USA Wrestling Maroulis electrifies...

Maroulis electrifies crowd as Olympic Trials finals set for Sunday night

By Roger Moore, | April 10, 2016, 4:58 p.m. (ET)

 Helen Maroulis scores a takedown on Katherine Fulp-Allen in the 53 kg
women's freestyle semifinals at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
Photo: Tony Rotundo,
VIDEO: U.S. Olympic Team Trials Athlete Interviews

IOWA CITY, Iowa – A drop in weight certainly did not bother Californian Helen Maroulis in the first session of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on Sunday.

The 55 kg World champion in 2015 is the top seed at 53 kg this weekend. In qualifying for tonight’s best-of-three finals she outscored three opponents, 34-2, including an 11-0 win over Katherine Fulp-Allen in the semifinals. Maroulis (Sunkist Kids) squares off with Whitney Conder (Army WCAP) tonight as the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials finishes its second day.

Nine weight classes will be determined this evening with three of them having to head to Mongolia in an attempt to qualify the weight for the Rio Games. That group includes 53 kg in women’s freestyle.

“I don’t think surprised would be the right word, I just go out there to wrestle,” said Maroulis of her dominating day so far. “I haven’t put a singlet on and competed in a full tournament since November and I think that was good for me. I think I gave my body a break.”

Four of the nine Sunday weight classes require a Challenge Tournament winner as four American wrestlers already earned a spot in the best-of-three championship finals.

Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) got by Cheney Haight (New York AC) in the 75 kg Greco-Roman Challenge Tournament final and will square off with Andy Bisek (Minnesota Storm), who earned a spot in the final by claiming a bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships.

The other Greco weight in action Sunday, 130 kg, has Robby Smith (New York AC) and Michigan senior-to-be Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC) facing off. Smith, a fifth-place finisher twice at the World Championship, seeks his fourth consecutive World Team spot. He went gut-wrench crazy in an 8-0 technical fall in the semifinals an hour-or-so after turning a body-lock into a 39-second pin in the quarterfinals.

“So far so good,” said Smith, a native of California. “One match at a time. Focus. Get it done and make this team. I just need to keep wrestling like I am wrestling and I will get it done.”

 Tony Ramos celebrates his semifinal win over Coleman
Scott. Photo: John Sachs,
Two World champions in men’s freestyle hit the mat tonight. Jordan Burroughs (Sunkist Kids) was the Olympic gold medalist in 2012 and won World gold in 2011, 2013, and 2015. The New Jersey native faces Andrew Howe (New York AC) tonight for the top spot at 74 kg.

Howe, who lost to Burroughs in the 2012 Olympic Team Trials best-of-three final, negotiated the Challenge Tournament field. The former NCAA champion for Wisconsin got by 19-year-old Mark Hall in the quarterfinals, then topped three-time NCAA champion Alex Dieringer (Cowboy WC) in the semifinals before edging Nick Marable (Sunkist Kids) to earn the right to face Burroughs.

Kyle Snyder (Titan Mercury WC) won a World title at 97 kg as a 19-year-old in 2015. He followed that up by winning an NCAA championship for Ohio State last March. He meets 2012 Olympian Jake Varner (Nittany Lion WC), who controlled Dustin Kilgore (Sunkist Kids) in the Challenge Tournament title bout.

The fourth World champion hanging out until Sunday night, Adeline Gray, meets Victoria Francis (Titan Mercury WC) tonight in the best-of-three at 75 kg in women’s freestyle. Francis beat Jackie Surber (Titan Mercury WC) in the Challenge Tournament final for the honor of facing Gray (New York AC), a World champion in 2015, 2014, and 2012, plus a winner of a pair of World bronze medals.

Setting up tonight’s title bouts was a fun ride.

A loaded men’s freestyle 86 kg bracket saw Kyle Dake (Titan Mercury WC) and J’Den Cox (Missouri Wrestling Foundation) as the last men standing. Jake Herbert (New York AC) represented the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics, but ran into Cox in the quarterfinals. The senior-to-be at Missouri, a two-time NCAA champion, cruised to an 8-1 victory. The multi-talented Cox then dispatched veteran Keith Gavin (Titan Mercury WC) in the semifinals.

“I’ve talked about something like this my entire life but I never dreamed of anything like this,” Cox said. “It is a dream, but to make it real, I don’t know, I’ve never really taken the steps to do so. I’ve always been focused on folkstyle and to come out and to perform with these great wrestlers it’s really an honor and I’m grateful to come out on top.”

Tonight Cox must get by the only collegian to win four NCAA titles at four different weight classes, Kyle Dake, who continued his success over longtime friend and rival David Taylor. A late takedown attempt was squandered by the defensive skills of the former Cornell star.

 J'den Cox works on a takedown against Keith Gavin in the 86 kg
semifinals. Photo: Tony Rotundo,
The quarterfinal round in men’s freestyle was highlighted by some fantastic matches, at the top of the list a wild affair between Dake and Bloomsburg graduate Richard Perry (New York AC). An explosive 4-pointer put Perry up 5-2 in the opening period and another cat-quick takedown made it 7-4 midway through the second. But Dake got rolling with a takedown for 7-6, then initiated a wild flurry that finished with a takedown and an 8-7 lead with under 25 seconds left. One final 2-pointer set up the match with Taylor.

Carver-Hawkeye will be buzzing when two former Hawkeyes take the mat to determine the U.S. representative at 57 kg in men’s freestyle. Tony Ramos (Titan Mercury WC) and Daniel Dennis (Titan Mercury WC) meet in the best-of-three with Ramos having the harder road to the final.

In the quarterfinals, Ramos trailed 2016 NCAA champion Nahshon Garrett (Titan Mercury WC), 3-0, but, in classic Iowa fashion, charged back with a takedown, then benefitted from passivity calls for a 3-3 decision on criteria. A semifinal bout with 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Coleman Scott (Sunkist Kids) was filled with plenty of twists and turns. Scott led 2-0 on pushouts after one period, but was countered for a 2-2 tie with 1:25 left in the match. Another takedown gave the Illinois native a 4-2 lead and a late Scott takedown was not enough as Ramos’s two 2-pointers provided the criteria. Daniel Dennis turned two big gut-wrenches into a 6-2 win over Tyler Graf (New York AC) in his semifinal win.

“All I have to say is (the media) took Scott, you picked Graf, you picked Nahshon, you picked Dennis. I’m not surprised. Who else you want me to take down?” said Ramos following his semifinal win.

Still yet to lose a match in Carver-Hawkeye, Ramos expects another battle.

“It’s awesome, like being back home,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of big wins at Carver and (the Scott) win was another big one. My confidence is high, but I’ve got to win two more tonight. Two to go, then I’m going to Rio.”

 Kyle Dake bloodied and bruised after his semifinal win
over David Taylor. Photo: John Sachs,
Dennis, an NCAA runner-up for Iowa, will have plenty of support this evening. The Californian does not consider himself an underdog, but knows Ramos’s credentials are a little higher.

“I don’t know the last time we’ve wrestled live competitively,” Dennis said. “He doesn’t want to lose, I don’t want to lose. You are going to have two guys out there who want to make a name for themselves and want to do well. He is a competitor, those first two matches show it.

“But it’s not like he’s a Russian and I kind of think I know a little bit about him. We know each other very well, someone I’ve helped for a long time and he’s helped me too. Right now he is the big man on campus and that is not a debate.”

Haley Augello (New York AC) and Victoria Anthony (Titan Mercury WC) meet for the top spot in women’s freestyle at 48 kg. Anthony, a former Junior World champion, cruised by 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Clarissa Chun (Sunkist Kids) in the semifinals after a technical fall and pin in her first two matches. Augello, a native of Illinois making the drop from 53 kg, was a Cadet World champion in 2011. She beat Alyssa Lampe (Sunkist Kids) in a wild 7-6 semifinal.

The most decorated U.S. women’s freestyler, 37-year-old Kristie Davis, a member of nine World Teams and two-time World champion, opened her first tournament since 2012 with a victory, but fell 3-2 to Forrest Molinari in the 75 kg quarterfinals.

The best-of-three finals will begin at 6 p.m. (CT) tonight and can be viewed live online on NBC Sports Extra and on tape delay broadcast on NBC Sports Network at 9:30 p.m. (CT). For complete U.S. Olympic Team Trials brackets from today's competition visit
2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials
April 9-10 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa
Best-of-three championship finals matchups
Women’s freestyle

48 kg – Haley Augello (New York AC) vs. Victoria Anthony (Titan Mercury WC)
53 kg – Helen Maroulis (Sunkist Kids) vs. Whitney Conder (Army WCAP)
75 kg – Adeline Gray (New York AC) vs. Victoria Francis (Titan Mercury WC)
Men’s freestyle
57 kg – Tony Ramos (Titan Mercury WC) vs. Daniel Dennis (Titan Mercury WC)
74 kg – Jordan Burroughs (Sunkist Kids) vs. Andrew Howe (New York AC)
86 kg – J’Den Cox (Missouri Wrestling Foundation) vs. Kyle Dake (Titan Mercury WC)
97 kg – Kyle Snyder (Titan Mercury WC) vs. Jake Varner (Nittany Lion WC)
75 kg – Andy Bisek (Minnesota Storm) vs. Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets)
130 kg – Robby Smith (New York AC) vs. Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC)
Challenge Tournament finals
75 kg
Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) dec Cheney Haight (New York AC), 7-0
Women’s freestyle
75 kg
Victoria Francis (Titan Mercury WC) dec Jackie Surber (Titan Mercury WC), 10-2
Men’s freestyle
74 kg
Andrew Howe (New York AC) dec Nick Marable (Sunkist Kids), 2-1
97 kg
Jake Varner (Nittany Lion WC) dec Dustin Kilgore (Sunkist Kids), 6-0
Semifinal Results
Men’s freestyle

Tony Ramos (Titan Mercury WC) dec Coleman Scott (Sunkist Kids), 4-4
Daniel Dennis (Titan Mercury WC) dec Tyler Graf (New York AC), 6-2
74 kg
Andrew Howe (New York AC) dec Alex Dieringer (Cowboy WC), 5-2
Nick Marable (Sunkist Kids) dec Chris Perry (Titan Mercury WC), 10-6
86 kg
J’Den Cox (Missouri Wrestling Foundation) dec Keith Gavin (Titan Mercury WC), 3-1
Kyle Dake (Titan Mercury WC) dec David Taylor (Nittany Lion WC), 4-3
97 kg
Jake Varner (Nittany Lion WC) dec Kyven Gadson (Sunkist Kids), 4-0
Dustin Kilgore (Sunkist Kids) dec J.D. Bergman (New York AC), 6-3
Women’s freestyle
48 kg
Haley Augello (New York AC) dec Alyssa Lampe (Sunkist Kids), 7-6
Victoria Anthony (Titan Mercury WC) dec Clarissa Chun (Sunkist Kids), 9-2
53 kg
Helen Maroulis (Sunkist Kids) technical fall Katherine Fulp-Allen (New York AC), 11-0
Whitney Conder (Army WCAP) dec Micheala Hutchison (Titan Mercury WC), 7-2
75 kg
Victoria Francis (Titan Mercury WC) dec Niauni Hill (Lindenwood), 2-2
Jackie Surber (Titan Mercury WC) dec Forrest Molinari (Titan Mercury WC), 2-1
75 kg
Cheney Haight (New York AC) technical fall Taylor Walsh (Hoosier Wrestling Club), 8-0
Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) technical fall Mason Manville (Lehigh Valley AC), 13-2
Robby Smith (New York AC) technical fall Jacob Mitchell (CSU-Pueblo Wrestling), 8-0
Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC) technical fall Toby Erickson (New York AC), 10-0