Freestyle World Team Trials preview at 65 kg/143 lbs.

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | May 28, 2017, 1:45 p.m. (ET)
Jordan Oliver of the USA hits a leg attack on 2015 World champion Frank Chamizo of Italy in the 2017 Beat the Streets Benefit in Times Square. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.

After years of near misses, Jordan Oliver won his first U.S. Open title in April, coming out on top of a very competitive weight class. Oliver has been second in the World Team Trials three different years, and also has been a two-time U.S. Open runner-up. A two-time NCAA champion for Oklahoma State, Oliver was also a Junior World bronze medalist in 2009.

In spite of extensive domestic experience and success, Oliver has limited international experience. He has won the two major international events held in the USA, the Dave Schultz Memorial and the Bill Farrell International. He has also won a bronze at the Yasar Dogu in Turkey. In preparation for the World Team Trials, Oliver lost a close, classic battle with 2015 World champion and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Frank Chamizo of Italy in Times Square at the Beat the Streets Benefit in May.

Oliver beat 2016 Olympian Frank Molinaro in the U.S. Open finals in a fantastic battle. Molinaro broke through in international freestyle last year by making the U.S. Olympic Team and placing a strong fifth at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, edged in the bronze-medal bout by Chamizo. Molinaro won the 2016 World Cup and the 2016 Pan American Championships, and continues to show improvement in his skills. He was a 2012 NCAA champion for Penn State, and is a new assistant coach at Virginia Tech.

Another hammer from Penn State in the field is two-time NCAA champion and 2017 Dan Hodge Trophy winner Zain Retherford, who was third in the U.S. Open. Retherford dropped a close, controversial semifinal bout to Oliver in Las Vegas. He was third in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and was a 2012 Cadet World champion. He is already capable of reaching the top on the Senior level and has confidence that he can win in Lincoln.

This weight also includes 2014 World Team member Jimmy Kennedy, who was also a 2016 U.S. Open champion at this weight. Kennedy was fourth in Las Vegas, with losses only to Molinaro and Retherford. A former star for Illinois, Kennedy has won medals in many international events overseas. He is reportedly considering a move up to 70 kg for the World Team Trials.

2013 U.S. Open champion Kellen Russell remains very competitive in this weight, and took sixth at the 2017 U.S. Open in Las Vegas. He was second in the 2013 World Team Trials, and also was second at the 2014 U.S. Open. Russell won two NCAA titles for Michigan.

B.J. Futrell qualified for the World Team Trials with his gold medal at the Bill Farrell International this fall. He was also third at the 2017 Paris International. Futrell is considering a move to 61 kg, but is also very competitive at this weight class. He was second in the 2014 University Worlds.

Minnesota grad Nick Dardanes qualified for Lincoln with his seventh place finish in Las Vegas. He was third at the Bill Farrell International this fall, and was also fourth in the 2014 U.S. Open. He joins his brother Chris, who qualified for the Trials down at 61 kg.

Another athlete who is getting better on the freestyle scene is former North Carolina star Evan Henderson, who punched his ticket to Lincoln by placing second in the 2017 Dave Schultz International. He was Henderson made some progress in freestyle during a redshirt year in college, when he was second in the 2014 Bill Farrell International.

You can’t overlook two-time NCAA champion Dean Heil of Oklahoma State, who won his second straight NCAA crown for the Cowboys this year. Although his freestyle experience is limited, Heil knows how to win under pressure and is skilled on his feet.

Earning the final berth in the field at the Last Chance Qualifier was Mario Mason, who competed in college for Minnesota and Rutgers. Mason beat college freshman star Jaydin Eierman of Missouri in the finals at the Last Chance Qualifier. Mason just missed qualifying with his eighth-place finish at the U.S. Open, where the top seven advanced to Lincoln.

The USA has traditionally had great depth at this weight class, and this year is no exception. The challenge has been that the USA has not won a World or Olympic medal at this division for many years. Whoever emerges in Lincoln will be taking only the first step on an important journey, which hopefully leads to a medal for Team USA in Paris in August.

The 2017 Freestyle World Team Trials will be hosted at the Devaney Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, June 10. Tickets can be purchased here

The event will be broadcast by Flowrestling.

World Team Trials Qualifiers at 65 kg/143 lbs.
’17 U.S. Open champion advances to Trials finals series – Jordan Oliver, Tempe, Ariz. (Sunkist Kids WC)
World Team Trials Tournament qualifiers
’16 Olympian – Frank Molinaro, State College, Pa. (Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC)
’16 Bill Farrell highest U.S. medalist – BJ Futrell, Philadelphia, Pa. (Titan Mercury WC/Pennsylvania RTC)
’17 Dave Schultz highest U.S. medalist – Evan Henderson, Chapel Hill, N.C. (Titan Mercury WC)
’17 NCAA Division I champion – Dean Heil, Brunswick, Ohio (Oklahoma State)
’17 U.S. Open third place – Zain Retherford, Benton, Pa. (Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC)
’17 U.S. Open fourth place – Jimmy Kennedy, Ann Arbor, Mich. (New York AC/Cliff Keen WC)
’17 U.S. Open sixth place – Kellen Russell, Chelsea, Mich. (New York AC/Cliff Keen WC)
’17 U.S. Open seventh place – Nick Dardanes, Iowa City, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC)
’17 Last Chance Trials Qualifier highest placer – Mario Mason, Mooresville, N.J. (Lehigh Valley WC)

2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials results at 65 kg/143 lbs.
1st - Frank Molinaro (Nittany Lion WC) dec. Aaron Pico (Titan Mercury WC), two matches to one
Pico dec Molinaro, 4-2
Molinaro dec Pico, 4-3
Molinaro dec Pico, 4-3
3rd– Zain Retherford (Nittany Lion WC) dec. Jimmy Kennedy (NYAC), 2-2