U.S. Senior Nationals wrapped up in Las Vegas this weekend in the second leg of qualifying for April’s Olympic Team Trials held in Iowa City. Up to the top seven wrestlers from each bracket had the chance to advance to the Trials, making this one of biggest and most important qualifying weekends on the Senior circuit. Iowa was well represented at Senior Nationals with one wrestler coming home with a national title and several others qualifying for Iowa City.
Winning the national title was Hawkeye Wrestling Club’s comeback kid, Dan Dennis. The former Hawkeye All-American took some time off from wrestling, and was even living out of his car during some of that time away, but Dennis came back in early 2015 to try his hand at making an Olympic team. Last year Dennis competed at 61 kg, where he made the U.S. National Team, but has now worked his way down to 57 kg, and so far he has already brought home hardware in his two events.
Earlier, in November, Dennis took home bronze at the Bill Farrell tournament in New York – which was the first step in the Olympic Trials qualifying process. That led to Dennis competing this past weekend where he started his tournament as the No. 1 seed, and he was able to live up to his seed and then some only allowing two points throughout the whole tournament.
Dennis started off with a 6-0 over former Oklahoma State All-American Jon Morrison and followed that up with a 10-0 technical fall over former Missouri All-American Alan Waters. In the semifinals Dennis experienced his closest match with former World Team member Coleman Scott, who like Dennis has cut down from 61 kg. The semifinal was also a rematch from this past summer’s World Team Trials challenge finals, where Dennis scored a huge come from behind victory to reach the finals. This meeting would once again be decided by a razor thin margin, with Dennis coming out on top 3-2. In the finals Dennis dispatched another former World Team member, Sam Hazewinkel, 10-0 technical fall.
Two additional Iowans qualified at 57 kg, with Panther Wrestling Club’s Joe Colon defaulting in the sixth place match, and Iowa State assistant coach Angel Escobedo getting the last spot by placing seventh.
Another wrestler who had a successful Bill Farrell run has also qualified for Iowa City’s Olympic Trials, as former Iowa State standout Jon Reader took home fourth at 86 kg and is Iowa’s lone qualifier at that weight. Reader reached the semifinals of his bracket where he fell to former 74 kg star Kyle Dake 6-4. He would later fall to Keith Gavin in the consolation finals.
2015 NCAA champion Kyven Gadson made a strong run at this weekend’s tournament to take third at 97 kg, losing only to eventual champion Wynn Michalak. Two of Gadson’s wins came over established stars Cayle Byers (6-1) and Dustin Kilgore (11-1 technical fall).
Wrapping things up former Grand View standout Eric Thompson and Hawkeye Wrestling Club’s Bobby Telford each will advance to Iowa City after taking fifth and third respectively at 125 kg. This was Telford’s domestic debut after joining the senior circuit several months ago. Telford’s only loss was in the quarterfinals to eventual runner-up Tyrell Fortune. Some of Telford’s big wins on the weekend including taking out Thompson in the consolation semifinals, and he followed that by taking out one of his biggest college rivals, Tony Nelson in the third place match.