USA qualified at 125 kg in freestyle when Tervel Dlagnev won the Pan Am Qualifier in Frisco, Texas. He then won the Olympic Trials in Iowa by defeating Connor Medbery 10-0, Dom Bradley 5-1, and Zach Rey 3-1 & 5-3. We needed to qualify the weight at Frisco because Zach Rey did not fare well at the World Championships filling in for Tervel because of injury, but things looked up. Dlagnev was back and the 2-time World medalist was looking to win a medal in his second trip to the Olympic Games and 6th time on the National Team.
That excitement (to a degree) quickly vanished when Tervel said in his post-match interview he wasn't planning on wrestling days before. A back injury had him thinking he was all but done, a thought process he later chronicled on Bonus Points (podcast with Richard Immel). So it wasn't all that surprising when Dlagnev wasn't at the World Cup this weekend for reasons that could be simply precautionary.
The Olympic Trials ended with Zach Rey in 2nd so when Varner went out on the mat for the first three World Cup matches I assumed Rey was injured. Rey then appeared in the final match which really made me wonder what's going on. Is Varner beating up Rey in simulation matches? Is Dlagnev at the Olympics in some serious jeopardy causing USA Wrestling to shuffle behind the scenes?
So who goes in the spot? There are a few options to explore.
- Like I mentioned before, Varner appearing in front of Rey has to mean Varner is beating him up. Rey filled in for Dlagnev at the 2015 World's and lost his first match and was not pulled in to repechage. Zach Rey has never been a huge point scorer, and cumulative scoring these days doesn't seem to favor him. However, he did take 2nd at the Trials pulling out the late win over Gwiazdowski.
- The 2012 Olympic Gold medalist has a big, long frame. There is limited time to pack on weight (rare for wrestlers to have such a problem or gift), but his strength and reach makes him being competitive up with the heavies not a far fetched idea.
- Bradley can fill out the weight class and has had some wins internationally. I can't imagine Bradley would get many people excited if that announcement came out, but he did finish 3rd at the Trials.
- The 2-time NCAA Champ qualified for the Trials when he won the NYAC (Bill Farrell) in November. His 88-match win streak was broken in one of the greatest college heavyweight matches of all time. He took 4th at the Trials losing a heartbreaking late loss to Zach Rey and then a 2-2 criteria loss to Bradley. He did beat Bradley in the NYAC finals. Gwiz's potential is very high as the talented heavyweight is able to move incredibly well compared to everyone else his size. Wrestling fans would probably support this pick to see what he can do in cumulative scoring.
- Coon had a better chance at Greco than Freestyle, so he went that route at the Olympic Trials losing in the finals to Robby Smith. The 21-year old giant keeps improving and if there is a mini wrestle-off Coon should be involved.
- Mocco is just 34. He was our 2008 Olympian and he certainly has the size. From what I gather he is in Florida training MMA but hasn't fought in over a year. Would Mocco accept if you offered him a spot in a 4-man mini wrestle-off for the spot?