Several notable names from the past have registered for the upcoming 2023 US Nationals/Olympic Team Trials Qualifier, which takes place next weekend in Fort Worth, Texas.
As reported previously, Taylor LaMont (Minnesota Storm) will be returning to Greco-Roman competition at the Nationals to end what has been a two-year hiatus from the classical style. LaMont — who was a Junior World bronze in ’16 and appeared on at least one US World roster at every age-group level — focused solely on his collegiate career beginning with the ’21-’22 NCAA season. His most recent foray into Greco came at the ’21 U23 World Championships, where he finished 5th in the 55 kg division. The 25-year-old departed from his native Utah to train with the Storm entering this Olympic campaign and will do business going forward at 60 kilograms.
Though not exactly shocking news if only because a) the information was already hovering about in the ether; and b) no one is or would be surprised, anyway, two-time US World Team member Jake Clark (Minnesota Storm) is likewise making his way back onto the scene for another five-rings push. Clark, 43, is no stranger to showing up towards the end of an Olympic cycle. After initially taking a breather from competition following the London ’12 quad, Clark returned in time for the Rio selection season and made an impact. After placing third at the ’15 Bill Farrell Memorial (his first tournament back), he won the Nationals a month later without surrendering a single point. Clark then advanced to the ’16 Olympic Team Trials final but was defeated by Ben Provisor (NYAC, 5PM #6).
The onset of the pandemic forced Clark to alter his training schedule for the Tokyo selection process. He had originally planned to return for the ’19 Nationals, but then decided that he would instead focus on the ’20 Last Chance OTT Qualifier. Just two weeks prior to that tournament, wrestling, and everything else, shut down. Clark subsequently had to wait an entire extra year to try and earn a berth in the Olympic Trials. He accomplished that part of his mission. In the very first round of the Last Chance tournament, Clark seized on his favorite hold, the front headlock, to defeat JD Souza via technical fall before marching his way to the final round where he was edged by Braxton Amos (97 kg, Sunkist, 5PM #2). Amos eventually put on an impressive showing at the Trials and finished second to G’Angelo Hancock. Clark was decisioned in the quarterfinal by ’22 National Champion Luke Sheridan (97 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #5).
The news with Clark is not that he is expected back in Fort Worth. It is his weight category. He had settled on 97 for the ’21 campaign. This time around, he is registered at 87. Potential opponents would do well to avoid looking at the number next to Clark’s age. Few current athletes are as proficient or dangerous when it comes to finding ways to score, and the Minnesotan’s front headlock is a severe weapon that can be achieved from a variety of positions. That Clark is, apparently, targeting 87 kilograms next week means there are many interesting possibilities for him in terms of match-ups.
Williams & Anderson
One very intriguing entrant is Jessy Williams (NYAC/Spartan Combat RTC). A US Open runner-up in ’18, Williams was for several seasons considered one of the top lightweight contenders in the US until a string of frustrating performances put a damper on his career. He was always significantly better than what his results had begun to indicate (and his training situation at the time was barely adequate), and eventually all of it was enough to coax Williams to take a pause and reassess his options. He has not been seen on a competitive mat in a while and it is good to have him back.
The same can be said of Chris Anderson, who began his full-time Greco-Roman career for Williams Baptist University before that program was shuttered. Anderson went home to Texas soon after and joined up with ’96 Olympian Derrick Waldroup at the Rise RTC. Anderson’s last appearance was at the ’19 Nationals/OTT qualifier, where he lost on a heartbreaking buzzer-beater to Youssef Khalil in the opening round before falling to Raun Smith in the consolation bracket. Both Williams and Anderson will occupy spots in the 67 kg category.
More pre-US Nationals coverage will be available in the forthcoming Monday Roundup as well as in a full-scale preview on FLOWrestling later this week.
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