By Mike Finn
With every year there is Olympic wrestling, there are Olympic redshirts: those NCAA Division I wrestlers who are allowed to take a year off from college folkstyle without losing a year of eligibility while they take a shot of at freestyle/Greco fame at an Olympic Games.
Of the many college stars who took that route last year, only senior Andrew Howe, the 2010 NCAA champion and three-time All-American came the closest to making the 2012 Olympic Team when he finished second to eventual gold medalist Jordan Burroughs in the best-of-three Championship Series at 163 pounds last April at the Olympic Trials in Iowa City.
Another notable Olympic redshirt was junior Tyler Caldwell, who finished second to Burroughs in the 2011 NCAA finals, and reached the semifinals of the Olympic Trials where he lost to Howe.
Now both wrestlers return for another year of college wrestling, but not at the schools they once represented.
Howe, the native of Cedar Lake, Ind., compiled a 95-8 record at Wisconsin, where he won three Big Ten titles before also finishing second as a true freshman in 2009 and third in 2011. But he has since transferred to Oklahoma, where he will either compete at 165 or 174 pounds and also joins another Olympic redshirt from Wisconsin: 184-pound Travis Rutt.
Caldwell, meanwhile, had considered a transfer to Nebraska but the native of Wichita, Kan., has since moved to Stillwater, Okla., and will wrestle at 165 pounds for Oklahoma State.
So who were these Olympic redshirts who are now expected to challenge for NCAA All-American honors this winter?
Here is a list of the most significant returning redshirts, separated by weight classes:
Light weights (125, 133 and 141)
Jarrod Garnett, 125, Senior, Virginia Tech — The native of Newark, Del., returns as No. 8 on the all-time Hokie wins list (96-24), has won two ACC championships and has competed in three national tournaments; finishing in the Round of 12 in 2010. In freestyle, Garnett finished second at 132 pounds in last year’s University Nationals.
Tyler Graff, 133, Junior, Wisconsin —The native of Loveland, Colo., sat out last winter after claiming a pair of fifth-place finishes in 2010 and 2011. After redshirting in 2009, when he also won the first of two Midlands titles, Graff finished 31-9 in 2010 and 35-5 in 2011. In last year’s Olympic Trials, Graff reached the quarterfinals before losing to Matt Valenti. In the wrestlebacks, he won three matches, including over former World silver medalist Mike Zadick.
Scott Sentes, 133, Senior, Central Michigan — Sitting out last winter was not an Olympic redshirt, but a more typical redshirt season for the native of Ft. Myers, Fla. That’s because the four-time state high school champ from Florida started wrestling for the Chippewas as a true freshman in 2009 when he earned the first of two All-American honors with a seventh-place finish. After failing to place at the NCAAs in 2010, Sentes collected a fourth-place finish in 2011. His overall career record at CMU is 86-25, with 35 of his wins coming in 2011.
Middle weights (149, 157, 165 and 174)
Andrew Alton, 149, Sophomore, Penn State — One of two twins brothers on the Lion roster, Andrew wrestled immediately as a true freshman at 141 pounds in 2011, when he won 30 matches, including 18 by fall to also claim the Schalles Award as the nation’s best college pinner. The native of Mill Hall, Pa., chose to redshirt last year when his brother Dylan became a starter at 157 pounds as a redshirt freshman.
Jason Chamberlain, 149, Senior, Boise State — The native of Springville, Utah, also became an immediate starter as a true freshman when he won the first of two Pac-10 titles. Chamberlain qualified for the NCAAs every season, including 2011 when he earned his first All-American honor with a third-place finish. His career mark is 77-21. He competed in last year’s Trials where he beat Cary Kolat at 145.5 pounds before losing to Josh Churella.
Jesse Dong, 157, Senior, Virginia Tech — The native of Westerville, Ohio, actually tried to wrestle for the Hokies last winter before suffering a shoulder injury in December; leading him to apply for a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA. Injuries have hampered Dong during his Tech career, limiting him to 23 bouts in 2011 when he didn’t start the year until January. Overall, his career mark is 86-18. He qualified for three NCAAs and his highest national finish came in the Round of 12 in 2010.
Andrew Howe, 165/174, Senior, Oklahoma (transfer from Wisconsin) — Howe’s chances of an Olympic berth ended last April when he suffered a knee injury in the Championship Series with Jordan Burroughs. This was an injury the native of Cedar Lake, Ind., suffered in the 2011 NCAAs when he finished third. Prior to that, Howe collected three Big Ten titles and was named Big Ten freshman of the year in 2009 when he finished second nationally to Jarrod King of Edinboro. One year later, Howe defeated Penn State’s Dan Valimont for his first NCAA title and second of three All-American honors.
Tyler Caldwell, 165, Junior, Oklahoma State (transfer from Oklahoma) — Caldwell reached the finals of the 2011 NCAAs when he defeated 2010 national champion Andrew Howe in the semifinals in Philadelphia, Pa. In his two years in Norman, Okla., Caldwell compiled a 63-20 overall record; 31-14 in 2010 when he finished fifth in the national tournament; and 32-6 in 2011 when three of his losses came to Burroughs, including a 2-1 loss in the Big 12 finals.
Heavier weights (184, 197 and heavyweight)
Travis Rutt, 184, Senior, Oklahoma (transfer from Wisconsin) — The native of New Prague, Minn., compiled a 60-32 record in three years at Wisconsin, where he twice qualified for the NCAAs and claimed a seventh-place finish in 2011.
Dustin Kilgore, 197, Senior, Kent State — Kilgore’s decision to redshirt last winter came soon after he captured Kent State’s first NCAA championship in 2011 when he pinned Oklahoma State’s Clayton Foster in the finals. At this year’s Olympic Trials, Kilgore finished fourth at 211.5 pounds but came back to win the World University Team Trials in August. Once the native of Berea, Ohio, returns, the two-time All-American (who finished fifth in 2010) will bring with him 135 career victories, which ranks first in the KSU record book.
Dom Bradley, Hwt, Senior, Missouri — The native of Blue Springs, Mo., saw his Olympic dream end last spring when he lost to Trice in the Trials quarterfinals. Bradley won a Junior World title in the summer of 2008 but did not become a starter in Columbia until 2011 — after backing up NCAA champ Mark Ellis in 2010 — when he finished third in the national tournament, where his only loss was to eventual champ Zach Rey of Lehigh.
Jarod Trice, Hwt, Senior, Central Michigan — The native of Highland Park, Mich., ended his Olympic redshirt season last April by finishing fourth at the Trials, where he reached the semifinals before losing to eventual Olympian Tervel Dlagnev. In his first three years at Mt. Pleasant, Mich., the Chippewa finished 79-22: 23-12 in 2009 when he also qualified for the first of three NCAAs; 27-5 in 2010 when he finished eighth in Omaha; and 29-5 in 2011 when he finished fourth in Philadelphia. Trice also captured his second Midlands title last year while redshirting.