After repeatedly flirting with a spot on the Greco national team over the past several years, Gopher alum Pat Smith broke through this weekend in Las Vegas, winning the 71-kilogram title to earn a spot on the American team for the 2017 World Championships, which will be contested in Paris this August.
For the second straight year, Smith reached the best-of-three championship series to decide the spot on the national team for Worlds. Unlike in freestyle, where this year’s U.S. Open was a qualifier for World Team Trials, this year’s Open doubled as the trials for Greco, so Smith (and his competitors) knew the stakes were high heading into Vegas.
Smith’s first match provided more scoring than his next three matches combined as Smith showed more firepower than Colin Schubert to win, 12-7. Smith won his next bout, 6-0, to earn his place in the best-of-three finals. Unlike last year, Smith was in control throughout, picking up a 4-1 win over Christopher Gonzalez in the first match before coming back with a 6-0 win to seal his spot on the Team USA.
Smith was joined by Minnesota alums Brad Dolezal (71 kilograms) and Alec Ortiz (75 kilograms) wrestling Greco in Las Vegas. Ortiz found himself in the middle of what may have been the toughest Greco weight in the tournament. A 3-3 loss on criteria in his opening-round match sent Ortiz to wrestlebacks. He worked his way through the consolation bracket to earn a spot in the seventh-place match, where he defeated Michael Hooker, 8-0. Dolezal, meanwhile, was eliminated in the consolation bracket in a tough, 10-9 defeat to Alex Mossing.
Though not a world team trials event on the freestyle side, the U.S. Open still featured several Gopher alums looking to better position themselves for a spot on the national freestyle team.