With the summer months approaching, and the college wrestling season in the rear-view mirror, the wrestling community’s focus has turned from Folkstyle to Freestyle. Instead of dual meets and conference tournaments, wrestlers embark on a four step process in hopes of qualifying for the World Championships.The recently completed US Open and Last Chance Qualifiers have brought us to the third stage, the World Team Trials. The ten wrestlers who win their respective weights at the Trials will earn themselves a spot in Final X, with the winner of those showdowns locking up a spot in the World Championships.
Supporters of the Nittany Lions won’t be seeing Bo Nickal and Jason Nolf don the navy blue in Rec Hall next season, but fear not! The former captains, and plenty of other former Penn State Wrestlers will be taking the mats next weekend at the World Team Trials.
61 KG: Nico Megaludis
Nico is fresh off a second place finish at the US Open and, with Cody Brewer (who beat Nico in the finals) waiting in the finals (the winner of the main portion of the tournament will advance to wrestle a Best of 3 series against Cody), Nico finds himself perfectly positioned to set up a rematch. A potential wrench in the gears is Nasho Garrett, who actually won Final X at 61kg last year, but was forced to withdraw from Worlds due to injury. His replacement Joe Colon went on to get bronze, and will await whoever emerges from the Trials at Final X.
65 KG: Zain Retherford and Frank Molinaro
65kg was turned on its head the other week when Yianni tore through the US Open, beating Frank Molinaro, Jordan Oliver and Zain Retherford (the de facto top three guys at the weight) on the way to the title. His victory secured his place at Final X which means Zain, Frank, JO and others will enter the Trials hoping to earn a spot opposite him. Frank was the US representative at the Olympics three years ago, but the most likely final is JO vs Zain. Zain has never beaten Jordan, but it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that he can break that trend this time around.
70 KG: Jason Nolf
Jason lost in the semifinals of the US Open to James Green, who was subsequently upset by Ryan Deakin. All that upheaval means James and Jason are likely to face off again, this time in the finals, with a Final X spot on the line. Nolf has never beaten James Green, but he’s gotten closer each time they’ve faced off. Given his progress and development it seems this weekend could be the one on which he finally gets the monkey off his back.
79 KG: Mark Hall
Mark Hall sat out the US Open, but assuaged his fan’s concerns when he stampeded through the last chance qualifier. He’ll enter one of the most top heavy fields in the tournament, with Mark, Alex Dieringer and Zahid Valencia all battling for a chance to wrestle Kyle Dake at Final X. Mark probably ranks third among that trio, but they’re all so talented it won’t be a surprise no matter who advances.
92 KG: Bo Nickal
Bo is the only Penn State wrestle who won’t be taking part in the main tournament, but will instead be waiting in the Best of 3 final. He was completely dominant at the US Open and it seems like a foregone conclusion that he’ll handle whoever emerges from the pack. His real test won’t be this weekend, but instead in June. Should he take care of business at the Trials he’ll be facing off against J’den Cox for a spot on the world team.
125 KG: Anthony Cassar
There’s no official word yet as far as Anthony’s intentions to wrestle at the Open, but he does have a spot in the event by virtue of his NCAA championship earlier this year. If he does wrestle he’ll be a part of a field that includes Tony Nelson, Dom Bradley and NCAA Runner up Derek White, all of which are beatable opponents.
Noteworthy other competitors:
As far as Senior Freestyle, former Nittany Lions Dan Vallimont, Geno Morelli and more will put their hats in the ring this weekend. In Senior Greco, Mason Manville will probably be the two seed at 77kg, while Jared Verkleeren finished 5th at the US Open at 67kg.
In Junior Freestyle, RBY, Seth Nevills will be taking part in the Trials, while Aaron Brooks will be waiting in the Best of 3 finals at 79kg.
The World Team Trials take place on May 18-19 and will be streamed on Flowrestling.org