kids||OU|
|8||Nathan Tomasello||Ohio Regional Training Center (ORTC)||OHST|
|UN||Nico Megaludis||Nittany Lion Wrestling Club (NLWC)||PSU|
|UN||Alan Waters||Missouri Wrestling Foundation (MWF)||MIZZ|
This weight is an intriguing mix of old and new. Coleman Scott (Waynesburg, PA) wrestled at Oklahoma State, and won an NCAA championship way back in 2008 at 133lbs. He won a bronze medal at the London Games in 2012 at 60kg - a weight class that no longer exists. This will be the lightest Scott's weighed in since...well, a long time. Oh by the way? Coleman's also the head coach at UNC.
In any event - we've highlighted Coleman here mostly to point out that, if he were a high school senior today, he'd probably be committed to Penn State. He wouldn't have had to travel half way across the country to wrestle for John Smith in order to get great competition in the room, and have access to world-class athletes. That's one of the key impacts that the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club has on the Penn State team, and why there are 5 shiny new team national championship trophies at the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex these days.
Nico, by the way, made the finals of the trials two years ago, and lost on a point that no longer exists (due to much needed rule changes). No, he's not the favorite at this weight, and yes, coming off of a long college season puts you at a distinct disadvantage. But count him out at your own risk.
65kg (143 lbs)
|3||Jordan Oliver||Sunkist Kids||OKST|
|4||Jimmy Kennedy||Cliff Keen Wrestling Club (CKWC)||ILL|
|UN||Dean Heil||Cowboy WC||OKST|
|UN||Jayson Ness||Minnesota Storm||MINN|
This will be exciting. Brent Metcalf is the current World Team member at this weight and gets the 1-seed. James Green is the current World Team member at 70kg - but since 70kg is no longer an Olympic weight, Mr. Green enters the mix down here at 65kg. Similarly, Jimmy Kennedy is the current World Team member at 60kg, but will be trying to take the title here since 60kg was cut from the Olympics. Into that mix comes Jordan Oliver, another PIAA superstar who headed west for college pre-Cael; plus 4x NCAA champ Logan Stieber, who beat the world #1 ranked guy at freestyle while he was still in college. So - this weight is loaded.
But if that's not enough to entertain you, consider this: we might get to see the freestyle version of the battle we spent the last 5 months wondering about: Zpain versus Frank the Tank.
|1||Jordan Burroughs||Sunkist Kids||NEB|
|4||Dan Vallimont||Blue and Gold WC||PSU|
|5||Kevin LeValley||Buffalo Valley RTC||BUCK|
|6||Nick Marable||Sunkist Kids||MIZZ|
|UN||Alex Dieringer||Cowboy WC||OKST|
|UN||Mark Hall||Olympic Training Center (OTC)||committed to PSU|
Jordan Burroughs is the best wrestler in the world, and has been for the last 4+ years. As the reigning world Gold medalist, he gets to sit out of the bracket, and wait for the winner in a best-of-3, knock the king off of the hill style battle royale.
The intrigue, for me at least, comes from the new challengers to the king's crown. Isaiah Martinez and Alex Dieringer just won NCAA titles, but have all of the tools needed to make some noise here. That'll be fun to watch.
And then there's Mark Hall. Or, as you know him, Penn State 2016 recruit Mark Hall, from Apple Valley, Minnesota. That's right - the top overall high school recruit, who committed to Cael and PSU, beat all comers in the "Last Chance" qualifying tournament last weekend, and will be trying to make the USA Olympic team before he enrolls in his first Forum class. Breaking news / BSD exclusive: he's pretty good.
(By the way - Penn State has another high school recruit, Mason Manville, competing in the Greco team trials at 75kg. He's also pretty good. In fact, the 2016 recruiting class was pretty good.)
|5||Ed Ruth||Sunkist Kids||PSU|
|6||Jon Reader||Sunkist Kids||ISU|
|7||Richard Perry||Penn WC||BLOOM|
|8||Clayton Foster||Wyoming RTC||OKST|
|UN||Tyler Caldwell||Sunkist Kids||OKST|
|UN||J'Den Cox||Missouri Wrestling Foundation||MIZZ|
Jake Herbert (North Allegheny) is the current world team member. Jake was favored to medal at 2012 London Olympics, but got royally screwed over. Then injured. And now he and his incredible mullet are back for one more run at the age of 31. He and Keith Gavin (Lackawanna Trail) represent the old guard.
The new guard is led by David Taylor and Kyle Dake, both of whom have spent the last 12 months filling out to the full 189lbs, up from the 163lb (74kg) class. There's also this really talented guy named Ed Ruth in the field, who took this spot on the 2014 World Team despite transitioning straight from folkstyle cradles and crosswrist rolls. He's pretty good too.
|4||Dustin Kilgore||Sunkist Kids||KENT|
|7||Kyven Gadson||Sunkist Kids||ISU|
|8||Scott Schiller||Minnesota Storm||MINN|
Like Burroughs, Kyle Snyder is the reigning world champion, and gets to sit out the trials bracket and wait for the winner to knock him off in a best-of-three. The guy with the best shot of pulling it off is the 2012 Olympic Gold medalist, and NLWC member, Jake Varner.
|2||Zach Rey||Lehigh Valley AC||LEH|
|3||Nick Gwiazdowski||Wolfpack AC||NCST|
|4||Dom Bradley||Sunkist Kids||MIZZ|
|5||Tyrell Fortune||TMWC||Clackamas JC|
|7||Anthony Nelson||Minnesota Storm||MINN|
|8||Eric Thompson||NLWC||Grand View|
|UN||Blaize Cabell||Panther WC||UNI|
Tervel's carried this spot for Team USA for quite a while, and owns a pair of medals, too. But he's been getting pushed by Lehigh's Zach Rey and Mizzou's Dom Bradley. This is probably Tervel's last Olympic run before NC State's Gwiz takes the spot.