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IOWA CITY, IOWA — Carver-Hawkeye Arena may be the home of the Iowa Hawkeyes but for the second time in four years, four wrestlers — Tervel Dlagnev, Kelsey Campbell, Elena Pirozhkova and Ben Provisor — turned the facility into their Olympic home at the 2016 Olympic Trials.
A total of nine wrestlers earned Olympic Trials championships on Saturday … and nine more wrestlers in three different styles — men’s freestyle, women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman — will try to duplicated those moments on Sunday with half of the weights qualified by the U.S.
One of those is Dlagnev, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist who yielded the heavyweight class to Zach Rey at the 2015 World Championships because of an injury, scored a pair of decisions, 3-1 and 5-3, to beat the former NCAA champion from Lehigh and earned a trip to Rio and the 2016 Olympic Games this August.
“You always want to walk away with a cool story, where you’re like, it was hard and I leaned on the Lord and I won,” said Dlagnev. “But my interview will be the same as if I lost, so I’m just glad I have the opportunity. My perspective will still be the same though, it’s my life and I love this stuff.”
Pirozhkova and Provisor also placed their names on the 2016 Olympic team with consecutive victories over their foes. Pirozhkova, a two-time World champion defeated Erin Clodgo by a 3-1 decision and four-minute pin to capture the 63k/138.75-pound weight class.
Provisor, who represented the U.S. at 74k/163 pounds four years ago in London, earned another Olympic trip to Rio at a heavier weight of 85k/187 pounds by also scoring a decision and pin against 36-year-old veteran Jake Clark.
“It’s been a long road to be back here and I’m just happy and blessed to be where I’m at right now,” said Provisor.
Campbell, who competed at 55k/121 pounds four years ago, moved up to the new Olympic weight of 58k/128 and won consecutive bouts against three-time World Team member Alli Ragan by identical 2-1 scores.
“I really didn’t know what was going to happen today,” said Campbell, who will have a pair of tournaments in Mongolia and Turkey to earn the country’s qualification at the weight class. “I just knew what I could control and that’s what I focused on. It all worked out and I’m just really thankful. I’m in shock right now. I can’t believe I have another opportunity to do this.”
Of the remaining five weights contested on the first day, all winners are rookie winners at the Trials. In men’s freestyle, Frank Molinaro, the former NCAA champ from Penn State, lost the first bout to 19-year-old Aaron Pico, but came back to win consecutive bouts to win the Trials. He also will have to finish in the top two at the tournaments in Mongolia and Turkey to officially earn a trip to Rio.
Four of the six Greco-Roman weights were contested with Jesse Thielke (59k/130), RaVaughan Perkins (66k/145.5) and Joe Rau (98k/216) also winning. All three weights have not been qualified yet.
2016 Olympic Wrestling Trials
Day 1 • April 9 • Iowa City, Iowa
Saturday night’s Championship Series Finals
Match 1 — Aaron Pico (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Frank Molinaro (Nittany Lion WC), 4-2
Match 2 — Molinaro dec. Pico, 4-3
Match 3 — Molinaro dec. Pico, 4-4, criteria
Match 1 — Tervel Dlagnev (Sunkist Kids) dec. Zach Rey (Lehigh Valley AC), 3-1
Match 2 — Dlagnev dec. Rey, 5-3
Match 1 — Kelsey Campbell (Sunkist Kids) dec. Alli Ragan (NYAC), 2-1
Match 2 — Campbell dec. Ragan, 2-1
Match 1 —Elena Pirozhkova (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Erin Clodgo (Sunkist Kids), 3-1
Match 2 — Pirozhkova pinned Clodgo, 4:00
Match 1 — Tamyra Mensah (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Brittney Roberts (Sunkist Kids), 8-1
Match 2 — Mensah dec. Roberts, 8-1
Match 1 — Jesse Thielke (NYAC) won by TF over Ildar Hafizov (Army WCAP), 10-0
Match 2 — Thielke dec. Hafizov, 9-3
Match 1 — Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) dec. RaVaughan Perkins (NYAC), 2-0
Match 2 — Perkins dec. Smith, 2-2, criteria
Match 3 — Perkins dec. Smith, 9-2
Match 1 — Ben Provisor (NYAC/OTC) dec. Jacob Clark (Unattached), 3-0
Match 2 — Provisor pinned Clark, 2:30
Match 1 — Caylor Williams (Army WCAP) pinned Josef Rau (Minnesota Storm), 1:37
Match 2 — Rau dec. Williams, 5-2
Match 3 — Rau dec. Williams, 6-5