Greco News

Monday Roundup: ’23 US World Team Procedures; Borrero

randon miranda, 2021 pan-american championships, 2023 usa greco-roman world team procedures
Randon Miranda -- Photo: Tony Rotundo

It is time to review the selection process procedures that were released by USA Wrestling with regards to the 2023 World Team Trials, Pan-American Championships, and Pan-American Games.

There is only relevant qualifying factor for the Pan-Am Championships (which is scheduled for May 5 in Buenos Aires, ARG): ’23 US Open winners. In other words, those athletes who win their respective weight categories at the Nationals make the Pan-Am Championships Team. Should an athlete who has earned the right to represent the US at the event become unable to do so, his spot will be commandeered by a replacement according to “rank order” (placing) from the National tournament.

not all roads lead to gold, jim gruenwald

2023 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament

The most important aspect of the procedures is of course the stipulations surrounding entry into the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament (May 20-23 in Colorado Springs).

Most of the eligibility requirements are familiar:

  • Returning World Team members.
  • Current National Team members.
  • ’22 U23 World Team members.
  • ’22 U20 World medalists (only one hits this mark, which is Aden Attao).
  • Highest-placing American per weight category having earned a medal from the November ’22 Bill Farrell Memorial (who was not yet qualified).
  • ’23 Pan-American Championships medalists.
  • Top-7 placers from the US Open (in both styles).
  • US Open champs at each weight category move on to Final X (World Team Trials best-of-three final).

Questionable Changes

There are two.

The ’22 procedures were extremely accommodating to collegiate folkstyle competitors: NCAA Division 1 top-5, Division II top-3, Division III top-3, NJCAA top-3, and NAIA top-3.

1 — In ’23, the lone collegiate pathway is…NCAA Division I champions. In other words, the only college wrestlers who are deemed fit to compete in the World Team Trials are being limited to a segment of athletes whose presumptive interest level in a Senior Greco tournament will be next to zero. This obviously does not count two-time World Team member Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, Sunkist), who was an NCAA Division I runner-up last year and may be in the running for a title in ’23.

It is not a secret that it has been difficult for USA Greco in recent years to attract collegians, despite what had been a sincere effort to entice more to dip their toes into the style. But this shortcoming should not have dissuaded the esteemed and prestigious Greco-Roman Sport Committee from availing the same avenues for collegiate wrestlers in ’23. Greco in the United States needs more participation, not less. This decision might be appropriate if there were an annual influx of curious collegians filling up bracket space at the Greco Open. Alas, those types of entrants have become increasingly rare.

2 — The recently-wrapped Armed Forces Championships was not sanctioned by USA Wrestling, which put the event in more of domestic vacuum than it could ever deserve. Because of this detachment from sanctioning, there were no Trials spots awarded to wrestlers who placed in the top-2, which had been standard protocol in most previous years.

After a three-year absence from the schedule, the Armed Forces Championships returned this past weekend, but without the presence of the All-Marine Team. The result was simply Army obliterating Air Force and Navy, an expected occurrence to say the least, and that was that. The outcome was commensurately lopsided in reference to the individual placewinners. An Army wrestler finished first in nine of ten weight categories; every Army wrestler finished in the top-2; and five members of the team had long ago satisfied the entry requirements for the Trials. Meanwhile, Air Force and Navy both had four silver medalists apiece.

The majority of Navy athletes, as well as those from Air Force, do not have the opportunity as of yet to pursue actual full-time competitive careers. They receive a little time off to train for Armed Forces, and then it’s back to their military jobs and installations.

There were plenty from both squads with little to no Greco-Roman experience, yet there was certainly visible talent and determination on display. What about those motivated Air Force and Navy wrestlers who might be intrigued and wish to continue competing in Greco once that becomes an option for them? Excluding service-members from a Trials event certainly does not send them a sign of encouragement. They admittedly have the US Open available to try and qualify, and some likely will attempt that route if permission from their branches is granted. But leaving the Armed Forces Championships out of the procedural discussion is a big miss for the national governing body (and the Sport Committee), in more ways than one.

’23 Pan-Am Games Selection

Easy. Winners from Final X in June. The ten athletes who comprise the ’23 World Team receive the opportunity to compete on behalf of the nation at the Pan-Am Games — an event that is scheduled to transpire approximately six weeks after the World Championships (September in Belgrade). This is not a change from the most recent Pan-Am Games selection procedures (’19).

National Team

— National Team placement (“true third”) will be contested at Final X.

’22 was the first time Greco-Roman athletes were able to wrestle-off for National Team at Final X, a distinction that belonged to Luke Sheridan (97 kg, Army/WCAP) and Haydn Maley (Beaver Dam RTC). Sheridan prevailed. The procedural explanation for ’23 is below.

“If the 2nd and 3rd-place finishers from the last qualifying event (either US Open or World Team Trials Challenge Tournament) did not meet, they will wrestle one match at the Final X event. This match will determine the 3rd-place ranking for the National Team (Top-3) spot. Athletes are only allowed to wrestle for one National Team spot per style at Final X.”

Fundraiser for Borrero

’16 Olympic/two-time World Champion Ismael Borrero Molina — who defected to the US from Cuba last year after traveling to Mexico for the Pan-Am Championships — has been helping out in a coaching role at the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center for the past two months. The 31-year-old is focused solely on advancing into this phase of his career and no longer has designs on competing, though he did participate in an exhibition match against two-time World Team rep Sammy Jones (63 kg, NYAC/CTT) in December. Prior to heading out to Colorado Springs for “January Camp”, Borrero was briefly attached to the Aviators Wrestling Club in Wisconsin.

Borrero could become an extremely valuable coaching asset to the US Greco-Roman program — but in order for that to happen, two important hurdles must be cleared.

He needs funding and, eventually, citizenship.

Although Borrero is serving the American program, he is not currently an employee of USA Wrestling, thus he is not receiving compensation for his efforts. Borrero also wishes to pursue American citizenship, a cumbersome and often lengthy process depending on the circumstances. In addition, the former Cuban star is aiming to bring his wife and young son into the country.

ismael borrero molina, 2016 olympic champion

Ismael Borrero Molina after winning the 59 kg gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

There has been an absence of formal talk regarding an official role within the NGB for Borrero due to his eligibility; and as most are aware, the program has undergone a sizable amount of turnover dating back to the summer. But this is a scenario that, if managed correctly, could potentially deliver a positive impact for all involved. Athletes in and around the OTC have already endorsed Borrero’s coaching ability. With Cheney Haight now in the room as the USA Developmental Coach, there might be the makings of a very interesting and successful instructional dynamic in the near future.

But the first step is to generate community support targeted at keeping Borrero right where he is. If you would like to donate to this endeavor, rest assured that all money will go directly to him. Here is the link.

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