U.S. Open Preview

Starting Friday in Las Vegas, the 2015 U.S. Open championship will begin and with it comes big implications to the 2015 USA World Team. Winners of the U.S. Open will receive automatic byes to the finals of next month’s World Team Trials (with exception at 74 and 125 kg, but more on that in a minute). The benefit has significant impact, so that the U.S. Open champion avoids wrestling the challenge tournament (which is about three matches) and only has to wrestle a best of three finals to make the World Team.

Friday, May 8
11:00 a.m. – Senior Men’s Freestyle (Prelims, Quarterfinals, Consolation), Senior Greco-Roman (66 kg, 71 kg, 85 kg, 130 kg – Prelims, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, Consolation), UWW Junior Freestyle Nationals (Prelims, Consolation)

4:30 p.m. – UWW Junior Freestyle Nationals (Prelims, Quarterfinals, Consolation), Western Junior Freestyle Regional (1st – 6th Place Matches)

8:30 p.m. – Senior Greco-Roman (66 kg, 71 kg, 85 kg, 130 kg – Medal Matches)

9:00 p.m. – Senior Men’s Freestyle (Semifinals)

Saturday, May 9
11:00 a.m. – Senior Men’s Freestyle (Consolation, 3rd, 5th, 7th Place Matches), Senior Greco-Roman (59 kg, 75 kg, 80 kg, 98 kg – Prelims, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, Consolation)

4:00 p.m. – UWW Junior Freestyle Nationals (Semifinals, Consolation, Medal Matches)

8:30 p.m. – Senior Greco-Roman (59 kg, 75 kg, 80 kg, 98 kg – Medal Matches)

9:00 p.m. – Senior Men’s Freestyle (Finals), Senior Women’s Freestyle (Finals)

 

57 kg

2014 U.S. Open Champion: Sam Hazewinkel TF Andrew Hochstrasser 11-0
2014 World Team Member: Tony Ramos

Iowa wrestler(s) outlook:
#1 Tony Ramos – This will be Tony’s first trip to Las Vegas as a full-time Senior competitor and I am feeling pretty good about his chances. Since bursting onto the scene in Madison at last year’s World Team Trials he’s gone from a solid wrestler to pretty dang good. He had a rough 2014 World Championships, but considering how much ground he needed to make up, and who he lost to (the current #4 ranked guy in the World) I think he did a good job. Watching him at the World Cup this past month leads me to believe that he is the best man at this weight and this weekend will be his chance to put a stranglehold on the weight for the 2015 World’s.

#2 Matt McDonough – And to get his first Open title, Ramos is going to have to go through his old friend and clubmate Matt McDonough. It’s incredible that the nation’s top two wrestlers at one weight work out in the same room, but at the same time knowing their history it really isn’t. Matt has looked pretty good since dropping down to 57 kg taking third at least year’s trials and winning a World University bronze medal. I can’t help but think that he makes this an all-Hawkeye final.

#4 Joe Colon – Colon presents another interesting variable to this weight as he is slated to meet Ramos in the semifinals if pre-seeds hold. The last time these two met, Colon was the winner by fall in the Midlands finals, but this isn’t folkstyle and Ramos has looked a lot more loose than he did as a senior at Iowa. Colon won the Bill Farrell title, and he took fifth a year ago at 61 kg at this event.  Colon will definitely be in the mix for the title this weekend.

#5 Angel Escobedo – Crazy to think that the 2013 fifth place finisher at World’s is the #5 guy in this bracket, but that’s the reality we are facing. I think Escobedo got the best draw for his chances to win an Open title. He will have a tough quarterfinal against Joe Colon, but if he can get by him he will have Tony Ramos. Normally it’s not in your favor to wrestle the reigning World Team member, but Ramos won the last meeting 2-0, which looks a lot better than his 6-2 loss to McDonough which happened at AGON a month ago.

Cruise Aahrus – If you can’t tell from the last four wrestlers, this weight is loaded at the top, which will present a tough challenge for Aahrus to break through. The top five place winners from this bracket go on to the World Team Trials, and that means that Aahrus will in all likelihood have to knock out at least one of his Iowa counterparts to make a bid for the Trials next month.

Rest of the bracket: is…

Seriously though, the Iowa talent in this field basically makes up the contenders at this weight. Basically Tyler Graff is the lone guy that trains out of the state of Iowa that will be a legitimate threat to win the U.S. Open title. Graff is very accomplished in freestyle, taking an Olympic redshirt back in 2012. He’s given Ramos plenty of battles over the past few seasons and took out Colon at the NCAA championships.

Prediction: Ramos vs McDonough (yes, I am coping out and not picking one over the other)

61 kg

2014 U.S. Open Champion: Jimmy Kennedy decision Coleman Scott 7-2
2014 World Team Member: Jimmy Kennnedy

Iowa wrestler(s) outlook:
#9 Dan Dennis – the former NCAA runner-up is make a return to the mat and is coming into a weight class that seems to have quite a few questions. Dennis earned the #9 pre-seed and when you look at the competition ahead of Dennis, the depth of this weight is probably the weakest one in Vegas. Even the top overall seed, Coleman Scott looked shaky at the World Cup last month so this is definitely a weight where Dennis could knock out the #8 seed Alan Waters, run Scott out of gas in the quarters and he would be in a great position to make the finals.

Joey Lazor – Despite winning the Northeast Regional title last weekend, Lazor will look to improve his chances for the World Team Trials by entering the U.S. Open as well. By winning the Regional, Lazor assured himself a spot at the table being one of the eight automatic qualifiers for the World Team Trials in Madison this June. From here on out the unranked Lazor will be on a mission to score some upsets to improve his seed and get a more favorable draw.

Rest of the bracket: While Scott had a hot/cold World Cup, he is still very talented, and most of his issues looked conditioning related. Scott will have had several weeks to get his body right to try and get back on top of this weight. The bottom half of the bracket might be the most exciting with Reece Humphrey and Joey McKenna being the #2 and #3 seeds. McKenna has done fairly well since his Junior World silver medal performance last summer, and has been slowly transitioning into the senior level. I am not sure he has what it takes to beat Humphrey, but if he does there is a very real chance he could be making a Senior World team as a teenager.

Cody Brewer, who just tore through the NCAA championships is another interesting name to watch, and if Scott is still not in top physical shape, we could see the Oklahoma Sooner take advantage and make the National finals just a couple months after his college national title.

Prediction: Humphrey over Scott

65 kg

2014 U.S. Open Champion: Brent Metcalf TF Kellen Russell 9-0
2014 World Team Member: Brent Metcalf

Iowa wrestler(s) outlook:

#1 Brent MetcalfMetcalf has moved to #5 at 65 kg in the world and remains #1 in the United States.  Winning the title will earn him the automatic bye to the World Team Trials best of three finals. His competition will be tough as #19 ranked Jordan Oliver will be his main competition. Metcalf is 3-0 in his last three meetings against Oliver. Guessing a lot of fans were shocked and we were too when #18 Aaron Pico registered for the Junior Division. A rematch from AGON V could of been a possibility but we will just have to wait. Metcalf looked as strong as ever at the World Cup winning all four matches and will look to continue that streak this weekend.

Montell MarionTwo-time NCAA finalist Montell Marion, who now works out as part of the Terrapin Wrestling Club, competed at the highly respected Alexander Medved International back in March. He wrestle up at  70 kg/154 lbs and had one win over Russia’s Yusuf Mualiev, 6-4. He would go on to face Elaman Dogdurbek Uulu (Mongolia) were he ended up getting pinned. Marion will have a tough hill to climb at the open being ranked outside of the top ten. We all know he is one heck of a competitor and we’re excited to see him wrestle again.

Brandon WrightWright is wrestling for the first time since winning this second NAIA title. The win made him the fifth two-time champion in program history and 15th overall – tied for ninth most in NAIA history. Wright joins a select few of NAIA wrestlers to compete in open tournaments and we hope to see more wrestlers from other divisions throwing their hat in the ring. This will be nothing more than an experience building tournament for Wright.

Rest of the bracket: Hard to believe four time NCAA champion, Logan Stieber is ranked sixth in the nation. Stieber is not a first timer on the freestyle mat and he will be the one to look out for at this tournament. Frank Molinaro is a wrestler that has become a student of the freestyle game and it is paying off. Currently ranked fourth in the nation he will push Metcalf but I think Metcalf’s finesse will be the difference maker in this match.

Prediction: Metcalf over Oliver

70 kg


2014 U.S. Open Champion: Nick Marable decision Moza Fay 5-1
2014 World Team Member: Nick Marable

Iowa wrestlers outlook:
#5 Moza Fay – We last saw the former Panther compete at 70kg at the CISM World Championship in New Jersey last fall where he took home silver. He was the only American to medal in that event. He’ll look to improve on his runner-up standing at the Open from 2014, where he won by tech fall or pinfall in every match except the gold medal match, a 5-1 loss to Marable.

#8 Cyler Sanderson – former Cyclone All-American Sanderson is in a tough spot getting the #8 pre-seed which means he will have to go through the top seed and World Team member Nick Marable if both make the quarterfinals. He would then likely face the winner of the Moza Fay-Jason Welch winner just to reach the U.S. Open finals. Being the eight seed usually means a wrestler has an uphill battle, but in this case Sanderson will have to go up against some of the weight’s best wrestlers at the moment.

Derek St. John – The North Dakota State assistant, and NCAA Champion at Iowa, last saw action at AGON V in Cedar Rapids, dropping a 12-10 decision to the former Northwestern Wildcat Jason Welch. St. John is ranked 10th at 70kg for freestyle, so look for him to be in the thick of things come Saturday.

Rest of the bracket: Nick Marable is probably the favorite to win the bracket again this year. He placed 8th at the world cup, going 2-2, but he won the Dave Schultz Memorial this season.

The number two pre-seed in Dustin Schlatter has dropped a weight from when he was a world team member in 2009. He has won the Pan-American Championships at this weight and was the runner up to Marable at the Schultz Memorial – bumping him up over James Green and Welch for the number two spot.

James Green gets the nod at the pre-seed number three spot. The former Big Ten Champion took home third this year at the NCAA Championship and will look to improve on a runner-up finish to Marable at the World Team Trials last year. If Green can put together a solid weekend and if he’s learned enough from training with Jordan Burroughs, I expect Green to be in the finals against Marable.

Jason Welch gets the fourth spot here after taking that same spot at the World Team Trials last year. As I said above the last time we saw Welch in action was at AGON V, where he won his first match against Derek St. John in eight attempts.

Prediction: Nick Marable wins by decision 6-3 over James Green.

74 kg

2014 U.S. Open Champion: Jordan Burroughs decision David Taylor 7-6
2014 World Team Member: Jordan Burroughs

Iowa wrestler(s) outlook:
Dallas Houchins – When I was looking over the list I was fairly surprised to see NAIA All-American in the mix at this weight. Houchins finished fourth in Kansas at the 157 pound weight class for the Grand View Vikings, so seeing him registered at 74 kg (which is about 163 pounds) surprised me as it looks like he might be giving up a little bit of weight. This is one of USA’s toughest weights, so it will be interesting to see what the former Iowa prep can do.

Nate Carr Jr – Former Iowa State Cyclone Nate Carr Jr will also being in the mix at this weight, and it will be interesting to see his results, as last year he went 1-2 in the 70 kg weight class at this event. Carr struggled with the backend of 70 kg’s top eight, and the 74 kg is considerably deeper.

Logan Molina – After spending the start of his career at 157 pounds, Molina recently bumped up to 174 pounds this past season for the Cyclones. The only problem was that he was facing an uphill battle trying to get through two-time round of 12 finisher Tanner Weatherman, who has manned the spot for the last few seasons.

Rest of the bracket: This bracket is BRUTAL, and the craziest thing is that World and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs isn’t even in the field. How deep is this bracket? Well the #4 seed, Tyler Caldwell is ranked #18 in the World. The #2 seed Andrew Howe put together an amazing performance to finish silver at the prestigious Russian freestyle tournament, the Ivan Yarygin this past winter. The top seed is David Taylor, who has put a scare into Jordan Burroughs on a couple of occasions. If Burroughs and Kyle Dake (who won the Northeast Regional last week, so he too is missing from the field) were entered in this bracket, that would mean the #6 seed at this weight would have been the 18th ranked guy in the World. That is a problem we are accustomed to Russia having, not USA.

Prediction: Taylor over Howe

86 kg

2014 U.S. Open Champion: Keith Gavin decision Clayton Foster 7-4
2014 World Team Member: Ed Ruth

Iowa wrestler(s) outlook: #6 Deron Winn – Deron comes off a big win against Phillip Keddy at Agon V in which he won a 6-3 decision. Winn has recently come down from his previous weight of 97 Kg, and has looked solid at the 86 Kg weight. Winn has a variety of explosive attacks and has excellent defense and counter offense. Winn is a compact ball of fire and can be difficult to score on. Winn looks to improve upon a 4th place finish at last year’s US Open (96 kg). Winn will likely see Chris Perry in the quarters and would see the winner of veterans Keith Gavin or Phil Keddy in the semi-finals.

#7 Phil Keddy – Keddy comes in off a loss at the hands of Deron Winn at AGON V. Keddy has seen a good year as he placed 3rd at the Grand Prix of Paris this season. Keddy is a wily veteran making the world team in 2013. Keddy is short, compact and explosive. He will have his work cut out for him seeing 2013 World Team competitor Keith Gavin in the quarterfinals.

#8 Jon Reader – Reader comes in pre-seeded 8th despite being a 2x world team member. Reader is a past 2012 university world team competitor as well. Reader looks to upset top dog Ed Ruth in the quarterfinals. Ruth defeated Reader at last year’s U.S. open in a wild 13-12 bout. Reader has a barrage of attacks from the underhook and looks to improve upon last year’s 4th place US open finish.

Andrew Sorenson – Sorenson is fresh off a 3rd place Northeastern Regional finish, where he was defeated by Richard Perry in a tight 7-3 bout. Sorenson is up from his college weight of 165, and is in Cedar Falls training. It is unknown where Sorenson will fall in the bracket, but he could be a cause for concern for highly seeded wrestlers.

Pat Downey – Downey is fresh off JUCO national title, where he dominated the field. Downey is particularly skilled in Freestyle, winning a silver medal at the 2012 junior world championships. Downey is young, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against the field. There is no doubt the talent is there and I’m sure D1 schools will be watching him this weekend.

Ryan Loder – Former Panther NCAA All-American Ryan Loder has been pretty quiet since his graduation, but that is mainly due to his graduate level studies. The lone tournament Loder entered (the Minnesota Storm Holiday Cup) saw him crowned the champion over his teammate Andrew Sorenson. Loder won the best of three 2-1, with the wins being 11-4 and a 39 second fall, and his loss being a 5-3 decision. Loder could be a quiet surprise in this tournament.

Rest of the bracket: Even with Winn coming on strong of late, Ed Ruth is still the man to beat in this bracket. Last year Ruth had a rough start to his freestyle career, but by June at the Trials he looked all the part as USA’s best 86 kg wrestler. He had what was considered the most exciting World Cup match against a former World Silver medalist from Cuba, but sadly his weekend was derailed by injury. Hopefully Ruth is 100% healthy because he has the talent to be a World medalist at this weight.

Keith Gavin and Chirs Perry are the other top two pre-seeds along with Ruth and both are known for being pretty tough to score on. Add to the list Richard Perry, who is coming off a relatively easy weekend which saw him crowned the Northeast Regional champion, Perry already has his Trials spot locked up, but still remains a threat this weekend.

Prediction: Ruth over Winn

97 kg

2014 U.S. Open Champion: Jake Varner decision Wynn Michalak 4-0
2014 World Team Member: Jake Varner

Iowa wrestler(s) outlook:
#1 Jake Varner – The 2012 Olympic champion looks to further cement his tight grip on the United States 96-kilogram weight class in America. Varner has dominated the weight class in recent history. Varner is fresh off a 3-1 record at the world cup, and looked back in his old form with nasty ankle picks and shucks. Varner is the heavy favorite.

#10 David Zabriske – Zabriskie comes in preseeded 10th in the weight class. He is the 2nd former Cyclone heavyweight in the field, and was a 2011 national champion for the Cyclones. Zabriskie is fresh off a Northeastern regional crown where he defeated Ryan Soloman in the finals. With a spot locked up for the Trials, Big Z will be looking to improve his seed for the Trials.

Jarod Trice – Trice is yet another heavyweight who is dropping down a weight class. It is rumored Trice will try his hand in Greco as well. Trice was a 3x all American for Central Michigan. Trice is dangerous and extremely athletic for a big man.

Rest of the bracket: Varner is the clear top man in this weight class, and there are a few other guys that could make it interesting. For instance last year Wynn Michalak held Varner to a 4-0 decision in the Open finals. Dustin Kilgore, the other top man at this weight, lost 7-2 and 5-2 in their two meetings in the World Team Trials last summer. Rigth now it’s hard to pick against Varner, and he is starting to get up their in age, but as of now he could be the best option at this weight for the next two years.

Prediction: Varner over Kilgore

 125 kg

2014 U.S. Open Champion: Tervel Dlagnev TF Dom Bradley 10-0
2014 World Team Member: Tervel Dlagnev

Iowa wrestler(s) outlook:

#8 Eric Thompson– The hree-time NAIA National Champ from Grand View University has been training at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club for just a little over a year now. He wrestled at the Paris Grand Prix and was second at the Guelph Open and fourth at the Bill Farrell this season.Thompson needs more experience in freestyle competition to start throwing his name around the likes of Tervel Dlagnev. Thompson knows where he needs to be and it will not happen over night for the young wrestler.

Rest of the bracket: Last year Dlagnev dominated his way through the U.S. Open bracket last year and has been dominating this weight class since 2009 making every world and Olympic team. Zach Rey comes into the U.S. Open with some great confidence after a gold-medal performance at the Pan American Championships. Rey went 1-1 at the World Cup after filling in for an injured Dlagnev. Like the last few years we do not see anything changing at the top of the podium unless Dlagnev’s injury has progressed.

Prediction: Dlagnev over Rey

 

 

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USA WRESTLING SENIOR RANKINGS
Men’s Freestyle