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Senior Nationals field: Graff goes Greco; already-qualified Oliver, Dieringer and Bey enter; siblings at same weight and more

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Dec. 13, 2019, 5:17 p.m. (ET)

Competing in freestyle, Tyler Graff of the USA tosses an opponent at the 2019 Senior Worlds. Graff will try to throw Greco-Roman wrestlers at the Senior Nationals. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.

The field for the Senior Nationals, set for Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 20-22, is starting to come together, as athletes in the three Olympic styles are beginning to register.

While this is the Senior National Championships for the 2020 season, it also serves as the largest qualifier for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials –Wrestling in University Park, Pa. in April. The top-five place winners in the 18 Olympic weight classes punch their ticket for Trials at Penn State.

While a large number of entries are expected this weekend and up through the online closing date, we can already find some intriguing stories based upon registration to date.

2019 World Teamer Tyler Graff switches from freestyle to Greco-Roman

Tyler Graff, who placed fifth at 61 kg at the 2019 World Championships in men’s freestyle, has entered the Senior Nationals in Fort Worth at 60 kg in Greco-Roman. He becomes the second prominent men’s freestyle wrestler to enter the Greco-Roman tournament, along with 2018 Final X runner-up Jason Chamberlain, who is entered in Greco-Roman at 67 kg.

Prior to going to college while growing up in Utah, Chamberlain had extensive Greco-Roman success. He was second at the 2007 Junior Nationals and 2007 UWW Cadet Nationals in Greco, as well as third in the 2006 UWW Cadet Nationals. Graff has wrestled exclusively in freestyle at the national level, but a web search shows he did some Greco as part of Team Colorado at the 2004 Cadet National Duals.

A factor in this change in style is influenced by the Olympic weight class structure. Graff, who goes 61 kg in freestyle, would need to bump up to 65 kg or drop to 57 kg for the Olympic quest. However, he can go 60 kg in Greco-Roman. Likewise, Chamberlain wrestles 70 kg in freestyle, and would need to be either 65 kg or 74 kg. He will drop some weight in Greco-Roman, where he lands at 67 kg. Fort Worth will be their first big test in Greco-Roman.

Jordan Oliver, Alex Dieringer, Kamal Bey already qualified for Olympic Trials, register to wrestle

There are already numerous athletes who have qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, based upon making a Senior World Team or an international age-group achievement. The first Trials qualifier this season was the Bill Farrell International, where the top U.S. medalist who had not qualified in each Olympic weight punched their ticket to the Trials. Going into Fort Worth, there are 64 Trials qualifiers already set, including 24 in men’s freestyle, 20 in women’s freestyle and 30 in Greco-Roman.

Three big-name previously qualified athletes have registered to compete at the Senior Nationals, men’s freestylers Jordan Oliver at 65 kg, Alex Dieringer at 86 kg and Greco-Roman wrestler Kamal Bey at 77 kg. Bey got into the Trials as a past Senior World Team member. Oliver and Dieringer won titles at the Bill Farrell International to get qualified. Athletes who have already qualified are allowed to compete and have an opportunity to reduce their field for the Olympic Trials. If these three wrestlers place in the top-five at their weight in Texas, one fewer qualifier advances to State College. Trials procedures do not allow anybody to bump up if a previous qualifier places in the top five. Dieringer is new to 86 kg, and seems to be seeking more chances to compete in their new weight class.

Brothers Brady and Dylan Koontz to both battle at 60 kg in Greco-Roman

A pair of brothers on the Ohio State team, Brady Koontz and Dylan Koontz, are both registered for the Senior Nationals at 60 kg. The Koontz twin brothers, from Plover, Wis., are both redshirt sophomores for the Buckeyes, with Brady listed at 125 pounds and Dylan at 133 pounds. Brady, who made the 2019 U23 World Team and the 2018 Junior World Team in Greco-Roman, is taking an Olympic redshirt this season after placing second in Final X in 2019. While the twins land at different college weight classes, they land in the same Olympic Greco-Roman weight class, 60 kg, which is the lightest division.

Sisters Teshya and Teniya Alo to both wrestle at 62 kg in women’s freestyle

A set of talented sisters, Teshya Alo and Teniya Alo of Hawaii, are also registered at 62 kg in the women’s field. Older sister Teshya has the largest resume, with a 2014 Cadet World gold medal and a 2013 Cadet World bronze medal on her record. Teshya also was a 2016 U.S. Senior Open champion, and won the maximum six Fargo titles, with two Cadet and four Junior National crowns. Teniya also won a Fargo Junior Nationals title, among other national achievements. Teniya’s most recent national placement was third at the 2018 Junior Nationals at 132 pounds, while Teshya’s last medal effort was second at the 2017 U23 World Team Trials. They have usually been at different weight classes, with Teniya lower in weight than Teshya, but there is a possibility they could wrestle each other in Fort Worth, as they are listed at 62 kg.

Will 2x World medalist Alyssa Lampe compete at the Senior Nationals?

Two-time Senior World medalist Alyssa Lampe has not been active in this Olympic cycle, but is registered to compete at the Senior Nationals in women’s freestyle at 50 kg. Lampe made her return to the mat in August of 2019, when she placed 13th at the Poland Open in Warsaw, Poland. However, Lampe was registered to compete at the 2019 Bill Farrell International in November but did not enter. Will Lampe show up in Fort Worth? If she does wrestle next week, her placement against the strong 50 kg field will be an early indication of just how serious her comeback attempt will be.

Return of 2x national champion Jackie Surber-Cataline in women’s field

Another name of a returning star for the Olympic year is Jackie Surber-Cataline, who is entered at 68 kg in women’s freestyle. Surber won U.S. Open titles in 2014 and 2016, and finished third at 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials at 75 kg. Although Surber-Cataline competed at the highest weight classes most recently in her career, she started her Senior career in the mid-2000’s at 62 kg, and also wrestled some at 67 kg on the national and international levels. Surber-Cataline announced that she was coming back this fall, with a GoFundMe site set up to support her in her quest to make the 2020 Olympic team. This will be her first big test during her comeback.

College star Kollin Moore of Ohio State making run at Senior Nationals title

There is a large number of college wrestling stars who are taking Olympic redshirts this year, and will be in the Senior Nationals field in Texas next week. However, the Div. I college stars who are competing in Fort Worth is not just restricted to redshirts. Kollin Moore, a senior at Ohio State, who is the consensus No. 1 in the Div. I rankings this week, is entered to compete at 97 kg in men’s freestyle. We can expect other college wrestlers who are nationally ranked this season to enter, including Evan Wick of Wisconsin, who is registered at 74 kg. By next week, we will know others who fall into this category.