Gavin Herbert among 7 Olympic Trials qualifiers with victories at University Freestyle Nationals

By Gary Abbott | April 14, 2008, 11:37 a.m. (ET)
AKRON, OHIO - A pair of recent NCAA Div. I champions were among the athletes who qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials by winning Olympic weight classes at the University National Freestyle Championships, which concluded Sunday at the Univ. of Akron.

2008 NCAA champion Keith Gavin from the Univ. of Pittsburgh and 2007 NCAA champion Jake Herbert from Northwestern Univ. captured gold medals in their weight classes and earned a spot in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling in Las Vegas, Nev., June 13-15.

Gavin captured the title at 74 kg/163 lbs., defeating Michael Chaires of the Cavalier WC in the finals, 6-0, 3-0.

In the semifinals, Gavin had a very close battle with 2008 NCAA runner-up Mike Poeta of Illinois, winning 1-1, 5-4, 2-0. Gavin lost the first period and was dead-even with Poeta in the second period before he was able to get his offense going.

"I was excited to wrestle him," said Gavin about his win over Poeta. "He has a style that gives me trouble. He is fast and he has a good shot. I made some mistakes in the match. It was definitely a good test for me."

Gavin will train for a week with coach Sean Bormet at the Overtime Wrestling School in Illinois, then finalize his preparation back at Pitt before going to the U.S. National Championships in Las Vegas, April 25-26. He is satisfied with his transition to freestyle, after a full season of collegiate wrestling.

"I am really glad I wrestled this tournament," said Gavin. "It gets me in that freestyle mode. I feel strong at this weight class. I feel that this is my weight."

Herbert was named Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament after capturing the 84 kg/185 lbs. weight class. He stopped David Bertolino of the Cyclone WC in the finals, 2-0, 1-0. Bertolino was an All-American for Iowa State this year.

Herbert had three victories during the day. Herbert had a difficult draw on Saturday, including a close victory which went three periods against Matt Pell of the Cavalier WC in the second round.

"I wrestled a lot better today than yesterday," said Herbert. "I was nervous yesterday with the draw I had. I was wrestling more not to lose. Today, I had Bertolino, who is very strong and had me scouted well. I picked and chose my shots well."

Herbert has taken an Olympic redshirt year from college and has been competing in many international events. He wanted one more tournament before the U.S. Nationals, and was satisfied with the outcome.

"I got in a good test, wrestled good matches and know what my strengths and weaknesses are," said Herbert. "I also got my qualification for the Olympic Trials. It now doesn't matter what I do at the U.S. Nationals if I win the Olympic Trials. That is what I have been working so hard for."

All seven of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials qualification berths were won by athletes who are college students. The University division is for athletes who are between 18-24 years old and their class has graduated from high school.

The fastest of the finals occurred at 96 kg/211.5 lbs., when Brent Jones of the Cavalier WC pinned Eddie Phillips of Cliff Keen in just 21 seconds. Jones, a sophomore at the Univ. of Virginia, defeated returning University Nationals champion Mike Tamillow of the Wildcat WC in the semifinals, 3-0, 6-0.

Tervel Dlagnev of the Sunkist Kids, the NCAA Div. II national champion for Nebraska-Kearney, captured the 120 kg/264.5 lbs. division with a victory over Aaron Anspach of Penn State, 1-0, 7-0.

"That guy in the finals was tough. He made me wrestle," said Dlagnev. "I had a lot of tough competition here. It will help me get ready for the U.S. Nationals. It is fun to wrestle freestyle."

Brad Pataky of Penn State, who is taking a redshirt year to pursue the Olympics, won the 55 kg/121 lbs. division with a tight 3-1, 0-3, 3-1 win over Zach Sanders of the Minnesota Storm. Pataky scored three points on a front headlock turn in the final period for the victory. He recently won the Northeast Olympic Regional Trials in Brockport, N.Y., so he has now won two Olympic Trials qualifying events.

The other two champions who earned Olympic Trials qualification were considered surprises, Daniel Dennis of Iowa at 60 kg/132 lbs. and Nathaniel Holt of the Chippewa WC at 145.5 lbs.

Dennis, a sophomore for the Univ. of Iowa, stopped Franklin Gomez of the Michigan WC in the championship finals, 3-0, 3-0. Gomez was third at the 2008 NCAA Championships for Michigan State. Dennis won the first period with a three-point throw with one second left on the clock, and took down Gomez and turned him in the second period. Gomez defeated Iowa's Alex Tsirtsis in the semifinals, 4-1, 0-1, 3-1. Tsirtsis finished third.

Holt, a redshirt freshman at Central Michigan Univ., upset 2007 NCAA runner-up Ryan Lang of the Wildcat WC in the finals, 5-1, 3-1. Holt was able to score exposure points on Lang in both periods.

The University Nationals includes three additional weight classes which are not qualifiers for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

Winning the University Nationals for the second straight year was Mike Galante of the New York AC, who stopped Chris Heinrich of the Cavalier WC in the finals, 6-1, 2-0. Galante competes for Lehigh Univ.

"This is an awesome tournament," said Galante. "I enjoy coming here to compete. There are so many good competitors here. It is a lot of fun and very relaxed."

The other individual champions were Reece Humphrey of Ohio State at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. and Tyler Safratowich of Minnesota Storm at 70 kg/154.25 lbs.

Humphrey stopped Eric Albright of the Free Fall WC, 3-0, 6-0 in the finals. Safratowich, who competes for the Univ. of Minnesota, beat Joel Ahearn of the Naval Academy WC in the finals, 3-0, 1-0.

The University Nationals also serves as a qualifying event for the 2008 University World Team Trials in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 23-24. The University World Championships will be held in Greece in July.

At Akron, Ohio, April 13

55 kg/121 lbs
1st - Brad Pataky (Penn State) dec. Zach Sanders (Minnesota Storm), 3-1, 0-3, 3-1
3rd - Obenson Blanc (NYAC) dec. Michael Martinez (Cowboy WC), 2-0, 1-1
5th - Tony Mustari (Northern Colorado) dec. Ross Gitiomer (Cavalier WC), 1-0, 0-1, 2-0
7th - Matthew Steintrager (unattached) dec. Demetrius Johnson (unattached), 2-0,4-2

60 kg/132.25 lbs
1st - Daniel Dennis (Iowa) dec. Franklin Gomez (Michigan WC), 3-0, 3-0
3rd - Alex Tsirtsis (Iowa) tech. fall T.J. Schavrien (Sunkist Kids), 7-0, 7-0
5th - Matthew Fisk (LVAC) inj. dft. over Danny Mitcheff (Golden Pride)
7th - Andrew Hochstrasser (Bronco WC) dec. Jimmy Conroy (Pittsburgh), 3-2, 2-4, 6-0

63 kg/138.75 lbs
1st - Reece Humphrey (Ohio State) dec. Eric Albright (Free Fall WC), 3-0, 6-0
3rd - Willie Saxton (Sunkist Kids) dec. Mike Thorn (Minnesota Storm), 1-7, 3-2, 2-1
5th - Zack Bailey (Underdog WC) dec. Colby Pisani (Penn State), 3-0, 4-3
7th - Bryan Osuna (Do Work) dec. Micah Carter (Michigan WC), 6-0, 0-7, 3-0

66 kg/145.5 lbs
1st - Nathaniel Holt (Chippewa WC) dec. Ryan Lang (Wildcat WC), 5-1, 3-1
3rd - Alex Krom (College Park WC) dec. Bryce Saddoris (Naval Academy WC), 1-0, 2-0
5th - Chris Diaz (Valley WC) inj. dft. over Aaron Martin (Chattanooga) (Inj.)
7th - Chris Bencivenga (Y.E.S Greensboro) dec. over Kelly Felix (Chattanooga), 1-0, 7-1

70 kg/154.25 lbs
1st - Tyler Safratowich (Minnesota Storm) dec. Joel Ahern (Naval Academy WC), 3-0, 1-0)
3rd - Matt Ballweg (Iowa) dec. Danny Gonsor (Cavalier WC), 4-2, 4-1
5th - PJ Gillespie (NYC) inj. dft. over Jonathan Bonilla-Bowman (NYAC)
7th - Trevor Chinn (LVAC) dec. Brooks Kopsa (Iowa), 3-0, 9-1

74 kg/163 lbs
1st - Keith Gavin (Pittsburgh) dec. Michael Chaires (Cavalier WC), 6-0, 3-0
3rd - Lloyd Rogers (Chattanooga) dec. Aaron Janssen (Iowa), 3-4, 3-0, 3-0
5th - Jake Kerr (Iowa) inj. dft. over Mike Poeta (Illinois)
7th - Seth Garvin (Chattanooga) inj. dfr. over Mike Miller (unattached)

79 kg/ 174 lbs.
1st - Mike Galante (NYAC) dec. Chris Henrich (Cavalier WC), 6-1, 2-0
3rd - Mark Friend (Penn State) dec. Ross Taplin (Maverick WC), 7-3, 1-0
5th - Mike Benefiel (Wildcat WC) dec. Ben Friedl (Illinois), 3-3, 4-0, 1-0
7th - Dave Rella (Penn State) tech fall Stephen Crozier (Falcon WC), 7-0, 6-0

84 kg/185 lbs
1st - Jake Herbert (Wildcat WC) dec. Dave Bertolino (Cyclone WC), 2-0, 1-0
3rd - Raymond Jordan (Sunkist Kids) dec. Micky Moran (Buffalo), 2-0, 6-0
5th - Dustin Kilgore (Golden Pride) dec. Dorian Henderson (Sunkist Kids), 2-0, 5-1
7th - Sonny Yohn (Minnesota Storm) dec. Andy Johnson (Sunkist Kids), 7-0, 3-2

96 kg/211.5 lbs
1st - Brent Jones (Cavalier WC) pin Eddie Phillips (Cliff Keen), 0:21
3rd - Mike Tamillow (Wildcat WC) dec. Jared Platt (NYAC), 0-6, 1-0, 1-0
5th - DJ Bruce (Valley WC) inj. dft. over Eric Flinchum (Unattached)
7th - Tim Samson (Bobcat WC) inj. dft. over Riley Orozco (Road Runner WC)

120 kg/ 264.5 lbs
1st - Tervel Dlagnev (Sunkist Kids) dec. Aaron Anspach (Penn State), 1-0, 7-0
3rd - Konrad Duziak (NYAC) dec. Justin Dobies (CWC), 4-0, 1-4, 1-0
5th - Dave Zabriskie (Cyclone WC) inj. dft. over Zach Sheaffer (Pittsburgh)
7th - Scott Steele (Naval Academy WC) dec. John Laboranti (Penn State), 1-0, 1-0

(for placement at University World Team Trials)

55 kg/121 lbs.
Zach Sanders (Minnesota Storm) won by forfeit over Obenson Blanc (NYAC)

63 kg/138.75 lbs.
Eric Albright (Free Fall WC) tech. fall Willie Saxton (Sunkist Kids), 7-0, 7-0

70 kg/154.25 lbs.
Joel Ahearn (Naval Academy WC) dec. Matt Ballweg (Iowa), 1-0, 3-1

74 kg/163 lbs.
Lloyd Rogers (Chattanooga) won by forfeit over Michael Chaires (Cavalier WC)

79 kg/174 lbs.
Mark Friend (Penn State) won by forfeit over Chris Henrich (Cavalier WC)

84 kg/185 lbs.
Dave Bertolino (Cyclone WC) dec. Raymond Jordan (Sunkist Kids), 1-1, 3-2

96 kg/211.5 lbs.
Mike Tamillow (Wildcat WC) won by forfeit over Eddie Phillips (Cliff Keen)

120 kg/264.5 lbs.
Konrad Duziak (NYAC) won by forfeit over Aaron Anspach (Penn State)