PHOENIX, Ariz. - 2008 Olympic freestyle wrestler Ben Askren (Tempe, Ariz./Sunkist Kids) defeated 2008 Grappling World champion Jacob Volkmann (White Bear Lake, Minn./MMMA) for the 84 kg/185 lbs. title at the U.S. Grappling World Team Trials in No-Gi Grappling on Friday.
Askren scored two one-point takedowns and a four-point back mount to shut down Volkmann.
It was the first meeting between the two in any style. Askren was a two-time NCAA champion and four-time finalist for Missouri, while Volkmann was a three-time All-American for Minnesota, but they competed at different weight divisions.
"I am going to the World Championships. I'm going to try to win. We will see what happens. My Grappling has become a lot better in the last year," said Askren.
Volkmann, an All-American wrestler for the Univ. of Minnesota, returned to repeat as a Grappling World Team Trials champion. The weight classes are different this year, as Volkmann won his World title last year at 80 kg/176 lbs. Volkmann is currently also competing in Mixed Martial Arts.
Askren, who took a year off from wrestling last year to compete in Mixed Martial Arts, is entering his first USA Grappling event. He has experience in Grappling, competing in the Abu Dhabi Championships earlier this year. Askren announced that he will also compete in freestyle wrestling in Sunday's Sunkist Kids International Open.
The U.S. Grappling World Team Trials is the qualifying event for the U.S. team which will compete at the FILA Grappling World Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., December 11-13.
The champions in each weight class will receive funding to compete for the U.S. team at the World Championships. Three athletes in each weight class will compete at the World Championships, with the second and third competitors having the self-fund their trip. A fourth athlete may be selected for the U.S. team through a petition process.
Only one member of the 2008 U.S. Grappling Team which captured the team title at the World Championships in Switzerland won a gold medal in the men's division, Tom LeCuyer (Plano, Ill./Atlas XT/Torres MA) at 66 kg/145.5 lbs.
LeCuyer, who won a bronze medal at the Grappling World Championships in No-Gi last year, defeated talented Dennis Prokopos (Milbrae, Calif./10th Planet Jiu Jitsu), 1-0 in a very competitive battle. LeCuyer gained the only point on a takedown.
Scoring a three-point technique in the closing seconds to break a 3-3 tie for the victory at 60 kg/132 lbs. was Zachary Makovsky (Philadelphia, Pa./Philadelphia Fight Factory), who beat Matt Kucala (Frankfort, Ill./Gilbert Grappling), 6-3.
Other individual champions in the men's division were Alex Pacheco, Mesa, Ariz. (American Top Team) at 74 kg/163 lbs., Ryan Gillespie (San Diego, Calif./Takedown Elite) at 96 kg/211.5 lbs., Kelly Anundson (Columbia, S.C./Black Knight WC) at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. and Mario Rinaldi (Port St. Lucia, Fla./American Top Team) at Open (Absolute)
All seven individual champions in the men's division had a wrestling background. Six of them were college wrestlers: Makovsky (Drexel), LeCuyer (Northern Illinois), Askren (Missouri), Gillespie (Portland State), Anundson (Newberry) and Rinaldi (Delaware State). The other champion, Pacheco, was an Arizona high school state champion in wrestling, but did not wrestle when he attended Arizona State.
The most competitive weight class in the women's division was 63 kg/138.75 lbs. There was a four-athlete roundrobin, with three of the competitors finishing with a 3-1 record.
Winning the weight class based on scoring the most classification points was Shayna Baszler (Sioux Falls, S.D./CSW/Next Edge), who had two submissions during the tournament. Placing second was Miesha Tate (Tacoma, Wash./Victory Athletics) and third was 2004 Olympic silver medalist freestyle wrestler Sara McMann (Gaffney, S.C./Sunkist Kids).
Tate defeated Baszler in their bout, then Baszler beat McMann by submission. In the final round of matches, McMann edged Tate, forcing the division to be determined by tie-breaking criterion.
Baszler placed third at the 2007 Grappling World Team Trials, her last event with USA Grappling. Tate won a silver medal at the 2008 Grappling World Championship. McMann was competing in her first Grappling event.
Capturing the 55 kg/121 lbs. division was 2001 World freestyle wrestling silver medalist Stephanie Murata (Minden, Nev./Sunkist Kids), who was competing in her first Grappling event. Murata scored a pair of submission wins in a three-athlete roundrobin.
Capturing a gold at 50 kg/110 lbs. during the first session was Felicia Oh (Big John McCarthy's Ultimate Training Academy) won in two straight matches over Lisa Ward (Victory Athletics). Oh won the first match, 9-8, and won the second match, 3-0. Ward won a gold medal and Oh won a silver medal at the World Championships last year at different weight classes.
Other individual women champions who were uncontested were Tara LaRosa (Woodstown, N.J./Philadelphia Fight Factory) at 59 kg/130 lbs. and Tori Adams (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) at 67 kg/147 lbs.
Competition on Saturday will include Gi Grappling for both men and women. Also on the mats will be the Sunkist Kids International Open competition for Greco-Roman and women's freestyle. The Sunkist International concludes on Sunday with men's freestyle.