Day One Olympic Team Trials Preview, Part 2

Published On April 5, 2016 | By Tony Hager | Olympic, Wrestling News

Part Two in a series of Olympic Team Trials Previews

Yesterday, we looked at the three lightest weights which will be contested on day one of the Olympic Team Trials. We continue that today with the middle three weights (65kg MFS, 66kg GR, 69kg FW) competing on Saturday, April 9th. None of these weights has qualified for the Games, and the full list of qualifiers is shown before the preview. As a reminder, these weights are not locked in, so we may see some people not compete at their listed weight or wrestle at all. This will not be known until weigh-ins are completed on Friday evening. Every competitor that shows up and makes weight will be seeded, which in most cases guarantees a first round bye for the top seeds, depending on how large the bracket is. All times below are central.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS FOR APRIL 9TH
Men’s freestyle (65 kg and 125 kg)
Women’s freestyle (58 kg, 63 kg and 69 kg)
Greco-Roman (59 kg, 66 kg, 85 kg and 98 kg)
8:00 a.m. – Doors open to Carver-Hawkeye Arena
9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. – Preliminaries through Challenge Tournament finals on NBC LiveExtra
5:00 p.m. – Doors open to Carver-Hawkeye Arena
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. – Best two of three Championship Series on NBC Sports Network

65kg Men’s Freestyle
This weight is not yet qualified for the Olympics, and no one sits in the finals.
2015 World Team member, 65kg – Brent Metcalf (New York AC/Hawkeye WC)
2015 World Team member, 61kg – Reece Humphrey (New York AC/Ohio RTC)
2015 World Team member, 70kg – James Green (Titan Mercury WC/NWTC)
2015 Bill Farrell International champion – Jordan Oliver (Sunkist Kids)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier champion – Jimmy Kennedy (New York AC/Cliff Keen WC)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier runner-up – Logan Stieber (Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier fourth place – Aaron Pico (Titan Mercury WC)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier fifth place – Kellen Russell (New York AC/Cliff Keen WC)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier sixth place – Frank Molinaro (Nittany Lion WC)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier seventh place – Jason Chamberlain (Titan Mercury WC/NWTC)
2016 Dave Schultz Memorial champion – Jayson Ness (Minnesota Storm)
2016 NCAA D1 champion, 141 – Dean Heil (Oklahoma State/Cowboy WC)
2016 NCAA D1 champion, 149 – Zain Retherford (Penn State/Nittany Lion WC)
2016 Last Chance OTT Qualifier champion – Bernard Futrell (Titan Mercury WC/Cliff Keen WC)

While many consider this the deepest weight in America right now, it is also the weight with the longest medal drought. Not since Bill Zadick’s 66kg gold at worlds in 2006 has an American won a medal at this weight. That was before Brent Metcalf won two NCAA titles and made four world teams and before Jordan Oliver had won Fargo. It was before Jimmy Kennedy had ever wrestled a match in college and before Logan Stieber had ever wrestled a match in high school. You get the point, it’s been a long time. Fourteen athletes are qualified at this weight, four of them appear in the latest world rankings.

Metcalf (NYAC/Hawkeye WC) has been the guy for each of the past three years. This past worlds in Vegas was the first time he had won more than one match, which has caused some fans in America to want new blood at this weight. But Metcalf is No. 19 in the world, has also made the finals at Yarygin, won Pan Am Games and climbed to as high as No. 2 in the world rankings. Unfortunately though, he was unable to qualify the weight for Rio after failing to medal in Vegas and losing a controversial quarterfinal to Franklin Gomez of Puerto Rico in Texas.

Listed as the No. 2 pre-seed is James Green (Titan Mercury WC/NWTC), a bronze medalist at 70kg in Las Vegas for the world championships and currently ranked fourth in the world at that weight. The 23-year-old Green was a four-time All American for Nebraska, competing primarily at 157 and has more freestyle experience than some people might realize. He was fourth at the 2012 FILA Junior WTT at 74kg and won University Nationals in both 2013 and 2014 at 66kg. Green was a bit of a surprise medalist, as he did not win NCAAs and was just third at the Open. He fell behind Nazar Kulchytskyy 6-0 less than a minute into the Trials, but would come back to win the tournament and take the spot.

The listed three pre-seed is Oliver (Sunkist Kids), who was the last American to beat Metcalf. That was under old rules, but it was a 1-0, 0-1, 1-0 match in the semis of the Open in 2013. These two have met in the trials for the past four year. Metcalf beat Oliver in the first round at the Olympic Trials and then in the finals of the challenge tournament for the 2013 team trials. The reason Oliver could move up to the two seed is because he has made the best-of-three finals the last two years, losing to Metcalf both times. Oliver was a two-time NCAA champ for Oklahoma State and won a bronze medal at the 2009 junior world championships. He qualified for OTT by winning the Bill Farrell tournament at the NYAC in November.

After winning the 61kg spot in 2014 Jimmy Kennedy (New York AC/Cliff Keen WC) bumped up to 65kg, where he made the world team ladder by placing third at WTT. He defeated Logan Stieber (Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC) 11-6 in that true third match, and then beat Stieber again 9-2 in the finals of the Senior Nationals/OTT qualifier in December. The three-time All American for Illinois also placed second at the Intercontinental Cup back in October.

Stieber has made huge jumps in freestyle since last year, beating 2014 world champion Soslan Ramonov at the Golden Grand Prix and going takedowns in a 10-8 loss with 2015 world champ Frank Chamizo at the Medved Prizes. His overseas performances have him ranked 13th in the world. The 2011 junior world silver medalist is the favorite of many fans to make the team, but will likely have to get through some guys he’s never beaten before. Keep an eye on his turns this weekend, Logan has done an excellent job of translating his folkstyle mat skills into freestyle exposures.

Another athlete bumping up to 65kg is Reece Humphrey (New York AC/Ohio RTC), a three-time world team member in his own right. Reece might be the best thrower in this bracket, as evidenced by his bomb against Aaron Pico (Titan Mercury WC) in December. Pico will attempt to translate his age level success (cadet and junior world championships) into senior level glory. These two should be the sixth and seventh seeds, respectively. Pico is ranked 16th in the world up at 70kg.

Kellen Russell (New York AC/Cliff Keen WC) is one of three athletes training in Michigan at this weight. He was the Open champ in 2013 but has yet to crack through and make a senior world team. Though he beat Frank Molinaro (Nittany Lion WC) at last year’s WTT, Molinaro has had the better qualifying season. It may not matter though, as these two appear headed for a first round clash as the eight and nine seeds.

Jason Chamberlain (Titan Mercury WC/NWTC) was one of the people to beat Russell at the Farrell back in November, but Chamberlain also has a loss to Jayson Ness (Minnesota Storm) from last year’s WTT, so it will be interesting to see which is drawn against a higher seed. It is unclear if 141-pound NCAA champ Dean Heil (Cowboy WC) will make an appearance, but it seems likely that Zain Retherford (Nittany Lion WC) will show up. Retherford has struggled in his UWW Junior battles with Pico, but is also a 2012 cadet world champ. Bernard Futrell (Titan Mercury WC/Cliff Keen WC) rounds out the qualifiers in what may be the most well known weight at this year’s Trials. He has split matches with his Cliff Keen teammate Russell this season.

66kg Greco-Roman
This weight is not yet qualified for the Olympics, and no one sits in the finals.
2015 World Team member – Bryce Saddoris (U.S. Marine Corps)
2015 Bill Farrell International silver medalist – Ellis Coleman (U.S. Army WCAP)
2015 Vantaa Cup bronze medalist – Brian Graham (Minnesota Storm)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier runner-up – Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier fourth place – Christopher Gonzalez (New York AC/NMU-OTS)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier fifth place – Alejandro Sancho, Miami, Fla. (New York AC/NMU-OTS)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier sixth place – Devin Scott, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm)
2016 Dave Schultz Memorial champion – RaVaughn Perkins (New York AC)
2016 Interservice champion – Michael Hooker (U.S. Army WCAP)
2016 Last Chance OTT Qualifier champion – Marco Lara (U.S. Army WCAP)

This is the only Greco weight that matches what it was for the last Olympics, however, it is now the second lightest weight instead of the third out of seven. The guy in London was Justin “Harry” Lester, who is now up at 75kg. He won WTT again in 2013, but was unable to compete due to injury, so runner-up Ellis Coleman was sent instead. Again in 2014 the winner of WTT did not go to worlds, as Trials champ RaVaughn Perkins (New York AC) was given a six month suspension after testing positive for Furosemide. Bryce Saddoris (U.S. Marine Corps) went in his place and was again the world team rep last year after winning WTT. Perkins qualified by winning the Dave Schultz but was unable to qualify the weight in Texas.

Saddoris sits atop the ladder for Iowa City, but his small bracket has perhaps the most parity of any weight. He was leading 4-0 in his repechage match at worlds, but wound up losing 5-4 in the round before the bronze medal match, so he did not qualify the weight for Rio. After fracturing his orbital bone at the World Military Games, Perkins was sent to Frisco to qualify the weight. Perkins was quickly teched 8-0, leaving 10 athletes a stiff test just to get the spot to go to Mongolia to qualify.

Ellis Coleman’s (U.S. Army WCAP) only loss this qualifying season to an American was 3-1 to Brian Graham (Minnesota Storm) at the Vantaa Cup, but given Graham’s other performance the “Flying Squirrel” was awarded the higher pre-seed. Coleman’s return to the mat the Farrell signified a healthier, stronger version of himself from the one we saw at the 2013 world championships.

Coming down from 71kg is Pat Smith (Minnesota Storm). Smith was the runner-up to Lester at the last two WTT at the higher non-Olympic weight, and it appears the weight cut has not affected his strength or technique at all. In the semis of the Senior Nationals, he beat Alejandro Sancho (New York AC/NMU-OTS) 5-2. Sancho was a surprise runner-up at this weight last year. Smith and Perkins may switch seeds, as Smith holds a 2-2 criteria win over Jair Cuero Munoz of Colombia from the Pan Am championships. Cuero Munoz teched Perkins 9-0 a week later at the qualifier.

Devin Scott, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm) is a bit of an unknown quantity here in this small bracket, and was assisted by Graham’s medical forfeit to get into the 5th/6th match at Senior Nationals. Michael Hooker (U.S. Army WCAP) dropped from 75kg at the Farrell, and continued to improve from 1-2 at Senior Nationals to fourth at the Schultz to winning the Armed Services Championship. Marco Lara (U.S. Army WCAP) battled his way through the last chance qualifier to round out the 10 qualifiers at this weight.

69kg Women’s Freestyle
This weight is not yet qualified for the Olympics, and no one sits in the finals.
Past World or Olympic Team member – Randi Miller (Titan Mercury WC)
Past World or Olympic Team member – Veronica Carlson (New York AC)
2015 Grand Prix of Spain silver medalist – Tamyra Mensah (Titan Mercury WC)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier third place – Forrest Molinari (Titan Mercury WC)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier third place at 75kg – Julia Salata (New York AC)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier fourth place – Rachel Watters (Gator/OKCU Women’s RTC)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier sixth place – Lisa Gonzalez (Lindenwood)
2015 Olympic Trials Qualifier seventh place – Brittany David (Lindenwood)
2016 Dave Schultz Memorial champion – Brittney Roberts (Sunkist Kids)
WCWA Nationals silver medalist at 155 – Jessika Rottier (Cumberlands)
2016 Last Chance OTT Qualifier champion – Lorrie Ramos (Titan Mercury WC)
2016 Last Chance OTT Qualifier runner-up – Hanna Gladden (EAWC)

This is one of the most intriguing and wide open weights at the Trials. The change from 67kg being a non-Olympic weight and 72kg being the Olympic weight to both 69kg and 75kg being an Olympic weight has created some openings at the women’s upperweights. There were only six athletes competing in 2014 at the first WTT since the change, but that was increased to 10 last year, and as many as 12 could show up this year.

With Adeline Gray holding down 75kg as the back-to-back world champ, and 2014 world silver medalist Elena Pirozhkova down at 63kg, expect to see some parity as girls try to center in here. Pirozhkova was unable to qualify the weight at worlds, so the finalists from the challenge tourney at last year’s Trials were given a wrestle-off for the Pan Am spot. Tamyra Mensah (Titan Mercury WC) won both of those matches, but was unable to make the finals in Texas. She was a WCWA champ for Wayland Baptist but is on an Olympic redshirt this year.

Mensah is the likely top seed and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Randi Miller (Titan Mercury WC) is your likely two seed after finishing second at the Senior Nationals. Third place there was Forrest Molinari (Titan Mercury WC), the 155-pound champ for King in the WCWA this year. Molinari was on the junior world team this year, but she will probably end up as the four seed because of her 2-0 loss to Julia Salata (New York AC) at the Farrell. Salata owns two wins over Mensah, but a series of injuries have kept her from breaking into the top two of Mensah and Miller for this season. Salata was the WTT runner-up at this weight in 2014 and has a win over 2013 world champ Alina Stadnyk at the Schultz last year.

Rachel Watters (Gator/OKCU Women’s RTC) is still in high school, so like Molinari she has a long career ahead of her at this weight. They had a 4-4 battle for third at Senior Nationals, but Watters took their match 10-4 at last year’s WTT. Keep an eye on these two as we move into the Tokyo 2020 quad.

Lisa Gonzalez (Lindenwood) was able to place at Senior Nationals but not at WCWA, so it will be interesting to see how she looks this weekend after placing fifth at Universities. Molinari beat Last Chance qualifier champ Lorrie Ramos (Titan Mercury WC) for third at University. Ramos beat Hanna Gladden (EAWC) at both events. Ramos was on the 2013 junior world team, and like many of her male counterparts, hopes to make her Olympic dreams come true while actively coaching in college.

A darkhorse here is Dave Schultz champ Brittney Roberts (Sunkist Kids), who when fully healthy has shown she can hang with the best in this weight class. WCWA runner-up Jessika Rottier (Cumberlands) continues her transition from junior to senior, but still may hope to make the younger team at Body Bar later this year after placing third last year. Rottier was not at the Open or Trials last year, but placed third at this year’s Schultz. There are rumors she may end up moving to 75kg for the Trials, which is where she competed at the University Nationals.

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