The 2022 college wrestling national championships are over … but the great...
What college star could make the 2012 Olympic team?
A year ago, Jordan Burroughs made the transition after winning his second NCAA championship to freestyle and a shot at representing the United States at the 2011 World Championships.
Fans knew he would be good, but maybe didn’t know how good. The then Nebraska-senior had not competed on the freestyle stage for at least four years since he arrived on the Cornhusker campus.
The 2011 Hodge Trophy winner first won the U.S. Open in Cleveland a month after the NCAA tournament. He then actually earned a spot on the U.S. World Team when he won the 163-pound weight class at the Trials in Oklahoma City in June.
And finally, the New Jersey native won a gold medal at the FILA World Championships in September.
With all that in mind, the logical question is what current NCAA wrestlers could repeat Burroughs’ effort in 2011 and at least earn a spot on this summer’s United States Olympic freestyle team which will be competing in London this August.
There is no U.S. Open this spring since USA Wrestling announced it was moving up its Olympic Trials to April 21-22, leaving many talented college wrestlers with few options of competing in Iowa City, Iowa, for the first shot at hopefully an Olympic medal.
But USA Wrestling announced on March 26 that this country’s governing body was giving “wildcards” for eight wrestlers a chance to compete in the Olympic Trials:
• 55 kg/121 lbs. – Matt McDonough, Marion, Iowa (Hawkeye WC);
• 55 kg/121 lbs. – Frank Perrelli, Hackettstown, N.J. (New York AC)
• 60 kg/132 lbs. – Logan Stieber, Monroeville, Ohio (New York AC)
• 60 kg/132 lbs. – Jordan Oliver, Easton, Pa. (Gator WC)
• 66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Phillip Simpson, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
• 74 kg/163 lbs. – David Taylor, St. Paris, Ohio (Nittany Lion WC)
• 74 kg/163 lbs. – Kyle Dake, Ithaca, N.Y. (New York AC)
• 84 kg/185 lbs. – Quentin Wright, Wingate, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC)
All eight wrestlers have a freestyle background even though some have not competed in this style for a few years.
So can any of them duplicate what Burroughs accomplished last year?
Let’s actually start with Burroughs’ weight class, where both Dake — a three-time NCAA champion (most recently at 157 pounds) from Cornell — and Taylor — the recently announced 165-pound Hodge Trophy winner from Penn State — will compete.
Dake, a junior, has competed on a Junior World Team in Greco and finished fourth at 163 pounds in last year’s World Team Trials. Taylor, meanwhile, has not competed at this level of competition since coming to State College three years ago when he was part of a Junior World freestyle team.
Best friends off the mat, these talented college wrestlers will be competing at the same weight, something they did when they were kids and medaled in past Junior National tournaments.
But this is considered by many one of the tougher freestyle weights as all three talented wrestlers must also beat the likes of Andrew Howe, a former NCAA champion from Wisconsin, who redshirted this winter.
Among the other wildcards, Stieber was a 2011 Junior World bronze medalist in freestyle and a medalist at the U.S. Open a number of times, including last year when he finished third at the Olympic Trials.
McDonough — a three-time NCAA finalist and two-time champion — also has not competed in freestyle since coming to Iowa and was a member of the Junior World team. The Hawkeye will enjoy a home-mat advantage.
Among the other wildcards are two former NCAA champs who finished second in the most recent national tournament: Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver and Penn State’s Quentin Wright.
Oliver was a 2010 Junior World bronze medalist in freestyle and was a 2009 University Nationals champion. Wright was a 2008 Junior World bronze medalist and won the 2010 University World Team Trials.
Finally among the remaining wildcards, Perrelli — a 2012 All-American from Cornell — placed fifth in the 2011 U.S. Open in freestyle and was a 2010 University Nationals champion. Simpson was a champion at the 2012 Pan American Championships, and has been competing on the Senior level for many years. He is a former NCAA runner-up for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.