After six of the seven returning World Team members held serve in Lincoln, the 2nd stop on the summer barnstorming tour will be this Saturday in State College. It will have a significantly different flavor as only two of the twelve competitors was at the World Championships last year, and one of them is an underdog. While last week's slate had seven solid favorites, this card has some head-scratcher's.
Kyle Dake & David Taylor are the stories of this night. They are two of the most credentialed and most popular collegiate wrestlers in the last couple decades. They also were the first wave of wrestlers who really had significant social media buzz around them as well. The only issue is they have never made a world team. With Jordan Burroughs locking down the spot, and then both trying to bump up for the Olympics to only have 197 lb NCAA 3-time champion, J'Den Cox, come down to take the spot, it's been a talent log jam. Many believe this is finally the year and both are just two wins away.
Taylor is a strong favorite in his home gym over surprise trials winner, Nick Reenan (NC State). However, Kyle Dake faces a tough challenge against Zahid Valencia (Arizona State). Zahid only has one loss in college and that was a headgear pull call against Mark Hall in the 2017 semi-final. While two seasons of college is impressive, many figured Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State) to be the main challenge to Dake, but Zahid took both matches at the trials in dominant fashion. This should be fireworks between two guys who can attack from anywhere.
Ohio State is torn when the 65 kg final features two Buckeyes. Logan Stieber is up from 61 kg, where he appeared at the last two World Championships with one title. At 65 kg, it's been mixed results. An upset to Eierman (Missouri) at the US Open, caused Stieber to go the long way through the trials. Joey McKenna is a coming off a college season where he really was hot down the stretch. Outside of a riding time point in the semi-final, he controlled every match he was in rarely giving up a score of any kind. That continued into the spring with a dominant performance on the way to the US Open title. It's tough to know what to expect from this match. McKenna's build and defense may be too much for Stieber up at 65 kg, but Stieber is a scoring machine. The shared practice room always complicates things as well.
The women's side features a couple toss-up's as well. Erin Clodgo had to mount a comeback to beat the young Rachel Watters 6-5 in the US Open final. Watters, a member of the Bloodround nation, won the U23 spot earlier this year after an All-American finish up a couple weight classes for Oklahoma City. Clodgo is a 27-year old veteran of the circuit who competed at the 2015 World Championships. Mallory Velte was our world team member last year at 63 kg, but lost to Kayla Miracle in the US Open final 3-0. Miracle won her 4th WCWA title this season helping Campbellsville win their first ever team title. Miracle is a rising star looking to make her first world team, but Velte will be a tough challenge.
Adeline Gray is back and looking to head to add to her already legendary trophy shelf that includes three World Championships and two more medals. She has been active on the scene since this fall coming off surgery and only has one defeat in that time. Her opponent is a surprise. Kori Bullock took 8th in the WCWA championships in her first college season this year and then took 4th at the US Open. Things must have started to click because she then won the U23 trials and the World Team Trials earning her a spot this weekend. Her odds are long here, but it does give Gray a very unfamiliar opponent.
65kg: Joey McKenna vs. Logan Stieber
79kg: Kyle Dake vs. Zahid Valencia
86kg: David Taylor vs. Nick Reenan
62kg: Kayla Miracle vs. Mallory Velte
72kg: Erin Clodgo vs. Rachel Watters
76kg: Adeline Gray vs. Korinahe Bullock