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Seven members of 2015 World team lose at 2016 Olympic Trials

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Updated: April 9, 2016

IOWA CITY, IOWA — Young wrestlers, nor the veterans, had much respect for members of the 2015 World teams — who were vying for spots on the 2016 Olympic wrestling team during Day 1 of the Olympic Trials in Carver-Hawkeye Arena — as seven wrestlers with recent World-championship-level experience lost in Saturday’s Challenge tournament.

In men’s freestyle, Brent Metcalf, who represented the United States last September at the World Championships, lost in the quarterfinals at 65k/143.3 pounds to former Penn State national champion and No. 9 seed Frank Molinaro. The former Nittany Lion wrestler will now meet 19-year-old Aaron Pico, the No. 7 seed in Saturday night’s Best of 3 Championship Series, which starts at 6 p.m. (CDT).

“I don’t feel much pressure now and my perspective is completely different,” said the 27-year-old Molinaro, the 2012 NCAA champion whose highest finish at this level was third in the 2014 World Team Trials. “I have a kid now and another one on the way. I have so much to be grateful for and this is just an opportunity to have fun and do what I love. I’m not going to make it hard on myself, just enjoying it out there.”

Pico, who was just one point away from losing by technical fall to former NCAA champion Jayson Ness of Minnesota in the first round rallied to beat the former Gopher as well as No. 2 seed Jordan Oliver (the former two-time NCAA champ from Oklahoma State) in the quarterfinals and Reece Humphrey, the former Ohio State All-American and World Team member, in the semifinals.

Pico, the 2013 California State champion from St. John Bosco, made news two years ago when he announced he was giving up high school and college wrestling to focus on freestyle.

“I was composed,” said Pico, on his 20-9 victory over Ness by scoring 20 straight points. “I just had to get that first takedown and it was all up hill from there for me. Stuff like that happens and you have to keep moving forward.”

Metcalf blamed his tactics in his criteria loss to Molinaro, who scored the final point on a pushout with 25 seconds left.

“My head was thinking there’s forty (seconds) to go, stay smart with your hands and your feet and my gut is saying go get another takedown, score again, stay on his head and open me up, he got underneath my arms, the rest is history,” Metcalf said. “Tactics from a smart and stingy way, I have enough experience to know that sometimes you swallow that pride or you swallow that want to really stick the dagger in a guy for a win.”

Earlier, another 2015 World team member, James Green, lost a first-round match to 2016 NCAA champion Zain Retherford. Green, who earned a bronze medal at 154 pounds last September, dropped down to 143.3 pounds for the Olympic Trials.

Retherford then upset former four-time NCAA champion Logan Stieber of Ohio State, before losing to Molinaro in the semifinals.

Of the four Greco-Roman weights contested on Saturday, four members of the 2015 World Team lost: Spenser Mango at 59k; Bryce Saddoris at 66k and both Jordan Holm and Patrick Martinez at 85k.

Ryan Mango, a two-time Olympian, left his wrestling shoes on the mat to show that he is retiring from the sport after losing in the 59-kilo semifinal to Jesse Thielke.

Ryan Mango, a two-time Olympian, left his wrestling shoes on the mat to show that he is retiring from the sport after losing in the 59-kilo semifinal to Jesse Thielke. (Ginger Robinson photo).

Mango, who has represented the United States at the lightest weight class in every year since the 2008 Olympics, lost 9-0 to Wisconsin native Jesse Thielke in the quarterfinals and then retired by removing and leaving his wrestling shoes on the mat while the many of the 10,855 fans in Carver-Hawkeye Arena applauded.

“When I first started trying to take my shoes off I thought I was just going to take them off real quick and get out of there because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold my emotions back,” Mango said. “I heard everybody cheering for me. You know, you go through your whole career I guess hoping that when you’re done you feel like you’re appreciated and the crowd was great.”

“For this to happen and to see him put his shoes on the mat and for me to be part of that … win or lose to be part of that and the arena to react the way it did, this is insane,” said Thielke, who will face Ildar Hafizov (Army WCAP) in the Championship Series. “I’m training fulltime. I’m confident. It’s my time. I know it is. I’ve put in the work.”

Hafizov is a naturalized U.S. citizen who competed for Uzbekistan and finished 11th in the 2008 Olympics.

Saddoris, seeded No. 1 at 66k, was seeded No. 1 but lost on criteria, 4-4, to Michael Hooker of the Army World Class Athlete Program. Hooker then lost to Patrick Smith of Minnesota Storm, who will face RaVaughan Perkins of NYAC in the finals.

“We had an awesome training cycle,” said Smith. “I felt really ready to go, I had a lot of great training partners and we have a really great room in Minnesota.”

Ben Provisor celebrates after the 2012 Olympian upset two-time World team member Jordan Holm at 85 kilos in Greco-Roman. (Ginger Robinson photo)

Ben Provisor celebrates after the 2012 Olympian upset three-time World team member Jordan Holm at 85 kilos in Greco-Roman. (Ginger Robinson photo)

The 85-kilo championship series will feature a pair of veteran wrestlers in 26-year-old Ben Provisor, who represented the United States at 163 pounds in the 2012 Olympics, and 36-year-old Jake Clark, the 2006 World Team member who had not wrestled on this level since the 2012 Olympic Trials in Iowa City.

Provisor, who edged Holm, 2-0, in the semifinal, knows fans forgot about him.

“I’ve had a lot of injuries the past few years,” said Provisor, who said this was the first time he competed at this new Olympic weight. “This past year, I busted my elbow in half. Unfortunately injuries happen and I’m back in this perfect stadium and back in the finals.”

Clark reached the finals by beating Jon Anderson (Army WCAP), 11-3, in the semifinals.

“I brought over my clothes from the 1980s,” joked Clark, the former U.S. Marine who now makes Honolulu, Hawaii, his home. “I feel great. I’ve been working really hard. One of my weaknesses was letting people dig into me and get me tired off their offense. I’d rather get tired off my offense.”

Another member of the 2015 Greco-Roman World team to lose was Patrick Martinez. After representing the U.S. at the non-Olympic weight of 80k/176 pounds, the Army’s WCAP wrestler, lost to Provisor, 4-1 in the quarterfinals.

In women’s freestyle, a 2015 World medalist who saw her Olympic dream end on Saturday was Leigh Jaynes-Provisor, the wife of Ben Provisor, who won a bronze medal at the non Olympic weight of 60k/132 pounds. She moved up to 63k/138.75 pounds for the Trials and lost 13-10 in the first round to Hannah Jewell of King University.

The 63k Championship Series in women’s freestyle will featured two other women who competed in the 2015 Worlds: two-time World champ Elena Pirozhkova and Erin Clodgo. Pirozhkova, the 29-native of Russia whose family emigrated to the United States when he was small, competed at 69 kilos in last summer’s Worlds, where the U.S. was represented by Clodgo.

The 58 kilo finals features two-time World team member Alli Ragan and 2012 Olympian Kelsey Campbell.

Meanwhile at 125k/275.5 pounds in men’s freestyle, two-time World bronze medalist Tervel Dlagnev will face Zach Rey, who replaced an injured Dlagnev in last year’s World Championships.

2016 Olympic Wrestling Trials

Day 1 • April 9 • Iowa City, Iowa

Saturday night’s Championship Series Finals

Men’s Freestyle

65k/143.5 — Aaron Pico (Titan Mercury WC) vs. Frank Molinaro (Nittany Lion WC)

125k/275.5 — Tervel Dlagnev (Sunkist Kids) vs. Zach Rey (Lehigh Valley AC)

Women’s Freestyle

58k/128 — Kelsey Campbell (Sunkist Kids) vs. Alli Ragan (NYAC)

63k/138.75 — Erin Clodgo (Sunkist Kids) vs. Elena Pirozhkova (Titan Mercury WC)

69k/152 — Tamyra Mensah (Titan Mercury WC) vs. Brittney Roberts (Sunkist Kids)

Greco-Roman

59k/130 — Jesse Thielke (NYAC) vs. Ildar Hafizov (Army WCAP)

66k/145.5 — Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) vs. RaVaughan Perkins (NYAC)

85k/187 — Ben Provisor (NYAC/OTC) vs. Jacob Clark (Unattached)

98k/216 — Caylor Williams (Army WCAP) vs. Josef Rau (Minnesota Storm)

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