U.S. Olympic Team Trials men's freestyle preview at 97 kg/213 lbs.

By Richard Immel, USA Wrestling | April 05, 2016, 6:24 p.m. (ET)
 
 Kyle Snyder and Jake Varner in the finals of the 2015 U.S. World
Team Trials. Photo: John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com
Date of competition: Sunday, April 10

Weight currently qualified for the Olympic Games? Yes

The reigning 97 kg/213 lbs. World champion and the reigning 96 kg/211 lbs. Olympic champion will both take the mat in Iowa City, Iowa at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials with lifelong dreams hanging in the balance.

At 19-years-old, Kyle Snyder (Woodbine, Md./Titan Mercury WC) became the youngest World champion in U.S. history last September by storming through the 97 kg field in Las Vegas, Nev. Snyder ousted defending World champion Abdusalam Gadisov of Russia on criteria, 5-5, to secure a World gold medal and etch his name into U.S. wrestling lore.

In order to make the U.S. World Team last year Snyder was forced to beat out 2012 Olympic champion Jake Varner (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC) in the U.S. World Team Trials best-of-three finals. This of course mere months after Snyder finished in second place at the NCAA championships as a true freshman for Ohio State.

Snyder now owns a 3-0 lifetime record over Varner after defeating him via 2-1 decision in the 2015 U.S. Open finals and picking up two wins, 4-1 and 3-0, at the U.S. World Team Trials held in Madison, Wis. last June.

The 2016 campaign has been quite the journey for the young American superstar. Snyder announced on New Year’s Day that he would remove his Olympic redshirt and compete in the second half of the NCAA season for Ohio State while also wrestling a full international freestyle schedule.

In 2016 alone Snyder has earned bronze medals internationally at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix and the Alexander Medved International. Throw in an undefeated, 11-0, NCAA folkstyle season competing at 285 pounds with a Big Ten championship and a NCAA championship to his ever-growing resume as well.

At the 2016 NCAA championships in New York City, N.Y., Snyder defeated two-time NCAA champion and 125 kg/275 lbs. Olympic hopeful Nick Gwiazdowski, 7-5, in what was tabbed as perhaps the greatest heavyweight bout in NCAA wrestling history.

Courtesy of winning the World Championships last year, Snyder qualified the U.S. to compete at the Olympic Games at 97 kg and has earned an automatic berth to the best-of-three U.S. Olympic Team Trials finals.

After taking 2013 off from competition and making the U.S. World Team at 97 kg in 2014, Varner appeared poised to sit atop this weight class through Rio prior to Snyder’s arrival. He has made three U.S. World Teams, on top of his Olympic berth, and won a World bronze medal in 2011.

This year Varner finished in second place at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix, one slot ahead of Snyder.

It would be big man battle for the ages should Snyder and Varner match-up once more in the finals at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday night.

Not to be overlooked at 97 kg is two-time U.S. World Team member J.D. Bergman (Columbus, Ohio/New York AC/Ohio RTC) who qualified for the Trials by winning the Bill Farrell International. Bergman has historically gotten the better of Varner and has trained consistently with Snyder over the past two years.

Bergman also owns a gold medal from the Dave Schultz Memorial International this season. He finished in third place behind Snyder and Varner at the U.S. World Team Trials last year.

A bevy of talented contenders have qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials to challenge the top three at 97 kg.

Wynn Michalak (Champaign, Ill./Titan Mercury WC) looked as impressive as any at the U.S. Open in December. He posted four dominant wins in Las Vegas, including a 12-4 decision over Scott Schiller (Minneapolis, Minn./Minnesota Storm) in the finals.

Michalak did not place at the U.S. World Team Trials last year, but posted a fourth place finish at the Trials two years ago. He was also the U.S. Open runner-up in 2014.

2014 U.S. World Team Trials runner-up Dustin Kilgore (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) finished in fourth place at the U.S. Open but has the potential to challenge for a spot in the championship finals.

Also qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials by way of top-seven finishes at the U.S. Open are Micah Burak (Colorado Springs, Colo./Titan Mercury WC), Enock Francois (Ithaca, N.Y./New York AC), Kyven Gadson (Ames, Iowa/Sunkist Kids) and Jeffery Felix (Ann Arbor, Mich./Titan Mercury WC/Cliff Keen WC).

Cayle Byers (Stillwater, Okla./Titan Mercury WC) also earned a spot in the 97 kg field courtesy of a third place finish at the Dave Schultz Memorial International.

The final two athletes expected to compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at 97 kg are Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier champions Kallen Kleinschmidt (Colorado Springs, Colo./USOTC) and Blaize Cabell (Independence, Iowa/Panther WC). Kleinschmidt won the Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier at 97 kg while Cabell did so at 125 kg.

For more information on the U.S. Olympic Team Trials visit the official event website iowacitytorio.com.

U.S. Olympic Team Trials qualifiers at 98 kg/215 lbs.

’15 World Medalist advances to Trials Finals Series – Kyle Snyder, Woodbine, Md. (Titan Mercury WC)

Olympic Team Trials Tournament qualifiers
2012 Olympic medalist - Jake Varner, State College, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC)
’15 Bill Farrell International champion – J.D. Bergman, Columbus, Ohio (New York AC/Ohio RTC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier champion – Wynn Michalak, Champaign, Ill. (Titan Mercury WC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier runner-up – Scott Schiller, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier third place – Kyven Gadson, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier fourth place – Dustin Kilgore, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier fifth place – Micah Burak, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Titan Mercury WC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier sixth place – Jeffery Felix, Ann Arbor, Mich. (Titan Mercury WC/Cliff Keen WC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier seventh place – Enock Francois, Ithaca, N.Y. (New York AC)
’16 Dave Schultz Memorial third place– Cayle Byers, Stillwater, Okla. (Titan Mercury WC)
’16 Final Olympic Trials Qualifier champion – Kallen Kleinschmidt, Colorado Springs, Colo. (USOTC)
’16 Final Olympic Trials Qualifier champion at 125 kg – Blaize Cabell, Independence, Iowa (Panther WC)