USA Greco

Olympic Trials Field Set Following ‘Last Chance’ Finals

duncan nelson, olympic trials
Duncan Nelson -- Photo: Tony Rotundo

Barring a dramatic influx of names from the past suddenly deciding to compete, the brackets for the 2024 US Olympic Team Trials have at last fully materialized.

The finals of the 2024 Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier began at 6:00pm ET from Fairfax, Virginia and streamed live on FLOWrestling.

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Phillip Moomey (TMWC/Spartan Combat RTC), Duncan Nelson (67 kg, OTC), Tyler Eischens (77 kg, Tar Heel WC), Fritz Schierl (87 kg, Minnesota Storm), Brandon Marshall (97 kg, Big Game WC), and Jacob Mitchell (130 kg) all came away victorious Saturday evening to ensure their respective spots in the Olympic Team selection tournament two weeks from now in State College, Pennsylvania.

Moomey, a U23 World Team member both in ’22 and ’23, received the first passivity/par terre chance against young talent Paxton Creese (Minnesota Storm) and quickly converted a gutwrench for two points. But Creese did not yield. Instead, he stepped over the subsequent attempt to get a point in return and then used a reverse lift to garner four more. Moomey’s corner determined a challenge was in order — and after a long review of the sequence, the call was upheld and Creese had a 6-3 lead that he carried into Period 2.

Midway through the second, and with the referee not hinting at another passivity, Moomey took matters into his own hands by walloping a headlock that gave him a 7-6 lead. Creese, try as he might, could not settle into a tie-up that had the potential to crack Moomey’s defenses and so the score remained unchanged to the whistle.

“Going into the second period, I knew that I needed to get something,” Moomey told the press pool following the final. “The plan was to get two right away, try to get a gut. But then that headlock was there. I felt it. When you’re down three, you might as well send something. There’s no point in losing by three and not doing anything. So I took a swing at it and from there I knew that I had done plenty enough to not get put down again. So, you know, just finish out the match.”

Matthew 20:18-19 & the Hallway Whiteboard (1)

67 kilograms provided a tense struggle between Nelson and ’22 U17 World Champion Joel Adams (TBW). The pair had met once previously, back in November at the Bill Farrell Memorial with Nelson getting the 3-0 win. It was not so different this time around. Nelson benefited from the bout’s first passivity but was unable to negotiate a turn. It was still 1-0 in the second period when Adams had his own opportunity from top par terre. He looked for a lift, and then a gut, but both times Nelson managed to defend.

With a minute left on the clock, Nelson, trailing on criteria, was provided with a second par terre chance. His lock was sufficiently tight — but Adams was fighting to stay pasted. The action went off the edge and, immediately, Nelson gestured that Adams had fled the lock. The referee either agreed or was about to make the call, and the two matside officials concurred. Nelson received two caution points as well as one more opportunity from top. Adams defended adequately but, by the time they returned standing, the match was all but over and Nelson had qualified for his first Olympic Trials appearance.

“I knew that if I pushed the pressure, he would make a mistake. He’s really good at not getting scored on,” Nelson said afterwards, but other items were on his mind once the dust settled. Nelson’s best friend had recently passed away and such memories weighed heavily on him throughout the training process. In addition, he desired to achieve this step of his competitive journey to honor those in his life who support his Olympic aspirations. “I really wanted to do it for him. Besides that, I really wanted to make my brother, my dad, and my coach (Ismael) Borrero, greatest coach on the planet, proud at home.”

One of the evening’s most anticipated match-ups came at 77 kilograms featuring Eischens and Noah Wachsmuth (NYAC), the latter of whom is a current US National Team member. Points were expected from both athletes, though, ultimately, it was only two sequences that made an impact.

The first was from standing as Eischens netted two from a chest wrap — but that was it until deep into the second period. With under :30 to go and down by two points, Wachsmuth went for a throw but Eischens landed on top and covered to surge ahead 4-0. In a last-gasp attempt, Wachsmuth lowered his level for a body attack with :05 remaining and Eischens deflected and covered for two more points to seal the match at 6-0 in his favor.

“I didn’t get to open him up as much as I would like to,” Eischens explained referring to his match with Wachsmuth. “But I got the job done in the end, didn’t give him any of his stuff. It worked out.”

Eischens, who began his college career for Stanford before transferring to the University of North Carolina last year, had always envisioned pursuing World and Olympic goals in Greco-Roman but understands the tribality associated with both styles in the US. He spoke about his feelings on the subject when asked by USA Wrestling’s Richard Immel.

“I’ve been doing Greco since second grade,” Eischens said. “My high school has like, five past Greco Olympians, my club coach for my whole life has been Brandon Paulson, who is a Greco silver medalist (’96 Olympics, ’01 Worlds). So it has always been something that I have loved and it has always been the main goal for me. NCAA’s and folkstyle wrestling is great, but I was never growing up saying, ‘Hey, I want to be a national champ.’ It was like, ‘I want to go to the Olympics, I want to be an Olympic champ.’ So my first Trials now I have qualified for. It’s a step in the right direction.”

tyler eischens, reverse lift
Eischens (red) executes a reverse lift against Benjamin Smith (MD) in the quarterfinal round of the 2024 Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier. (Photo: Richard Immel)

77 was one marquee match-up. 87 offered another in the form of Schierl versus ’18 World silver Andrew Berreyesa (NYAC). Any number of directions it could have went. Both could have lit up the scoreboard, or it could have come down to a passive or step-out. Either were possibilities. Schierl wrecked thoughts of an upper-weight pummel-fest early in the first period by unleashing a four-point arm throw. Berreyesa was quick to amble up and out, and soon had a front headlock hold that forced Schierl to fight the hands and stand up twice in succession in order to avoid exposing.

4-0 stayed the score heading into the second period. There were instances of solid jousting between the two, invoking thoughts that, perhaps, more offense was to come from either party. Schierl took the initiative. He had been able to gain a lock in haste around Berreyesa and promptly executed a bodylock that was confirmed for five, thus ending the match and delivering to him a chance to compete for a spot on the ’24 US Olympic Team.

“This tournament I wrestled guys who had beaten me before. Berreyesa was one of them,” said Schierl. “He’s a tough guy. Big dude. Strong. The first :20, I said, This guy is strong. But you just keep wrestling. This is what I do everyday. In Minneapolis, we have a great group of guys so you just trust in that training, trust that you put in the work everyday. Be patient, don’t lose composure. It’s going to happen.”

fritz schierl, minnesota storm, olympic trials
Schierl after defeating Andrew Berreyesa to claim the 87 kg title at the 2024 Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier on April 6 in Fairfax, VA. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

The 97 kilogram bracket — which inexplicably had top-seed/’23 Final X runner-up Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm) and two-time National runner-up Khymba Johnson (NYAC) on the same side — was blown up by Timothy Eubanks (NMU/NTS). Eubanks was trailing DuLaney 6-0 in the quarterfinal when a double overhook throw on his part resulted in DuLaney re-injuring his previously-torn left arm. The damage was, of course, inadvertent, but the turn of events allowed Eubanks to advance to the semifinal where he impressively held strong to collect a 4-3 decision over Johnson.

But Brandon Marshall (Big Game WC), himself once upon a time an athlete for NMU, was amid forging his own breakout performance on the bottom side of the bracket. Marshall, who has consistently proven to be a skilled and tough competitor, defeated Carter Erickson (Cougar WC), Eli Pannell (Dubuque RTC), and #2 seed Orry Elor (NYAC), respectively. Marshall overcame his opposition by a combined score of 27-5.

So there they were on Saturday night, Eubanks and Marshall, ready for a six-minute battle to decide which of the two would require making travel plans to Pennsylvania in 12 days. Interest in the pairing was high and when Eubanks scored the first takedown on a yank-back due to a Marshall arm attempt, it certainly seemed as though the audience was in for an energetic points-trading contest. However, any thoughts of that nature soon evaporated. Upon the restart, Marshall clawed his way into Eubanks’ clutches and off-balanced his foe. Eubanks lost his footing and went to his back with Marshall instinctively adjusting position on top. The mat referee had the correct angle and would in short order confirm the fall with Marshall clapping his hands in celebration.

“I knew that he was a good competitor, he beat some good people today,” Marshall said of Eubanks. “He comes from a good program. I went to the same program myself, so there is no underestimation of anyone who comes from that room. But I knew that I wanted to stay to my attacks. I did that. I made my attempts, one of which he scored off of, but it’s one of those things you have to let roll off and just focus on the match. I felt that I got him up really high, felt that I had a good off-balance, and was able to get the fall off of that.” On dealing with his drive to become a top Olympic-caliber athlete and how that coincides with his career in medicine, Marshall offered, “To me, it’s no different. The work hours are different, the responsibilities are different, but for me it’s the same thing — showing up every day, working hard, and knowing that I’ve done everything I can for both my patients and myself by the end of the day.”

brandon marshall, olympic trials greco-roman
After generating an off-balance on the feet, Brandon Marshall (top, blue) covered and pinned Timothy Eubanks (NMU/NTS) to qualify for the 2024 US Olympic Trials scheduled for April 19-20 in State College, PA. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

’19 National Champion/two-time runner-up Jacob Mitchell — who was a longtime member of Army’s World Class Athletes Program — had not competed in two seasons prior to the Last Chance Qualifier but that time away did little to diminish the perception of his viability. Mitchell was expected by most to at the very least be in the running on Saturday. He met those expectations and more by going over Tom Foote (NYAC) via VSU and pinning Keith Miley (Arkansas RTC). Kaleb Reeves (Big Game WC) was also looked at as a possible contender and indeed he wrestled well. Reeves notably caught and pinned two-time Open finalist West Cathcart (NYAC) to punctuate his march through the bracket.

The opening salvo landed with a boom as Mitchell locked his hands and bodied Reeves to the mat. Reeves tried to re-throw at the last instant but the momentum from Mitchell was too great. After the reset, Mitchell used a two-on-one bar to secure a takedown and he was sailing 6-0. What happened next brought about momentary confusion. Mitchell had lunged into another body attack and, again, Reeves reacted with a re-throw attempt. When the two monsters crashed to the surface, Reeves found a headlock and had Mitchell very close to being pinned. The officials reviewed the sequence and awarded Mitchell four points and Reeves two. Reeves’ corner then challenged, the call was upheld, and Mitchell had won by a score of 11-2.

“You’ve seen it, all three of these matches,” Mitchell told the media. “I hadn’t wrestled in two years. I went to the Armed Forces and got asked if I wanted to come wrestle at the (Olympic) Trials. I said ‘Yeah’, and they said I had to go to the Last Chance Qualifier. I said ‘Okay’, went to a couple of practices at WCAP because I used to wrestle for them, and that’s about it. What you saw today is what you get.”

2024 Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier

April 6 — Fairfax, VA

(Winners earn berths to 2024 US Olympic Trials)

60 kg: Phillip Moomey (TMWC/Spartan Combat RTC) def. Paxton Creese (Minnesota Storm) 7-6
67 kg: Duncan Nelson (OTC) def. Joel Adams (TBW) 3-1
77 kg: Tyler Eischens (Tar Heel WC) def. Noah Wachsmuth (NYAC) 6-0
87 kg: Fritz Schierl (Minnesota Storm) def. Andrew Berreyesa (NYAC) 9-0, TF
97 kg: Brandon Marshall (Big Game WC) def. Timothy Eubanks (NMU/NTS) via fall
130 kg: Jacob Mitchell (Unattached) def. Kaleb Reeves (Big Game WC) 11-2, TF

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