USA Greco

5PM 2020 Olympic Team Trials Walkthrough

2020 olympic team trials walkthrough
Jake Fisher -- Photo: Richard Immel

FORT WORTH, TX — Following a year-long postponement, the 2020 US Olympic Team Trials for Greco-Roman have finally arrived.

It is, to be sure, an altogether unique Olympic Trials. Wrestlers from across the country have had to improvise with regards to their training in ways they likely never considered previously. Even for those who have enjoyed consistent availability in terms of partners and resources, there is no question things simply haven’t been the same. But despite the uncertainty and frustration, they still managed to do everything possible to ensure their candidacy on the domestic circuit’s grandest stage. For that, they all deserve our appreciation and respect.

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2020 Olympic Team Trials Walkthrough

The Challenge Tournament portion of the Trials begins on Friday morning at 10:00am CT. Below, each weight category is accompanied by their respective seeding orders as well as a few notes of potential interest.

60 kg

BYE TO SATURDAY NIGHT BEST-OF-THREE FINAL: Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP, world #5, 5PM #1)

Qualifying route — Two-time World Team member this quad (Athletes need only one WT appearance)

Earned the pole position by securing his weight category for the US in Tokyo, which is the case for three other athletes in the Olympic Team Trials. When he takes the mat Saturday night it will represent the fifth year in a row Hafizov has appeared in a best-of-three final (’16 Olympic, ’17, ’18, and ’19 World Team Trials). An impressive stat for the nation’s most impressive technician.

SEEDS

1. Mike Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP, 5PM #4)
Qualifying route — ’19 US National Champion

2. Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP, 5PM #2)
Qualifying route — ’19 World Team member

3. Max Nowry (Army/WCAP, 5PM #3)
Qualifying route — ’19 World Team member

4. Taylor LaMont (Sunkist/UVRTC, 5PM #8)
Qualifying route — 3rd, ’19 US Nationals

5. Dalton Roberts (Army/WCAP, 5PM #7)
Qualifying route — ’18 World Team member

6. Sammy Jones (NYAC/UVRTC, 5PM #5)
Qualifying route — ’19 US National runner-up

7. Travis Rice (NYAC/IRTC, 5PM #9)
Qualifying route: — 1st, Last Chance Qualifier 

8. Randon Miranda (NYAC/CYC, 5PM #10)
Qualifying route — 2nd, Last Chance Qualifier 

9. Joey Palmer (Cyclone RTC)
Qualifying route — 4th, ’19 US Nationals

Everyone expected a “stacked bracket”, and 60 was never going to disappoint in that regard. In a field crammed with nearly all of the full-timers whom have been targeted for this weekend dating back several years, each and every match-up should provide a meaningful examination into the kind of growth, skill, and dynamism most associate with the sport’s lightest weight category.

Notes:

  • Six of the wrestlers at 60 kg have ties to Northern Michigan University, four of whom are graduates (Nowry, Roberts, Jones, and Rice).
  • One prior Olympic Trials finalist (Hafizov, ’16).
  • Four prior Senior World Team members (Hafizov, Mango, Nowry, and Roberts).
  • Two age-group Greco-Roman World medalists (Nowry, ’12 University World gold; LaMont, ’16 Junior World bronze).

67 kg

BYE TO SATURDAY NIGHT BEST-OF-THREE FINAL: Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP, 5PM #2)

Qualifying route — 2nd, ’19 Bill Farrell Memorial

Saturday night will mark his fifth Senior Trials best-of-three appearance. This far, Sancho is 0-4, with two of those series defeats coming against now-teammate and ’12 Olympian Ellis Coleman (5PM #1). But, Sancho previously never had a bye going into a finals series. And he has had a lot more time on target wrestling with Coleman in practice.

SEEDS

1. Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP, 5PM #1)
Qualifying route — Three World Teams this quad 

2. Ray Bunker (Marines, 5PM #3)
Qualifying route — ’19 World Team member

3. Jamel Johnson (Marines, 5PM #4)
Qualifying route — 5th, ’19 US Nationals

4. Xavier Johnson (Marines, 5PM #6)
Qualifying route — 3rd, ’19 US Nationals

5. Calvin Germinaro (Minnesota Storm, 5PM #8)
Qualifying route — 2nd, ’19 US Nationals

6. Lenny Merkin (NYAC/NJRTC, 5PM #12)
Qualifying route — 1st, Last Chance Qualifier

7. Nolan Baker (NYAC, 5PM #7)
Qualifying route — 4th, ’19 US Nationals

8. Peyton Omania (MSU/CYC)
Qualifying route — ’19 Junior World bronze

9. Alston Nutter (Sunkist/NTS)
Qualifying route — ’19 Junior World bronze

10. Michael Hooker (Army/WCAP, 5PM #9)
Qualifying route — ’20 Armed Forces silver

11. Benji Peak (Sunkist/NTS, 5PM #10)
Qualifying route — 2nd, Last Chance Qualifier 

The path leading to Sancho couldn’t be bumpier, but the quarterfinal round alone will be worth the price of admission. What fans have here is a mix of different approaches and attacking styles. Between Baker and Omania with their love for headlocks, Merkin’s preference for old schools throws and tactics, along with the bruising pace for which Coleman and Bunker are known, variety is all over the place in this bracket.

Notes:

  • Counting Hafizov, 60 kilograms boasts five military wrestlers but they are all from Army. At 67, there six service-member athletes (including Sancho), and three come from the Marine Corps (Bunker, Jamel Johnson, and Xavier Johnson.
  • 1 prior Olympian (Coleman, ’12 London).
  • Two prior Senior World Team members (Coleman and Bunker).
  • Two age-group World medalists (Omania, ’19 Junior bronze; Nutter, ’19 Junior bronze)
ellis coleman, 2019 worlds

Ellis Coleman made all three US World Teams during this Olympic Cycle, joining G’Angelo Hancock as the only two US athletes to have accomplished this feat. (Photo: Jim Thrall/MatFocus)

77 kg

SEEDS

1. Jake Fisher (Curby 3-Style, 5PM #7)
Qualifying route — 2nd, ’19 US Nationals

2. RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC, 5PM #4)
Qualifying route — ’18 World Team member

3. Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm, 5PM #1)
Qualifying route — ’17/’19 World Team member

4. Ben Provisor (NYAC, 5PM #3)
Qualifying route — ’17 World Team member

5. Peyton Walsh (Marines, 5PM #8)
Qualifying route — 4th, 19 US Nationals

6. Mason Manville (NLWC, 5PM #6
Qualifying route — ’17 World Team member

7. Corey Hope (NYAC, 5PM #10)
Qualifying route — 5th, ’19 US Nationals

8. Austin Morrow (NYAC/NTS, 5PM #13
Qualifying route — 1st, Last Chance Qualifier 

9. Brandon Mueller (Air Force/WCAP, 5PM #14)
Qualifying route — ’20 Armed Forces Championships silver

10. Jesse Porter (NYAC/NTS, 5PM #11)
Qualifying route — 2nd, Last Chance Qualifier 

There is nothing surprising about 77’s depth, nor should there be. Even with the absence of Kamal Bey, the pool is full, though Bey’s presence is of course missed. Many will key in on Provisor’s condition early given the drop in weight, and Manville’s return is also a news-making item. A tremendous competitor. But they all are. That is how they got here.

Notes:

  • If the seeds hold to form, fans can look forward to yet another chapter in the long-running saga between Perkins and Smith.
  • Again, NMU’s influence is evident. Provisor was a student at the school for a brief time, but Fisher, Hope, Morrow, and Porter all established themselves in full while residing in Marquette.
  • One prior Olympian (Provisor, ’12 and ’16).
  • Three prior Olympic Trials finalists (Provisor; Smith, ’16 runner-up; Perkins, ’16 Trials champ).
  • Five prior Senior World Team members (Fisher, Provisor, Perkins, Smith, and Manville.
  • Two age-group Greco-Roman World medalists (Manville, ’14 Youth Olympic silver; Smith, ’14 University World silver)

87 kg

BYE TO SATURDAY NIGHT BEST-OF-THREE FINAL: Joe Rau (NYAC/IRTC, 5PM #2)

Qualifying route — ’19 World Team member

An Olympic Trials winner in ’16, Rau long carried the burden of failing to qualify his weight (then 98 kg) for Rio. His disappointment followed him around like a taunting shadow until March of last year, when the Chicagoan dominated the field in Ottawa. He has dutifully and passionately revved up for Saturday night. Rau spent three months overseas in preparation for his best-of-three. No matter who he faces, the opponent will provide a difficult test of his perseverance.

SEEDS

1. Alan Vera (NYAC, 5PM #1)
Qualifying route — 1st, Last Chance Qualifier

2. Jonathan Anderson (Army/WCAP, 5PM #5)
Qualifying route — 1st, ’19 US Nationals

3. Patrick Martinez (NYAC, 5PM #3)
Qualifying route — ’18 World Team member

4. John Stefanowicz (Marines, 5PM #4)
Qualifying route — ’19 World Team member

5. Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm, 5PM #7)
Qualifying route — 5th, ’19 US Nationals

6. Terrence Zaleski (Marines, 5PM #12)
Qualifying route — ’20 Armed Forces gold

7. Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP, 5PM #9)
Qualifying route — 2nd, ’19 Bill Farrell Memorial

8. Christian Dulaney (Minnesota Storm)
Qualifying route — 2nd, Last Chance Qualifier

87 is once again an underrated bracket that does not enjoy the same “mainstream wrestling” attention other weight categories receive. The athletes here will have the opportunity to alter the narrative in front of what is anticipated to be a very large and enthusiastic viewing audience both in the stands and via stream.

Notes:

  • The additions of Woods and Stefanowicz to 87 kilograms is recent, with neither having yet competed in this weight category domestically — though Stefanowicz has logged three overseas performances at 87 since the ’19 Worlds.
  • One prior Olympic Trials finalist (Rau, ’16 Trials champ).
  • Vera is the only Greco athlete who won the Last Chance Qualifier to have a seed within the top-5.
  • Three prior Senior World Team members (Rau, Martinez, and Stefanowicz).

97 kg

BYE TO SATURDAY NIGHT BEST-OF-THREE FINAL: G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist, 5PM #1)

Qualifying route — Three-time World Team member this quad

Five years ago, Hancock was an 18-year-old dynamo who had only taken on the full-time Greco mantle months prior to the Trials. Later in ’16, he earned a Junior World bronze. The next year, his first Senior World Team. Then another. And another. In between, a host of medals overseas and numerous age-group World appearances. Aggressive, dynamic, and powerful — and someone who loves this style for what it is supposed to present, which equal doses of scoring and violence.

SEEDS

1. Daniel Miller (Marines, 5PM #3)
Qualifying route — ’19 US National Champion

2. Luke Sheridan (Army/WCAP, 5PM #2)
Qualifying route — 2nd, ’19 US Nationals

3. Eric Twohey (Minnesota Storm, 5PM #4)
Qualifying route — 3rd, ’19 US Nationals

4. Nick Boykin (Sunkist, 5PM #6)
Qualifying route — 4th, ’19 US Nationals

5. Khymba Johnson (NYAC, 5PM #5)
Qualifying route — ‘5th, ’19 US Nationals

6. Braxton Amos (Wisconsin RTC, 5PM #9)
Qualifying route — 1st, Last Chance Qualifier

7. Jake Clark (Minnesota Storm)
Qualifying route — 2nd, Last Chance Qualifier 

8. Diante Cooper (Air Force)
Qualifying route — ’20 Armed Forces silver

According to the seeding order, the quarterfinals will offer Sheridan/Clark and Twohey/Amos — two marquee match-ups right out of the gate. Another to keep an eye on is Bokyin/Johnson. Johnson defeated Boykin in ’19 but Boykin prevailed the past two times they met.

Notes:

  • Five of the eight Challenge Tournament entrants qualified by placing in the December ’19 US Nationals, the most of any weight category.
  • Two prior World Team members (Hancock and Clark).
  • Amos is the only wrestler in the tournament who will be competing in both disciplines.

130 kg

1. Adam Coon (NYAC/Cliff Keen, 5PM #1)
Qualifying route — Two-time World Team member this quad

2. Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist, 5PM #2)
Qualifying route — ’19 US National Champion

3. Jacob Mitchell (Army/WCAP, 5PM #4)
Qualifying route — 2nd, ’19 US Nationals

4. Toby Erickson (Army/WCAP, 5PM #5)
Qualifying route — 3rd, ’19 US Nationals

5. West Cathcart (NYAC/IRTC, 5PM #6)
Qualifying route — 4th, ’19 US Nationals

6. Tanner Farmer (NYAC/IRTC, 5PM #10)
Qualifying route — 1st, Last Chance Qualifier

7. Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm, 5PM #8)
Qualifying route — 5th, ’19 US Nationals

8. Thomas Helton (Southern Illinois RTC, 5PM #12
Qualifying route — 2nd, Last Chance Qualifier 

There is heavy interest in the idea of a Coon/Schultz best-of-three, which is natural. But for that series to transpire, both wrestlers will have to survive what has become an undercover deep bracket thanks to Cathcart’s recent rise and Farmer’s uncanny package of power and athleticism. When you combine the IRTC tag team with Army’s tag team of Mitchell and Erickson, there are no easy outs available. The best heavyweight Olympic Trials bracket for which fans could have hoped, and encouraging given how quickly it has deepened.

Notes:

  • One Senior World medalist (Coon, ’18 silver).
  • Coon is also the only prior Senior World Team member.
  • One prior Olympic Trials finalist (Coon, ’16).
  • Three prior age-group World medalists (Erickson, ’12 Junior bronze; Coon, ’14 Junior silver; Schultz, ’17 Cadet World Champion, ’18 Junior bronze, ’19 Junior silver).

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