The overall experience of my first Olympic Trials was fantastic. The freestyle 65 KG bracket itself got so crazy within an hour of entering the arena that I was jumping around like a giddy schoolboy. Aaron Pico was behind Minnesota national champion Jayson Ness 9-0 before scoring 20 unanswered points for the tech, and then went on the beat Jordan Oliver and Reece Humphrey to make the best of three final. I could have at least envisioned a scenario where Pico won the trials. That is not the case for the man that defeated Pico, Frank Molinaro. Molinaro was the ninth seed and defeated Kellen Russel, top seed Brent Metcalf (wrestling in his home arena), four time NCAA champion Logan Steiber, and Pico to grab the trials title. He will attempt to qualify the weight class in two weeks in Mongolia.
On top of the action, I was able to hang out with some great folks from Minnesota introduced to me by Mary head coach Adam Aho. Through Aho, I was able to chat with another fellow wrestling entrepreneur, Tyler Hemmesch of MatBoss. MatBoss is the premier wrestling-specific video statistics program in the nation. I am hoping that he and I can help one another down the road! I also ran into Olympic hopeful Justin LaValle. LaValle Is a Moorhead, MN native who I had never met, but have followed on the Greco scene since his days competing in Fargo. As a wrestling fan, it was enjoyable chatting with LaValle, and I even tried (and failed) to get him to relocate to Bismarck to train and coach!
The last exciting thing I was able to do was give PCN head coach Shon Horgan the scholarship check that his son Bradyn won. I had not chatted with Horgan before, but always like meeting important people within the North Dakota wrestling community! Hopefully our contribution to Bradyn’s education will give him more opportunities to do great things as a young adult with a wrestling background.
1. Obviously the major highlight of the trials from a North Dakota perspective was Hayden Zillmer finishing third and making the Greco Roman national team. No, Zillmer did not qualify to represent the United States at the Olympic games. But for a guy who only had a few weeks of Greco-Roman training prior to the trials because of its proximity to the NCAA championships, Zillmer was awesome. What does making the national team mean? It means loads of training opportunities at the Olympic Training Center. A stipend that will cover some living expenses (probably not as nice as the women’s national soccer team), and what I would assume to be sweet national team sweg that only the best in America receive. At 23, the national team opportunities, combined with Minnesota Storm training, could mean a very bright future for the former Bison at the international level. Sidenote: Zillmer’s bodylock is criminal.
2. It probably didn’t finish the way he would have liked, but Scott Schiller finished 2-2 on the weekend at 97 KG freestyle. In his quarterfinal match vs. old college foe Kyven Gadsen (Iowa State), Schiller scored the first takedown and looked great until Gadsen blew the match open with multiple four-point feet-to-back maneuvers. In the wrestlebacks, Schiller defeated Blaize Cabell and Jeffery Felx before falling in the consolation semifinals to former world team member J.D. Bergman. Here is hoping that Schiller decides to continue competing through another Olympic cycle. We North Dakotans sure enjoy watching him compete.
3. It was also an impressive day for former Bison Kallen Kleinschmidt, who currently trains at the Olympic Training Center. The Helena, MT native went 1-2 on Sunday and was right there with everyone he wrestled. Not too shabby for a guy that most people in the area didn’t even know was still competing.
4. Kyle Snyder makes in-match and between-match adjustments as well or better than anyone in the world. After losing match one to Olympic Gold medalist Jake Varner in the 97 KG best-of-three final, Snyder won the next two matches in convincing fashion. Snyder will now look to add an Olympic gold medal to the World Championship he won in Vegas last August.
5. I left the tournament Sunday afternoon because I didn’t want to have to drive the two hours back to Peoria at 10:00 in the evening. That meant I wasn’t able to watch Minnesota Storm two-time Greco-Roman world medalist Andy Bisek compete. Bisek, along with big man Robbie Smith, are the best bets to grab Greco medals for the United States this summer in Rio. Both are wildly entertaining and give loads of hope to the future of Greco in America.
-I also really loved the way Jesse Thielke competed on Saturday. He is definitely the future and will hopefully carry the torch for the now retired Spenser Mango years into the future.
6. One of the coolest things that I have witnessed in my years of watching wrestling was Spenser Mango leaving his shoes at center mat after falling to Thielke in the semifinals. Mango has been on the United State Greco-Roman world team since 2008, and competed in two Olympic games. It is especially attention grabbing for me because Mango is about my age, and I remember watching him light people up in Fargo when I was in high school. Congrats on the amazing career Spenser Mango.
7. Adeline Gray and Helen Maroulis are unbelievable talents on the female circuit, and if they don’t both win Olympic gold, I will be very surprised.
8. Dan Dennis dominated his way to the Olympic birth at 57 KG by beating Hawkeye Wrestling Club teammate Tony Ramos 2-0 in the best-of-three finals. Sadly, the biggest headlines after Dennis won the birth were based on Ramos’s post-match interview in which he went after all things Hawkeye including head coach Tom Brands because he felt he wasn’t treated properly when Dennis decided to return to competition. Even if Ramos has a right to be angry, shame on him for stealing a teammate’s Olympic moment by making it about himself.
9. 86 KG freestyle was entertaining to follow, and I am excited to see J’den Cox compete in Rio. The Dake-Taylor bump in weight classes was a success in that both made the national team, but I can’t imagine a scenario where they make the world team if they have to beat full sized 86 KG wrestlers like Cox. Dake nearly lost to Richard Perry in the quarterfinals, and the biggest difference between he and Cox was size. If I was Dake or Taylor I would head back to 74 KG and hope that Burroughs decides to hang up the shoes before 2020. If Burroughs keeps going through 2020, two of the best collegiate wrestlers in recent memory will never make a world team.
10. Great interview from Trevel Dlagnev after he won the 125 KG Olympic spot. Dlagnev has such a bad back, that he almost withdrew from the tournament two days before it was scheduled to start. His comments on how the sport of wrestling humbles everyone at some point are so true. Even Jordan Burroughs!
11. All HAIL THE KING, JORDAN BURROUGHS…..does anything else really need to be said about 74 KG?
-Yes, Andrew Howe big brother Alex Dieringer to advance to the best of three against Burroughs. I don’t know if there is anyone out there more physical that Howe. I actually thought he broke Dieringer’s jaw at one point in the match.
12. Unless you are hurt, finish the tournament. The only people that get passes for me are Spenser Mango and Coleman Scott because they are world medalists on their last leg.
Mr. Headlock’s Musings
1. I love Iowa City, and really question why I didn’t apply to a few Big 10 schools.
2, Walking around a college town on Saturday evening makes me glad I don’t have daughters.
3. The wife went back to work today. Me and the boys….Me and the boys…
4. I graduated from the University of North Dakota. Pleased they were able to end the drought and win a national in mens hockey.
5. Still unhappy the no longer have a wrestling program.
6. Villanova, national basketball champions, had a wrestling team funded by John DuPont for two years. Recruits were flown around campus on his helicopter. Rumor is they went to the Bahamas for a week and wrestled one match. All things considered illegal based on NCAA bylaws.
7. Need to get back in a wrestling room. It has been too long.
8. I obviously purchased the new Star Wars the morning it released. Have now watched it at least five times.
9. Did I plug “The Night Before” yet. One of the better comedies I have seen in some time.
10. What to look forward to now? Freestyle state tournament? Do people go to that in ND anymore?