Justin LaValle, Alec Ortiz, and Donny Longendyke all advanced to the Olympic Team Trials next weekend, as Minnesota Storm claimed three of the six spots up for grabs yesterday at the Last Chance Qualifier in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
LaValle had already come close to earning a berth previously. The Old Dominion alum barely missed a chance at the Open and a fourth place finish at the Schultz Memorial meant he’d have to wait yet again. He wouldn’t be denied a third time. LaValle met Taylor LaMont (Champions WC), a high school senior and three-time Cadet World Team member, in the 59 kg final. LaValle jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period on LaMont but was faced with some static in the second. A takedown by LaMont made things interesting, but the more experienced LaValle deftly countered a lift attempt to turn it into points of his own. The final score was 6-4 in favor of LaValle, who could make things interesting next week at Carver Hawkeye Arena.
“This was the most nerve-wracking thing, having to win it”, LaValle told USA Wrestling. “Next week’s having fun again, trying to score points. Coach Paulson always pounds it into our heads, score points, score points, have some fun. This week I’ll get my weight back down, do some training, watch my film, stuff to work on, and have some fun next Saturday.”
Schultz bronze medalist Alec Ortiz would be the next Storm teammate to punch his ticket at the Last Chance Qualifier. Ortiz (75 kg) easily got past the tough Colin Schubert (NMU-OTS) in the final 11-4, using his poise and opportunistic attack to put up points. “Feels good, this is what we came here to do”, Ortiz said. “It’s a tough tournament, there’s still a lot of really tough guys in the bracket so it wasn’t by any means a cakewalk. I’m just happy to keep competing this season.” Ortiz had previously defeated Schubert at last year’s US Open.
Past heavyweight DIII National Champion and this year’s runner-up Donny Longendyke was looking to turn the Last Chance Qualifier as a second chance to reinvigorate his season. He would do just that. In the 130 kg final he faced off with Pete Gounaridis (Army/WCAP), a former national team representative in his own right. It was all Longendyke in this one via a 7-0 shutout.
Perennial contender Marco Lara (Army/WCAP) once again found his way onto the big stage, taking the 66 kg bracket. Lara, who is no stranger to both elite domestic and international competition, advanced to Iowa City with a 4-2 win over Anthonie Linares (NYAC/NMU). The Army wrestler saw a lot of his previous success at 60 kg, so the jump in weight has both its advantages and disadvantages for the athlete.
“He’s (Linares) much bigger than me”, said Lara. “I walk around at this weight class, so I figured if I could use my energy to score on him and just withstand his strength for the duration of the match then I’ll be able to get it.”
The Last Chance Qualifier represented the conclusion of US qualifying opportunities for next week’s Olympic Trials. All of the tournament’s winners now have a week to get ready to see who moves onto Rio.
Last Chance Qualifier Greco Roman Finals Results
Justin LaValle (Minnesota Storm) dec. Taylor LaMont (Champions WC), 6-4
Marco Lara (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Anthonie Linares (NYAC/NMU), 4-2
Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm) dec. Colin Schubert (NMU-OTS), 11-4
Hayden Zillmer (CrosbyHay) dec. Khymbakhy Johnson (NYAC/NMU), 6-3
John Lorenz (Unattached) dec. Ethan Dondlinger (NMU-OTS), 1-0
Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm) dec. Pete Gounaridis (Army/WCAP), 7-0