The first seven world team spots will be up for grabs in Lincoln on the campus arena of Nebraska University on June 9th. In three consecutive weeks, the twenty men & women freestyle representatives will be determined. The ten greco-roman will be determined on June 21-22 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The slate of matches features seven representatives from Team USA's 2017 team at the world championships and only one of their opponents has world championship experience. Six of the seven returners earned medals in Paris at the 2017 World Championships. While many people expect the returners to hold serve in this first phase, it won't be without intriguing challenges.
Daton Fix stayed in redshirt this season at Oklahoma State as they had a solid incumbent, It appears convincing Fix to hold back from anything may be a large challenge. Fix is a scoring machine that also has an amazing ability to scramble out of danger, even in Freestyle where exposing your back gives up points. Thomas Gilman is a returning world silver medalist and certainly doesn't have plans on abdicating his spot. Gilman's 2-2 World Cup performance came from losses to the returning world champion and Azerbaijan's Edisherashvili who won the 2018 European Championships. There shouldn't be any drop-off from Gilman's incredible 2017 run and Fix will have to earn this spot. Gilman is a long 57 kg so it'll be interesting to see if Fix can get to his openings like he has been getting to this summer on the rest of the field.
The king, Jordan Burroughs, looks to defend another World Championship but once again faces a tough domestic challenger. Isaiah Martinez finished his collegiate career this spring with two NCAA Championships, four finals appearances, and just three defeats in his whole career. The high-powered IMar likes to work from tie-ups while Burroughs likes to work from space making the early tactics in each match fun to dissect.
The rest of the matches look like very heavy favorites if betting lines were created, but it is always fun to see the stars perform.
The women's slate features Jenna Burkert, who was our representative at the 2014 World Championships, but fell to Japan in the first round. Her opponent, Alli Ragan, has brought home medals from the last two World Championships including a silver last summer. If there was a shock, it might be Jacarra Winchester. She is coming off some injuries that kept her out of the Olympic Trials, but has had an impressive 2018 with the US Open title and a gold medal in Ukraine. Tamyra Stock looks to head back to the championships this year after a quarterfinal defeat last year. She faces Army WCAP's Randyll Beltz, who fell to Stock 10-0 in the US Open finals.
Rounding out the men's matches, Kyven Gadson looked incredible at the trials including an eye-opening dominant win over Ty Walz. Gadson famously stopped Kyle Snyder's freshman season with a throw and pin, but Snyder has been ready on the freestyle scene ever since. Jason Chamberlain was able to hold off Frank Molinaro's attempt at moving up weights and the phenom Hayden Hidlay at the US Open. James Green has held down 70 kg for USA for three straight years, taking home medals twice.
For what it's worth, I don't predict the returners to fall despite some capable competition. My UWW suggestion to let the four countries who medal (at each weight) in the previous year to bring a second competitor would be a lot of fun in these cases, but sadly I don't run UWW yet.
Lincoln, Neb., June 9
57 kg: Thomas Gilman vs. Daton Fix
70 kg: James Green vs. Jason Chamberlain
74 kg: Jordan Burroughs vs. Isaiah Martinez
97 kg: Kyle Snyder vs. Kyven Gadson
55 kg: Becka Leathers vs. Jacarra Winchester
59 kg: Alli Ragan vs. Jenna Burkert
68 kg: Tamyra Stock vs. Randyll Beltz
State College, Pa., June 16
65 kg: Joey McKenna vs. Logan Stieber
79 kg: Kyle Dake vs. Zahid Valencia
86 kg: David Taylor vs. Nick Reenan
62 kg: Kayla Miracle vs. Mallory Velte
72 kg: Erin Clodgo vs. Rachel Watters
76 kg: Adeline Gray vs. Korinahe Bullock
Bethlehem, Pa., June 23
61 kg: Joe Colon vs. Nahshon Garrett
92 kg: J'den Cox vs. Hayden Zillmer
125 kg: Nick Gwiazdowski vs. Adam Coon
50 kg: Whitney Conder vs. Victoria Anthony
53 kg: Sarah Hildebrandt vs. Haley Augello
57 kg: Helen Maroulis vs. Alex Hedrick
65 kg: Julia Salata vs. Forrest Molinari