By Doug Williams | March 03, 2016, 10:40 a.m. (ET)

(L-R) Tervel Dlagnev wrestles Komeil Ghasemi of Iran during the 2014 FILA Freestyle Wrestling World Cup at The Forum on March 15, 2014 in Inglewood, Calif.


Alli Ragan has been wrestling for a long time. She’s been in some significant tournaments across the globe.

Three times she’s been on the U.S. team for the world championships. She’s won two U.S. Open titles, and in 2013 she won a Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association championship for King University. She also won two bronze medals at junior world championships.

She was even making headlines back in Illinois as a teenager when she became the first female high school wrestler in the state to win 100 matches — all of them vs. boys.

But Ragan, now 25, is as pumped up for this weekend’s Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier in Frisco, Texas, as much or more than any tournament before.

Even if she wins her 58-kilogram (128-pound) class, it won’t earn her a trip to this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. But finishing first or second will earn the United States a spot in the 58 kg. class in the Rio Games.

“It’s more important than the trials at this point, because without this tournament, we can’t even go to the Olympics for my weight,” she said this week. “For this tournament, it’s not really individual, like it is a lot of times. It’s more for our country and our program.”

She goes in to this tournament feeling “a responsibility” to do her job.

Ragan will be one of 13 U.S. wrestlers over 13 weight classes in three disciplines — men’s freestyle, Greco-Roman and women’s freestyle — hoping to earn quotas for their nation in Frisco. The top two wrestlers in each weight class will earn quotas for their countries.

The United States already has locked up five weight classes across the three disciplines through its performances at the 2015 world championships.

The Pan Am qualifier — featuring wrestlers from North, Central and South American nations — is the second qualifier (following the world championships). If the United States fails to secure any weight classes this weekend, it will get additional opportunities this spring at world qualifiers in Mongolia and Turkey.

Ragan and the other American wrestlers would like to skip those last two steps by doing well at the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco, where the women compete Friday, the men’s freestyle competition is Saturday and Greco-Roman is Sunday.

“After this one you have to go overseas to Europe and Asia,” said Ragan, who trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “The competition gets a lot harder at that point, so it’s important to do it (here).”

Cody Bickley, USA Wrestling’s national teams high performance manager, agrees.

“We want to get as much done domestically as we can,” he said.

Each of the three disciplines used a different method to determine its wrestlers at this weekend’s event.

The men’s freestyle team is sending its No. 1 ranked athletes in the weight classes up for grabs. Greco-Roman took recent performances on international tours into account, along with other factors. For the women, a wrestle-off for three of the five weight divisions the United States will contest this weekend — including Ragan’s — was held in January at Iowa City, Iowa.

All the wrestlers, Bickley said, understand the importance of this tournament. They also know they could earn a spot for the United States in the Olympic tournament — and then fail to qualify as the U.S. representative in that weight class at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Iowa City in April.

“First and foremost they understand that, ‘Hey, it’s good for me to take care of this now,’” he said.

The biggest hurdle for the U.S. wrestlers over all three days might be Cuba, which failed to lock up any weight classes at the world championships and will bring a strong contingent to Frisco, Bickley said. Cuba ranks as one of the top wrestling nations in the Americas anyway, but will come in with plenty of incentive. Plus, Bickley said, because of blind draws there’s no guarantee that any final will come down to the top American or Cuban wrestlers.

“We could be in the same side of the bracket as Cuba, which means we need to beat them just to get into the finals,” he said. “They’re a powerful country in the sport of wrestling.”

Bickley expects Venezuela, too, to enter a strong team.

To Ragan, wrestlers from Central and South America present a much different challenge than those of Europe, Asia and North America. She said they have a contrasting style.

“They’re usually all athletic and more scrappy than what we usually see,” she said. “So you have to be prepared for that.”

But Ragan is an aggressive, always-attacking wrestler.

She said she’s healthy, in good condition and confident she can earn a spot for the United States in Frisco. She still regrets not being able to lock it up at last year’s worlds.

“I didn’t get the job done as far as that goes, for qualifying my weight,” she said. “So this year is definitely the year to do it and be at your best. I’m anxious and ready.”

U.S. Lineups

Women’s Freestyle: Alyssa Lampe, Colorado Springs (48 kg./105.5 pounds); Whitney Conder, Colorado Springs (53 kg./116.5 pounds); Alli Ragan, Colorado Springs (58 kg./128 pounds); Erin Clodgo Colorado Springs (63 kg./138.75 pounds); Tamyra Mensah, Katy, Texas (69 kg./152 pounds).

Men’s Freestyle: Tony Ramos, Iowa City (57 kg./125.5 pounds); Brent Metcalf, Iowa City  (65 kg./143 pounds); Jake Herbert, Ann Arbor, Mich. (86 kg./189 pounds); Tervel Dlagnev, Columbus, Ohio (125 kg./275 pounds).

Greco-Roman: Ildar Hafizov, Colorado Springs (59 kg./130 pounds); RaVaughn Perkins, Omaha, Neb. (66 kg./145.5 pounds); Jordan Holm, Minneapolis (85 kg./187 pounds); Joe Rau, Minneapolis (98 kg./213 pounds).

Already Qualified

Weight classes already qualified for the Olympic Games are:

Women’s Freestyle: 75 kg.

Men’s Freestyle: 74 kg., 97 kg.

Greco-Roman: 75 kg., 130 kg.

Doug Williams covered three Olympic Games for two Southern California newspapers and was the Olympic editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has written for TeamUSA.org since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.