Lincoln, Nebraska will be home to 2017 U.S. World Team Trials in Freestyle Wrestling. This year the combatants at each weight will be looking to punch their tickets to the 2017 UWW World Championships, held in Paris, France from August 21st through August 26th.
Who will be the unlikely hero's of this weekend and knock off the favorites in each weight class? Who will answer the call much like Frank Molinaro did last season?
The Favorite: World #16 Tony Ramos
Love him or hate him, Tony Ramos is looking to make a run at another World Team after losing his spot to former teammate Daniel Dennis at last year's Olympic Trials After setting up camp at North Carolina, Tony seems to be focused and ready to shake up things on the world stage at 57kg. When it comes to experience at the World Level, Tony holds all the cards in this weight for the United States. Other guys in this weight that can make some noise are Tyler Graff, Nathan Tomasello, and Nahshon Garrett.
The Dark Horse: Thomas Gilman
Legend has it, if you go out at night, and you listen very carefully; you can hear the distant call "Gilman is better than Ramos."
I truly believe in my heart that Thomas Gilman can make a run through the challenge bracket this weekend. Gilman has shown he can beat several of these guys already. But can he make a run through the challenge tournament and win the best 2 of 3? Probably not.
Who's not showing up?: Daniel Dennis
He "isn't retired", but hasn't stepped on the mat since the Olympics.
Final Prediction: Tony Ramos over Nahshon Garrett (2 matches to 1)
The Favorite: World #4 Logan Stieber
Logan Stieber won Gold at the 2016 World Championships, and is looking to repeat that feat in Paris. Logan awaits the winner of the challenge tournament in the best of 3 final series. As far as a challenge tournament favorite, this bracket is wide open. At the top of the hill sits the king, and Stieber won't be dethroned until he chooses to step down.
The Dark Horse: Seth Gross
Gross was 5th at the U.S. Open back in April in a loaded field. Gross has himself around a great training environment that has seen him grow exponentially. Gross has the skill set that can help him pull a few upsets and maybe make a run to meet up with the defending World Champion Logan Stieber.
Who's not showing up?: Cory Clark
The 2017 NCAA Champion at 133 pounds has been dealing with a shoulder injury that he courageously overcame to win top prize this past collegiate season. It wouldn't surprise me to see Cory sit this one out and come back strong in the fall/winter, that is if he chooses to come back at all.
Final Prediction: Logan Stieber over Kendric Maple (2 matches to 0)
The Favorite: World #10 Jordan Oliver
Is Jordan Oliver finally hitting his stride? The former Oklahoma State Cowboy looks to be doing just that with his most recent performances. Oliver won the U.S. Open over 2016 Olympian and current world # 11 Frank Molinaro, and had a shockingly close match with 2015 World Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist Frank Chamizo at the Beat the Streets event in New York City. I look for Oliver to have an all time great series with Molinaro for the world team spot.
The Dark Horse: B.J. Futrell
Now training out of the Penn RTC, Futrell seems to keep getting better and growing with each outing. Futrell has a handful of international success, including a sliver medal at the 2014 University World Championships and a gold at the Bill Farrell this past fall. Look for B.J. to make some noise this weekend at 65 or 61 kilos.
Who's not showing up?:
Everyone that is qualified for the trials, as of right now looks to be in. Hooray for participants!
Final Prediction: Jordan Oliver over Frank Molinaro (2 matches to 1)
The Favorite: World #4 James Green
Folks, 2015 World Bronze Medalist, James Green isn't "Jordan Burroughs Lite", as some people might say. What he is, is a man on a mission for a world title. After last year's disappointment at the World Championships, Green is looking cement himself as one of the best U.S. wrestlers ever by bringing home the Gold from France. He will not go unchallenged in his quest. Jason Nolf, Nazar Kulchytskyy, Dylan Ness, and more will look to shake up the current 70kg establishment.
The Dark Horse: Dylan Ness
We've all seen it, guys thinking they had Dylan Ness right where they wanted him, and it turns out they fell into a trap. Ness is so dangerous from every position, he could probably pin you from here to the moon if you gave him the chance. Ness is worth the price of admission as long as you understand one thing, he will either put on a show or go 0-2.
Who's not showing up?:
At this moment in time, it seems like all the qualifiers will be there to try and knock off the man they call "Greezy".
Final Prediction: James Green over Jason Nolf (2 matches to 0)
The Favorites:World #1 Jordan Burroughs and World #8 Kyle Dake
This weight class is really about two wrestlers, Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Dake. Dake comes into the trials ranked #8 in the world by Seth Petarra. We've seen some epic clashes by these two over the last several years. Dake has been a consistant number 2 in this weight behind Jordan, but Dake feels like it is his time to step up and win gold medals for the United States. The battle in the best of 3 series will be a chess match through and through, with the winner moving on to possibly standing on top of the world in August.
The Dark Horse: World #14 Alex Dieringer
I'm sure you are reading this and asking yourself "How the hell can a guy that is ranked 14th in the world be a dark horse?" Well the answer is simple, Burroughs and Dake are the next level. Sure Dieringer had a good match and kept it close with Dake at the U.S. Open, but can lighting strike twice? If Dieringer can keep it close and have a shot to knock off Dake, it could change the landscape at 74 kilos next season.
Who's Not Showing Up?: Vincenzo Joseph and Mark Hall (well kinda)
Vincenzo Joseph isn't likely to head to Lincoln to challenge for a World Team spot. Making the senior team just probably isn't a priority just yet for the young Nittany Lion. If he shows up this weekend, I'll be surprised. His teammate and fellow NCAA Champion Mark Hall will be on the Junior side of things this weekend instead of in the senior tournament. Hall is the defending Junior World Champion.
Final Prediction: Jordan Burroughs over Kyle Dake (2 matches to 1)
The Favorites: World #1 David Taylor and World #4 J'Den Cox
Oh, momma! We are gonna be in for a treat Saturday night. We get to watch the super match between David Taylor and J'Den Cox. I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around it. Sure you could say "Well Taylor has to make through the challenge tournament." And you'd be correct. But in the wrestling business, we all know one fact, there are levels to this thing, and these two are on the highest level. David Taylor comes in with wins over several Olympic Champions at the World cup, and J'Den Cox will come to Lincoln and sit during the challenge tournament with his Olympic Bronze. Whoever wins, will be a favorite to medal in Paris.
The Dark Horse: Pat Downey III
We all laughed during the college season when Downey said he'd beat Gabe Dean. When he kept his word at the U.S. Open, not only did it shut a lot of people up, but it proved Downey can hang with the best this country has to offer. If Pat comes in shape and ready to go, he could be standing across from Taylor in the challenge tournament final. Another guy to watch? Greco star Joe Rau, he just might head pinch his way into contention.
Who's Not Showing Up?:
This is another weight class that looks to have all its qualifiers there on match day. Let's see if that changes before Saturday.
Final Prediction: J'Den Cox over David Taylor (2 matches to 1)
The Favorite: World #2 Kyle Snyder
Kyle Snyder is the best wrestler in the United States and is looking to make the case for pound for pound number one this summer. Snyder comes into the trials as the defending World and Olympic Champion at 97kg. Despite a few bumps in the road along the way, he has always shown up in big matches on the big stage. Kyle won't be tested at the World Team Trials.
The Dark Horse: Kyven Gadson
Gadson has done it before. He pinned Snyder at the 2015 NCAA tournament before Kyle went on his gold run. After testing the freestyle waters the last couple of years, Gadson looks to make some noise as a threat to Snyder's throne. Gadson comes in as the U.S. Open Champion after a win over Micah Burak, but will still have to go through the challenge tournament since Synder won a medal in Rio. Gadson could make things interesting for a minute or so, but Snyder's pace will be too much.
Who's not Showing Up?:
It's nice to think that all the qualifiers will be here for this many weights. It truly makes these tournaments fun.
Final Prediction: Kyle Snyder over Kyven Gadson (2 matches to 0)
The Favorite: World #17 Nick Gwiazdowski
We all saw it coming, after a dominant run at the collegiate level, Nick Gwizdowski is taking the heavyweight mantle from here on out. Gwiazdowski won his first U.S. Open over 2015 World Team Member Zach Rey in April and put himself in great position to represent the United States in France for the World Championships. Gwiazdowski will have to likely beat Rey two more times Saturday to make sure that happens.
The Dark Horse: Bobby Telford
This All American Hawkeye has had success at the international level, including a 5th place finish at the prestigious Ivan Yarygin in 2016. This tournament could be the coming out party he's been waiting on.
Who's Not Showing Up? Tervel Dlagnev
Tervel was the mainstay for the United States for two quads. With his retirement, one of these big men will have big shoes to fill.
Final Prediction: Nick Gwiazdowski over Zach Rey (2 matches to 0)
Final Note: Thanks to Seth Petarra for these awesome international rankings. Seth really does work his butt off!