The drama of the Olympic Trials is pretty straight forward to understand. Olympic dreams on the line for the pinnacle of our sport are in Iowa City. However, in every great tournament there are a lot of fun subplots. Let's take a look.
1) Possibly Bitter Iowa Fans
- Iowa fans showed up to the 2012 Olympic Trials to only see Brent Metcalf lose 2-2 in the 3rd period to Jared Frayer. The confusing and boring wrestling induced old rules are out and cumulative scoring will help the action. Brent Metcalf has held down the spot since that loss to Frayer, but he hasn't had international success. The Iowa fans that will be there will be rooting hard for Metcalf and fellow #1 seed Tony Ramos, who has yet to lose a match inside Carver-Hawkeye. These fans will ravenously cheer on their Hawkeyes, even if they aren't necessarily fans of freestyle. One interesting moment will be if Ramos and Daniel Dennis will face each other which could create a quiet atmosphere similar to when to high school teammates meet for 3rd place at a tournament.
2) Kyle Dake vs David Taylor "Rivalry"
- I put rivalry in quotations because it's not much of a rivalry when one has zero wins against the other. The dominance of Kyle Dake in this matchup should have fans convinced he is the superior wrestler, but health questions always loom with Dake with the past couple years despite the US Open performance. Also, many fans remember the incredible match Taylor had with Jordan Burroughs in the 2014 US Open final. We know David Taylor has the talent, and maybe he finally breaks through at this most important moment.
Always worth a watch:
3) 2016 NCAA Heavyweights
- We know Kyle Snyder is the favorite to defend his 97 kg spot as any returning World Champion would expect to be. Runner-up Nick Gwiazdowski may be the guy to step up to the Olympic Team with mainstay Tervel Dlagnev's health in question. Also, since losing to Robby Smith at the 2015 Trials, 3rd place finisher Adam Coon has not wrestled a full match in Greco-Roman. Gwiz & Coon seemed to improve this year with the presence of Snyder, Walz, and more. They could unleash this prowess on the senior field this weekend and the collegiate bracket has the possibility of sending three to Rio.
4) Jake Varner
- Speaking of Snyder, isn't it odd our country has a guy looking to defend his Olympic Gold Medal that no one is really talking about? Without sugar coating it, Varner looked disinterested in the 2015 Trials. Maybe there was an injury or he wasn't ready for the challenge Snyder posed. It'll be interesting to see early on Sunday morning how Varner looks, because the talent of the bracket will force him to have to be on his game for the right to unseat Snyder on Sunday night.
5) Only 4 in the Seat
- This year's qualifications have returning world medalists (in their weight) as those who get to sit out until the best 2 of 3 finals for the Olympic Spot. Those people are Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Snyder, Adeline Gray, and Andy Bisek. This means several favorites are having to navigate their way through some very tough brackets leaving upsets to show up in random places throughout the weekend. Logic tells you a star or two will get knocked off shockingly early.
6) Health of #1's
- The health issues of some number ones makes these Trials even more difficult to predict than usual. Jake Herbert's surgically repaired shoulder seemed to slow him down at World's last summer. A healthy Herbert would have a tough time with this loaded bracket so Herbert's health will be something to keep an eye on as he tries to navigate a tough field. A healthy Tervel Dlagnev would be one of the strongest favorites in any weight weight class, but we haven't seen him against top competition in a long time. This is a qualified weight so maybe we see some Olympic dreams get cashed from Zach Rey, Nick Gwiazdowski, or even a real surprise like Tyrell Fortune or Bobby Telford (in front of the home crowd).
7) Always a Surprise
- Did anyone have James Green winning the spot last year AND winning a bronze medal at Worlds? Probably not. In 2012, Helen Maroulis was expected to make the Olympic team in 2012 and continue to make her rise to stardom but Kelsey Campbell had different plans. Hell, Charles Burton in 2000 practically came out of nowhere. There's always a surprise somewhere and it'll be an awesome sight when it happens this weekend.