This weekend the first leg of the 2014 United States Freestyle Wrestling World Team Trials concluded in Madison Wisconsin, naming 12 wrestlers , six men and six women, to the 2014 World Team. All 12 earn the right to represent their country at this fall's World Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
The second leg of the Trials, which determines the representatives for the remaining four non-Olympic weight classes, takes place at the end of July. Provided below is some information on each Men's World Team member, as well as the college for which they competed on the NCAA level.
57 kg: Tony Ramos, University of Iowa
It's been an exciting couple of months for Ramos who won an NCAA championship in March, finished college and now claims a spot on the USA World Team.
The United States needed a young athlete to step up and become the wrestler of the future at this weight, and it looks like Ramos is the man for the job. To win the spot he had to top a field including two past World fifth place finishers, Nick Simmons and Angel Escobedo, as well as an Olympian in Sam Hazewinkel.
65 kg: Brent Metcalf, University of Iowa
After a bit of inconsistency over the last few years, Metcalf has found his stride in freestyle and looks to fulfill the promise he showed as a college wrestler.
The new rules and their cumulative scoring regime certainly have helped the former Hawkeye wrestler, who uses boundless energy and a bruising style to wear down opponents. However, Metcalf has also recently shown much greater refinement both technically and tactically, and in the past few months he has demonstrated the potential to soon win his first world-level medal.
74 kg: Jordan Burroughs, University of Nebraska
Burroughs, the American Olympic champion, looks to claim World Championship number three this year.
Burroughs beat college superstar David Taylor in the first two matches of their best-of-three wrestle off. This extends the former Cornhusker's streak of domestic dominance, but Taylor is supremely talented and keeps closing the gap. Kyle Dake, another top wrestler at this weight, did not compete due to injury.
84 kg: Ed Ruth, Penn State
The Ed Ruth era has finally started.
Ruth capped off one of the best college wrestling careers of all time in March with a third straight NCAA title, and now he takes his place as the United States' top freestyle wrestler at 189 pounds.
Ruth's final wrestle off against Keith Gavin required a third and decisive match, but at the end of the trials Ruth proved that when he wrestles up to his abilities, nobody in the country stands a chance. Ruth will now take his mind-boggling talents to his first Senior-level World Championships.
97 kg: Jake Varner, Iowa State
Varner took spent time away from the sport after his 2012 Olympic championship run, now it appears he picked up just where he left off. In April's U.S. Open and this past weekend's World Team Trials, Varner has looked crisp, comfortable and absolutely massive while totally dismantling his domestic competition. Now he returns to the world stage where he has accomplished big things in the past.
120 kg: Tervel Dlagnev, University of Nebraska-Kearney
Dlagnev takes his place as the number one heavyweight on Team USA for the fourth straight year. Each of the past three years the big Texan has only needed one additional win to earn a medal, hopefully this year he get that necessary extra victory.
Additionally, these Trials determined the U.S. representatives for six women's weights at the Freestyle World Championships:
48 kg: Alyssa Lampe
53 kg: Whitney Conder
58 kg: Alli Ragan
63 kg: Elena Pirozhkova
69 kg: Veronica Carlson
75 kg: Adeline Gray
- Half of this team (so far) are past World/Olympic medalists: Burroughs (gold 2011-2013), Varner (bronze 2011 and gold 2012) and Dlagnev (bronze 2009).
- All but one of these athletes did their college wrestling in Iowa or Nebraska, but none of them are native to either of these states. Ramos comes from Illinois, Metcalf from Michigan, Burroughs from New Jersey, Ruth from Pennsylvania, Varner from California and Dlagnev from Texas. More than any other sport, wrestling is a true cross section of America.
- All 6 wrestlers are products of one of three coaching trees. Ramos and Metcalf descend from the Dan Gable line of wrestlers (through Tom Brands), Ruth and Varner descend from the Bobby Douglass line (through Cael Sanderson) and Burroughs and Dlagnev descend from the line of legendary University of Nebraska-Omaha coach Mike Denney (through Mark Manning and Marc Bauer). Mike Denney is the only of the three legends to still coach, but not at UNO, because athletic director Trev Alberts cut UNO's wrestling program immediately after Denney's team won a national championship in 2011, his third in a row and seventh overall at UNO.