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Wrestling for Rio qualification edition: Will a WWE star wrestle in Rio?

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The WWE tauts that one of the NXT prospects will represent Brazil at the Rio Olympics. Coach Mike checks on the truth of this claim.

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Brazil's Adrian Jaoude technically isn't really a WWE star just yet, so some may find that headline misleading. Despite their claims stating otherwise though, he won't be wrestling in this year's Olympics in his home country either.

Jaoude is a member of the WWE's farm promotion NXT, and the WWE, back in January, did state that he would be competing in the Olympics.

There have been plenty of Olympians that chose to enter the squared circle after their gold medal dreams came to an end, but WWE can now lay claim to a true rarity: having an active Olympic competitor on the roster...

[Jaoude] has been chosen to represent Brazil in the freestyle wrestling competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics later this year in Rio de Janeiro.

This release seems rather presumptuous considering that this past weekend featured the qualification tournament which would make the determination as to who from the Pan American (Central, South, and North) "Continent" will make it the wrestling mats in Rio. In each of wrestling's three styles, the qualification tournament finalists in the six contested weight classes claimed their place as Olympians.

Jaoude was not among them. In the very first round of the tournament, he lost by grand superiority to a Canadian. This loss, and the Canadian's subsequent defeat, left the Brazilian in a tie for last place in the 86 kilogram weight division.

This result did not come as a surprise. Jaoude carries an impressive physique and likely has a bright future in professional wrestling, but his skill level and a fairly deep weight class left him with long odds to actually make the Olympics. This doesn't mean he hasn't made a meaningful contribution to the sport of wrestling. South American wrestling used to be an absolute joke, and it still has a long way to go, but the quality of competition from south of Panama (particularly Venezuela) has improved drastically over the past fifteen years, and much of the credit for this goes to committed athletes like Jaoude.

Jaoude brought his very best effort; I wish I could say the same for media/communications people at various outlets who don't make any effort to check whether supposed Olympians are, in fact, Olympians. Jaoude's case is not isolated though. The MMA community has encountered similar unvetted claims made from or about Kamal Shalarous and Ali Abdel-Aziz, among others. I fail to understand why or how a person would misreport on athlete's Olympian (or Czech National Champion!) status when fifteen minutes on Google can easily confirm or debunk the topic. After all, the Olympics are kind of a big deal.

Big deals like the Olympic's are also exclusive, particularly when it comes to wrestling. The average weight class at the Olympics features only around twenty competitors, and a country must surmount formidable obstacles in order to earn a berth in this very narrow field. To qualify a weight class for the Olympics, a country's wrestler must have placed in the top five at the 2015 World Championships, or finish in a qualifying spot (usually first or second place) at a continental qualifying tournament. Failing either of these, two additional qualifying tournaments will take place in Mongolia and Turkey. These last two qualification tournaments prove to be brutal affairs with a profuse number of excellent contestants fighting it out over the last few berths. Plenty of extremely accomplished get left out in the cold. Wrestlers like Jaoude fail to make the Olympics due not to an absence of talent, but because qualifying is extremely difficult.

Qualification has proven so difficult that even after this past weekend's Pan American qualifying tournament, the United States, which is by and large vastly superior to every other Pan American team not named Cuba, still has failed to qualify six weights for Olympic competition: two in men's freestyle, three in Greco-Roman, and one in Women's freestyle. Of particular note, men's freestyle wrestlers Brent Metcalf at 65 kg and Jake Herbert at 86 kg did not make it to the finals of the Pan American qualifier. Metcalf fell controversially to past NCAA champ and World Silver medalist Franklin Gomez of Puerto Rico, while Herbert dropped his semifinal match to Cuba's Rene Salas.

After the U.S.A. Olympic Wrestling Team Trials in April, American representatives in the unqualified weights will head to Mongolia and Turkey, and when the smoke clears I suspect that the USA won't be bringing at least one weight to Brazil. I suppose that Jaoude could attend these tournaments as well, though it would be a futile gesture and I doubt the Brazilian wrestling federation shells out the necessary money for travel.

To my count only two Olympic wrestlers have ever competed in the WWE*, and only two Brazilian men have ever made the Olympics in freestyle wrestling (one is Jaoude's brother, and former IFL fighter, Antoine). Unfortunately Adrian Jaoude will not take his place among either of these elite groups. However, unlike hundreds of wrestlers who have to leave the sport this year after their Olympic dreams are thwarted, Jaoude gets the last laugh; he gets to go pro.

*Kurt Angle and Masa Saito