| 36-year-old Jake Clark advances to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials finals
at 85 kg in Greco-Roman. Photo: Larry Slater.
NCAA champion watch
Among the four men’s freestyle weights contested on Sunday there are 33 combined NCAA Division I titles. The leader of the pack is Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer, who just completed his collegiate career with a third title and the 2015-15 Hodge Trophy. The 74 kg bracket includes eight NCAA titles combined with Jordan Burroughs and Chris Perry each claiming two and Andrew Howe a 2010 national champion in folkstyle.
The 86 kg field is loaded with 14 national titles, led by Kyle Dake’s four at Cornell, Ed Ruth with a trifecta, and Jake Herbert and David Taylor with two each.
Division III national champion Donny Longendyke, of Augsburg College in Minnesota, opened the tournament with a win in the 130 kg Greco-Roman bracket. The Minnesota product won the Last Chance Qualifier two weekends in Cedar Rapids just up the road from Iowa City.
A great start
The 57 kg bracket includes six former NCAA champions. The first two bouts got Carver-Hawkeye revved up for the second day. Joe Colon (Titan Mercury WC) and Obe Blanc (Titan Mercury WC) were tied at 10-10 after a 4-pointer from Blanc midway through the second period, but Colon, a Northern Iowa product, scored a pair of takedowns down the stretch for a 15-10 victory. On the adjacent mat, 2016 NCAA champion Nahshon Garrett broke an 8-8 tie with an explosive 4-pointer with 1:30 left. The Californian moved into the quarterfinals against top seed Tony Ramos. Ohio State junior-to-be Nathan Tomasello scored a takedown in the final 10 seconds to beat old Big Ten rival Nico Megaludis, 4-3, in another first-round match.
The Ramos-Garrett quarterfinal saw Garrett jump out to a 3-0 lead after three minutes. In classic Carver-Hawkeye fashion, however, Ramos scored a second-period takedown then benefitted from a pair of late passivity calls to win on criteria, 3-3. The former Hawkeye star is still unbeaten inside his home arena. 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Coleman Scott is up next in the semifinals.
Another great semifinal could come at 74 kg where Dieringer, who got by Adam Hall, faces Howe.
The buzz around Iowa City on Saturday was for 19-year-old Aaron Pico, who lost the best-of-three finals at 65 kg to Frank Molinaro. Sunday’s version could be Minnesota’s Mark Hall, a 19-year-old from Apple Valley, a 2014 Cadet World champion and six-time state champion who will attend Penn State, or Logan Massa, who turns 20 in May and will be a redshirt-freshman for Michigan in 2016-17. The two battled in the first round at 74 kg with Hall winning a wild 13-11 match. Might they meet in the future in a Big Ten match or two? Hall ran into veteran Andrew Howe in the quarterfinals, falling 10-0.
Nine-time World medalist and two-time World champion Kristie Davis (Gator Wrestling Club) returned to the mat for the first time since 2012 on Sunday. The 1996 World silver medalist, now 37-years-old, beat Nahiela Magee (Wayland Baptist University), 10-4, to open her day at 75 kg.
The future of Brent Metcalf
“We’ll see, I think ideally you have the things you want and you can feel good about it, but certainly there is still a lot of fight in me, my body is strong, I tell people I feel like a 24-year-old, I really do. There are no injuries or banged up, so, I have to figure out why the guy who wrestled today wasn’t really the guy who I am. If I can change that and get back to smart, strong, stingy, you score, they shoot, you score, I shoot, I score, Gable philosophy, just tighten it up, go win, then I can certainly have what I want. Or maybe it’s just not in the cards and that’s something I will have to come to face with.” - Brent Metcalf
Old dog, same tricks
A bruised and battered 36-year-old Jacob Clark will wrestle for the U.S. spot at 85 kg/187 lbs. in Greco-Roman this evening.
“I don’t know anything different,” said Clark, a member of the 2006 U.S. team. “This it. I’ve got a chipped front tooth, messed up ears, my face – look at this thing – I don’t have any other options. My feet and fingers are ugly. What am I supposed to do? I can’t go be a model or something like that, so I figured I’d come in and throw down.”
After a three-year layoff, Clark won the U.S. Open in December, beating tonight’s opponent, 2012 Olympian Ben Provisor, in the finals.
A different level
Three athletes who wrestled at the 2016 NCAA Championships in New York suited up Saturday. Oklahoma State’s Dean Heil, Penn State’s Zain Retherford, and North Carolina State’s Nick Gwiazdowski went a combined 8-5 with Retherford, the NCAA champ at 149 pounds, winning 5 of 6 bouts to take third at 65 kg/143 lbs., and Gwiazdowski, a runner-up at Madison Square Garden after winning titles in 2014 and 2015, going 3-2 and taking fourth at 125 kg/275 lbs. Heil, the NCAA king at 141 pounds, was outscored 22-2 by Jimmy Kennedy and Jason Chamberlain in two bouts.
North Dakota State’s Hayden Zilmer, who just completed his eligibility in March, won the Last Chance Qualifier two weekends ago and finished third 85 kg/187 lbs. in Greco-Roman. Out of Greco for three years, Zilmer went 4-1 with his lone loss coming to Clark in the quarterfinals.
The current culture of international wrestling includes a little background music. Iowa alum Jason Wells, better known as DJ NYJ, provided the five-plus hours of tunes during Saturday’s first session. Wells, attending his first wrestling tournament, played an estimated 75 to 80 songs and by the time the weekend is through will have produced almost 200 songs over the Carver-Hawkeye sound system.
Big Ten reunion
Six of the eight quarterfinalists at 65kg/143 pounds attend op attend Big Ten programs as collegians. Penn State's Zain Retherford just concluded his sophomore season. Jordan Oliver and Aaron Pico meet in the only bout at the weight class without a Big Ten alum.
Looking for a champ?
Being an NCAA champion as a collegian is not required to compete in the Olympic Trials. However, the two men’s freestyle weight classes that competed on Saturday had plenty of folkstyle credentials. The 143-pound list includes Logan Stieber (4), Brent Metcalf (2), Jordan Oliver (2), Kellen Russell (2), Frank Molinaro (1), Zain Retherford (1), Jayson Ness (1). The heavyweight bracket included Nick Gwiazdowski (2), Tony Nelson (2), and Zach Rey (1), along with Division II’s Tervel Dlagnev (2), Matt Meuleners (2), and Tyrell Fortune (1). Fortune also won a pair of JUCO championships. Eric Thompson was a three-time NAIA winner at Grand View in Des Moines. The math equals a hefty 28 championships between the two weight classes.
Sixteen entries wrestled for Iowa schools as collegians with five suiting up for the Hawkeyes. Tony Ramos and Daniel Dennis are part of the 57 kg field in freestyle, with Sam Stoll, coming off his freshman season for head coach Tom Brands, in the 130 kg Greco-Roman group. Brent Metcalf (65 kg) and Bobby Telford (125 kg) will compete Saturday in freestyle. Five Iowa State alumni are expected to go led by 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner.
Will the Cowboys get their man?
Nine with Oklahoma State ties will wrestle. Only twice since 1924 (1952 and 2000) has an Oklahoma State alumni not made a U.S. Olympic squad.
Northern Michigan leads all colleges in entries
Leading the field with the most entries is easily Northern Michigan, a hotbed for Greco-Roman. Twenty-five NMU products will suit up in Greco with eight women’s freestylers also competing this weekend.
Wrestler and a coach to boot
2012 Olympic bronze medalist Coleman Scott is coming off his first season as head coach for the University of North Carolina where he coached Joey Ward to an All-American finish at 141 pounds. He is the only head coach at a NCAA Division I institution competing at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
Married to the sport
Two pairs of married couples will be competing at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials this weekend. 2012 Olympian Ben Provisor will attempt to ascend back to the top spot in Greco-Roman at 85 kg while wife and 2015 World bronze medalist Leigh Jaynes-Provisor will look to replicate her success from last season. Greco-Roman veteran at 59 kg Max Nowry and 2014 U.S. World Team member Jenna Burkert also tied the knot last year.
The oldest competitor in the Olympic Trials field is 42-year-old Matt Lamb of the U.S. Army who will compete in Greco-Roman at 130 kg. Lamb finished in fourth place on the Greco heavyweight ladder last year. Earning the distinction of youngest wrestler entered in Iowa City is Iowa high school women’s wrestling star Rachel Watters who is 18 years old. Watters edged out 2016 U.S. Open champion Teshya Alo who was born two days prior in October of 1997.
Bound by blood
Four sets of siblings will grace the mats in Carver-Hawkeye Arena this weekend in search of Olympic bids. Twins Marina and Regina Doi will compete at 48 kg in the women’s freestyle division. The duo are college stars at King University and Marina was a WCWA national champion this season. The brothers Mango will battle for the 59 kg Greco-Roman Olympic spot. Spenser has made the last eight World or Olympic Teams and Ryan was a U.S. World Team Trials runner-up in 2013. Corey and Ryan Hope round out the sibling tandems for the weekend. However, unlike the previous two, the Hope brothers will seek titles in two separate Greco-Roman weight classes, Corey at 75 kg and Ryan at 85 kg. Also competing as siblings are Tamyra and Tarkyia Mensah at 69 kg and 58 kg, respectively.
U.S. Olympic Team Trials Press Conference
USA Wrestling will continue to update the notes and quotes article throughout the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials competition.