The 2017 NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships, held in St. Louis, Mo. this weekend, is an important qualifying event for USA Wrestling’s World Team Trials events this year.
The 10 individual champions at the NCAA Div. I Championships in St. Louis qualify for the U.S. Freestyle World Team Trials, set for the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., June 10.
The winners at the 2017 U.S. Freestyle World Team Trials will represent Team USA at the World Wrestling Championships in Paris, France, August 25-26.
Two of the No. 1 seeds at the NCAA Championships have already qualified to compete in Lincoln based upon competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Olympic champion Kyle Snyder of Ohio State and Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox of the University of Missouri.
Cox, a senior, is going for his third NCAA title in St. Louis at 197 pounds, while Snyder, a junior, is seeking his second NCAA title at heavyweight.
If Cox and Snyder enter the World Team Trials at the weight classes where they wrestled in Rio, 86 kg/189 lbs. for Cox and 97 kg/213 lbs. for Snyder, they advance directly to the best-of-three Championship Series at the U.S. World Team Trials in Lincoln because they won a medal in Rio.
In many previous years, the NCAA Div. I champions were given berths in the Freestyle World Team Trials. There were a number of years recently in which winning the NCAA Championships did not qualify an athlete for the World Team Trials. 2016 NCAA Div. I champions did qualify for the Olympic Team Trials for men’s freestyle, and Cox used that qualifying opportunity to later win the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City.
NCAA athletes who do not win individual titles in St. Louis have other opportunities to qualify for the Freestyle World Team Trials in Lincoln. The top seven place winners at the U.S. Freestyle Nationals in Las Vegas, April 28-29, qualify for the World Team Trials. The final opportunity to earn a spot in the field in Lincoln is the Last Chance Qualifier in Rochester, Minn., May 19-21
The U.S. Greco-Roman World Team Trials will be held in Las Vegas, Nev., April 28-29, with the winners earning the right to wrestle Greco-Roman at the Senior World Championships in Paris, France, August 21-22.
This year, in an effort to encourage more talented college wrestlers to try Greco-Roman as an option for their international careers, the Greco-Roman leadership has opened up the 2017 World Team Trials to more college wrestlers.
At the 2017 NCAA Div. I Championships, all 330 athletes who qualified to compete in St. Louis are eligible to wrestle at the U.S. Greco-Roman World Team Trials in Las Vegas.
In addition, all of the 2017 All-Americans from at the NCAA Div. II National Championships in Birmingham, Ala., the NCAA Div. III National Championships in LaCrosse, Wis., the NAIA National Championships in Topeka, Kan. and the NJCAA National Championships in Council Bluffs, Iowa are also eligible for the Greco-Roman Trials. Also add in the finalists from the NCWA National Championships in Allen, Texas to the qualifier list.
In all, adding up all of the 2017 college wrestlers who meet the qualifying standards, there are 670 college athletes who can compete at the Greco-Roman World Team Trials in Las Vegas if they so choose.
There is a long tradition of U.S. college wrestlers going on to major success in Olympic-level Greco-Roman. In fact, all three U.S. wrestlers who won Olympic gold medals in wrestling competed at the NCAA Div. I Championships, Steve Fraser (Michigan), Jeff Blatnick (Springfield) and Rulon Gardner (Nebraska).
Other past Olympic medalists in Greco-Roman with college wrestling backgrounds include Greg Gibson (Oregon), Jim Martinez (Minnesota), Dennis Koslowski (UM-Morris), Rodney Smith (Western New England College), Dennis Hall (Wisconsin), Matt Ghaffari (Cleveland State), Brandon Paulson (Minnesota), Matt Lindland (Nebraska) and Garrett Lowney (Minnesota).
2006 World Greco-Roman champion Joe Warren wrestled for Michigan, and a number of other U.S. Greco-Roman World medalists were also college wrestlers.
One other opportunity for NCAA wrestlers to try out for a U.S. World Team will be at the UWW Junior level, which includes athletes 17-20 years old, including numerous college underclassmen. This year’s UWW Junior World Championships will be held in Tampere, Finland, August 1-6.
The UWW Junior World Team Trials in freestyle will be held in Lincoln, Neb. on June 9. There is a qualifying process for this event, which includes all of the NCAA Div. I All-Americans in both 2016 and 2017 who meet the age requirements. This extends to the finalists from the NCAA Div. II Nationals and the NCAA Div. III Nationals, plus the champions from the NAIA Nationals and the NJCAA Junior College Nationals who are within the age level.
Other events which are qualifiers for the UWW Junior World Team Trials include past Junior and Cadet World Team members, top six placers from the 2016 Junior Nationals in Fargo, top eight placewinners from the UWW Junior Nationals, top four placers at the 2016 UWW Junior World Team Trials and any All-American from the 2016 University National Championships.
It is safe to say that many of the entries from the 2017 NCAA Div. I Nationals will be eligible to compete at the UWW Junior World Team Trials. Examples of athletes who could go to the Junior Trials are Penn State freshman Mark Hall, who was a 2016 Junior World champion, plus 2016 World Team members Zahid Valencia of Arizona State and Kollin Moore of Ohio State.
In Greco-Roman, the UWW Junior World Team Trials will be held in Las Vegas, Nev., April 26-27. This is an open tournament, with no qualification necessary, except for being a U.S. citizen and meeting age-group requirements. College wrestlers will be eligible and encouraged to enter this event and try out for the UWW Junior World Team in Greco-Roman.