By Gary Abbott – USA Wrestling
Every year, USA Wrestling and the NCAA work together to provide fans at the NCAA Wrestling Championships a chance to see America’s top Olympic-caliber athletes as part of the NCAA Fan Festival.
This year, there will be a new twist to this popular spectator opportunity. On Friday, March 22, fans can witness live Team USA simulation matches during an open practice at approximately 2:15 p.m. at the NCAA Fan Festival in Des Moines, Iowa. This session is conveniently scheduled between sessions of the 2013 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
Team USA often conducts these live simulation matches as part of their preparation for the Olympic Games and the World Championships. Top stars will compete in matches in a training setting, the kind of behind-the-scenes experience that fans rarely get to witness.
Numerous members of Freestyle Team USA will be on hand for the workout and matches, including 2012 Olympic champion and 2011 World Champion Jordan Burroughs, who competes at 74 kg/163 lbs.
Other freestyle stars expected to participate include past Freestyle World Team members Obe Blanc at 55 kg/121 lbs., Reece Humphrey at 60 kg/132 lbs., Brent Metcalf at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. and Trent Paulson at 74 kg/185 lbs.
Many of these athletes were stars in college wrestling, including past NCAA champions Burroughs (Nebraska), Metcalf (Iowa) and Paulson (Iowa State), plus Jon Reader at 84 kg/185 lbs. (Iowa State).
There will be some members of Greco-Roman Team USA also in attendance, including Olympians Spenser Mango at 55 kg/121 lbs. and Justin Lester at 66 kg/145.5 lbs.
“Simulation is the next best thing to competition. We put athletes in a competition setting within practice, and can work on techniques, tactics and strategy. We believe the international rules may change, so we might wrestle some of the matches a little bit differently. This is fun for the fans. They get to see our best wrestlers compete in a practice setting,” said National Freestyle Coach Zeke Jones.
The USA Wrestling exhibitions held alongside the NCAA Wrestling Championships has become a tradition within the wrestling community as well as a fan favorite.
In recent years, a USA Wrestling National Team All-Star Dual was held in 2012 in St. Louis, a USA vs. International Team match in 2011 in Philadelphia and a Big Ten vs. Big 12 Challenge in 2010 in Omaha.
As always, the USA Wrestling live simulation matches will be provided free of charge to wrestling fans who are attending the championships.
USA Wrestling will also participate at the NCAA Fan Festival with National Team practice sessions on Thursday and Saturday, which are also open to the public.
For more information on the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, visit NCAA.com/wrestling.