The lighter of the two non-Olympic weights, 71 kilograms is just coming off of being represented at the World Championships for the first time courtesy of Chris Gonzalez (Army/WCAP). Naturally, Gonzalez is sitting this one out after going 1-1 this past weekend in Budapest. That leaves room for some of the weight’s younger contenders to take center-stage along with one of the most established Greco Roman wrestlers in the country.
US Nationals Preview – 71 kg
Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) Smith is far and away the most experienced and skilled guy thought to be competing at 71 this weekend. He is also a monster to deal with because there just isn’t space for greener wrestlers to counter-attack. With a seemingly limitless gas tank, Smith has the ability to be in his opponents’ faces constantly before eventually chopping them down bit by excruciating bit. He breaks guys. Most recently, Smith was runner-up to Gonzalez at the Trials in November and went 3-2 at last week’s Clubs Cup in Hungary.
Cody Pack (Legends of Gold) A decorated collegiate competitor at South Dakota State, Pack is a highly-touted prospect with the general makeup to succeed in Greco. He can keep a good pace, shows off excellent balance, and certainly has the raw power to nail some lifts. He has also made the move out to Springs and the OTC, which shows he’s committed to moving forward. It’s debatable as to what should be expected of Pack at this point in limited action. But if he sticks with it chances are he could become someone quite dangerous.
Anthonie Linares (NMU-OTS) Tough and a good pummeler. Linares, who took second to Alex Sancho at the University World Team Trials, offers up grit in heaping bunches. There is no quit in this wrestler on the mat and that is his biggest attribute thus far into his full-time Greco Roman career. He has some moves. Linares juts in underhooks once he finds position and on occasion will go for something big. His par terre defense is also not-too-shabby. For now, you’re watching Linares just to see him fight it out, which is what this sport needs.
Brad Dolezal (Minnesota Storm) Another former Minnesota Gopher, Dolezal is coming from a folkstyle/freestyle background until he gets all Greco’ed up. In the meantime, there is a learning curve at the Senior level he is in the process of adjusting to. At the NYAC Open in November, Dolezal had some good moments in a fourth place effort. Fast on his feet, tree-trunk legs, solid pedigree, legitimate coaching…the ingredients are all there. It’s a waiting game but he definitely brings some intrigue this weekend.
David Prado (NMU-OTS) Prado was last seen as part of the massive US delegation in Sweden where he got some matches in. Before that, it was the Eduardo Campbell Cup in Panama where he earned a bronze. No one in the entire tournament is more game this this kid. He’s like a pitbull out there with his hectic work-rate and eagerness for hard contact. Technique wise on the feet, Prado likes to use ties that lead to high-dive attempts, but he’ll go up top on occasion, too. He might not be ready for prime-time yet, but definitely an enjoyable watch.
Christopher Rodgers (NMU-OTS) A native of Pittsburgh, Rodgers is a new addition to Northern Michigan after having already competed at the Senior level previously. In 2015, Rodgers lost in the US Open to Sahid Kargbo at 66 kilos but he rebounded to win the Northeast Regionals and qualify for the World Team Trials. As an athlete, this guy has a prototypical build for 71 kilos. He’s long enough and strong enough to tussle with hardened competition. Rodgers is also a wrestler who wants it and that’s really where the conversation starts.