| Robby Smith in the bronze medal match at the 2015
World Championships. Photo: Tony Rotundo,
Is Weight Class Qualified Yet for Olympic Games: Yes
The top athlete in the nation’s highest Greco-Roman weight class for the last three seasons has been the inspiring Robby Smith of the New York AC, who placed fifth in both the 2013 and 2015 World Championships. Smith was a fan favorite at the 2015 Worlds in Las Vegas, with his amazing comeback in a wild bronze-medal bout loss to Russia’s Bilyal Makhov. By finishing fifth, Smith qualified the USA to compete in the Rio Games at this weight class.
Smith has dominated his American opponents during this Olympic cycle, with U.S. Open titles in 2014 and 2015. He made the move up from 97 kg after the 2012 Olympic year. Smith was also third in the 2015 Pan American Games. He wrestles with energy and passion, and is unafraid of anybody. He might look like an undersized heavyweight, but he wrestles with so much pressure that he wears down his opponents. People know about his front headlock, but have trouble stopping his signature move.
The last two years, Toby Erickson of the New York AC has placed second at the World Team Trials behind Smith, who is a regular workout partner at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Erickson was also second in the 2014 and 2015 U.S. Open. A 2011 Junior World bronze medalist, Erickson was also fifth in the 2012 University World Championships. He won the Dave Schultz Memorial earlier this season. Erickson is big, strong and improving.
The 2016 U.S. Open champion was college star Adam Coon, who is a two-time All-American for the University of Michigan. Coon is truly a three star athlete, talented in folkstyle, Greco-Roman and freestyle. He has been second and third at the NCAA Championships. A few summers ago, he won bronze medals in both styles at the 2015 Junior Worlds.
Going both styles is nothing new for him. He was a Cadet World champion in freestyle in 2011 and also wrestled Greco-Roman at that Cadet World meet. He was also a two-time Junior Triple Crown winner in high school, claiming national titles in freestyle, Greco-Roman and folkstyle. Greco may be his strongest style at this stage of his Senior career, and he has the size and strength to match up with anybody. It would be an interesting final if he could match up against Smith on the big stage.
Parker Betts of the Minnesota Storm, the younger brother of 2012 Olympian Chas Betts, had his best showing by taking the silver medal at the 2016 U.S. Open. Like Chas, he went to Northern Michigan to focus on Greco-Roman wrestling, and has a long list of age-group achievements. Betts is a bit like Smith, in that he is shorter than some of his opponents, but he has developed a style that works at this weight class.
College wrestler Jacob Mitchell of CSU-Pueblo placed third at the U.S. Open. Mitchell was fifth in the Div. II Nationals this year, and was also a Div. II All-American for California Baptist.
Matt Lamb of the U.S. Army, who is 42 years old, placed fourth at the U.S. Open the last two years, returning to the mats after taking 12 years off from the sport. He previously wrestled for the U.S. Navy and placed as high as second in the 1997 U.S. Open. He has emerged as the Army’s best big man since the retirement of World champion Dremiel Byers. The fact that he is winning matches at the highest level well into his 40’s is a great story and worth watching in Iowa City
Also emerging from the U.S. Open as Olympic Trials qualifiers were fifth place Zach Merrill of the Titan Mercury WC, sixth place Eric Fader of the U.S. Marines and seventh place Jack Griggs of the Northern Michigan-OTS. All three are relatively inexperienced at Senior-level Greco-Roman, and will need to step up to a new level if they want to beat some of the more seasoned competitors. Merrill wrestled at Div. I Oklahoma before pursuing his Greco-Roman career, while Griggs wrestled for Div. III Olivet.
Iowa heavyweight Sam Stoll is a qualifier after winning a 2013 Junior World bronze medal, but was injured at the end of this year’s college season and is not expected to enter. The local Iowa fans will miss out seeing Stoll compete in perhaps his best style, as he is a past Junior World bronze medalist in Greco-Roman.
Also in the field is Tyrell Fortune of the Titan Mercury WC, who has been as high as No. 2 on the U.S. ladder in freestyle, but also excels in Greco-Roman. Fortune is qualified in both styles for the Olympic Trials, although people expect he may only enter the freestyle division. He was a Div. II national champion at Grand Canyon.
Grabbing the last spot in the field through the Last Chance Qualifier was Donny Longendyke, who was a 2016 NCAA Div. III runner-up for Augsburg College, and was a national champion back in 2015. He was a transfer from Div. I Nebraska, where he started his career. Longendyke has been wrestling Greco-Roman and freestyle in USA Wrestling national events since he was a child and is a product of the Minnesota Storm program.
130 kg/286 pounds
’15 World Team member – Robby Smith, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC)
2012-14 Cadet/Junior World medalist age eligible – Adam Coon, Fowlerville, Mich. (Cliff Keen WC)
2012-14 Cadet/Junior World medalist age eligible – Sam Stoll, Kasson, Minn. (Minnesota Storm/Hawkeye WC)
’15 Bill Farrell International silver medalist – Toby Erickson, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier runner-up – Parker Betts, St. Michael, Minn. (Minnesota Storm),
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier third place – Jacob Mitchell, Portland, Ore. (CSU Pueblo Wrestling RTC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier fourth place – Matthew Lamb, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Army WCAP)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier fifth place – Zach Merrill, Bermuda Dunes, Calif. (Titan Mercury WC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier sixth place – Eric Fader, Camp Lejeune, N.C (U.S. Marines)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier seventh place – Jack Griggs, Brighton, Mich. (NMU-OTS)
’16 Dave Schultz Memorial third place – Tyrell Fortune, Tempe, Ariz. (Titan Mercury WC)
’16 Final Olympic Trials Qualifier champion – Donny Longendyke, Vadnais Heights, Minn. (Minnesota Storm)