The US Olympic trials for freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling are tomorrow and Sunday. In the current international format, the entire tournament for each weight is conducted in a single day and the trials move incredibly fast. FILA has mutated the sports of freestyle and Greco wrestling to the point where they are slouching slobbering troglodytes compared to their past majesty, but this is all we are left with if we are going to compete with the rest of the world in the sport of wrestling and have our sons and daughters come back to these shores with golden Olympic glory resting on their chests.
I will save most material for a full blown Olympics wrestling preview which will be thorough and ambitious. I hope it lives up to what I intend it to be and that I can put the effort required while attending to the additional responsibilities of work, coaching, husbanding, new fatherhood, and finishing my last degree in school. I put in the work because I have been very encouraged by the great feedback I've received from the BE community. I enjoy being complimented.
It is important to me that the BE community to be aware that there is supposedly a live webcast of all of the trials for all mats on NBColympics.com. I say supposedly because people involved with the production of said webcast assure me that it is happening though I have seen no evidence nor announcement of it on the Olympic site. As soon as I know more, I will update this post.
This event needs the viewership, it is often ignored or glossed over by all but the most hard core of wrestling fans, and honestly, we are a very small group. Wrestling saved my life as a young man and I cannot bear to see it whither and die, sadly however, its long term outlook is grim. I believe that symbiosis between wrestling and MMA is the sport's only way out of continual decline and eventual doom. I implore anyone with even a scintilla of interest to check out the webcast or the tv broadcast of the finals on NBCSN Sunday and Monday evenings.
To add perspective, the ten weight Division 1 NCAA Championships enjoys prime time ESPN coverage and sold-out arenas. The seven weight class Olympic freestyle trials will receive modest television coverage and much lighter attendance. One of these weights features five different NCAA champions! The talent compression is insane, the wrestlers are better and more mature and this event only occurs every four years. This is the pinnacle of a sport which experiences one of the highest levels of participation among boys in this country at the high school level. Wrestling, despite its perception as a peripheral enterprise, is very very important to this country, and this is this country's ultimate wrestling event.
I appreciate anyone who reads this and goes to check out this weekend's trials. Every pair of eyes makes a difference
If you made it this far here is my bonus coverage for the Greco trials, I will only spotlight the four names which I feel are out most legitimate shots at winning medals
Spenser Mango, 55kg
Pound for pound one of the strongest and most explosive men on Earth. Don't believe me? Watch his highlight reel below. Spenser had dominated this weight domestically for years, he has the ability and it is time for him to turn the corner on the international stage. Mango has a brother, Ryan, who is a current two-time All American for Stanford University. If Mango were to win, it would be a great story.
Justin Lester, 66kg.
Lester was a high school phenom and instead of pursuing high level college wrestling choose to to focus on Greco after high school. Lester is huge for the weight class and has experienced international success in the past, placing third twice at the world championships. While he was upset in the last trials by high school student Jake Dietchler, I do not foresee any lapses in his wrestling this time around. Lester is our best chance for a Greco gold in London.
Justin Ruiz, 96kg.
Ruiz, a former University of Nebraska All-American, can bet anyone in the world on a good day. He has a world bronze medal in the past and must be regarded as a threat to medal at the coming Olympics.
Dremiel Byers, 120 kg.
The 37 year old should be representing the US at this Olympics in what may be the last hurrah for one of the greatest American wrestlers ever. Byers has achieved incredible things in the seven weight class era, placing first, second, and third in the world. While a gold medal would require a minor miracle with Cuba's Mijain Lopez(assuming he doesn't take a dive) in the field, a silver or bronze is certainly in the cards for Byers.
UPDATE: Rulon Gardner, past Olympic gold medalist and world champ chose not to weigh in for this weight today.
Thanks for your continued interest in USA and international wrestling.