Many of the best American wrestlers in the sport today will be on the mat at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Friday and Saturday with the goal of earning a spot in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trails next April in Iowa City. Among that field will be nine Gopher alums, three of whom will wrestle Greco on Friday and the rest in freestyle, which will take place on Saturday.
The icebreaker for Minnesota’s Greco contingent will be Pat Smith, who will wrestle at 66 kilograms and be the first Gopher to compete on Friday. Smith won gold at last April’s Pan America Championships and finished as the runner-up at the World Team Trials in June, both at 71 kilograms. Shortly after Smith, Dylan Ness and Alec Ortiz will kick off their tournaments in the 75-kilogram, Greco field. In his international debut, Ness went 3-2 wrestling at 66 kilograms at the Bill Farrell International Open last month.
The remaining half-dozen Gophers will wrestle Saturday in the freestyle tournament. Zach Sanders, coming off a second-place finish at the Bill Farrell, will look to take the title at 57 kilograms. At 65 kilograms, three Gophers with a combined eight All-America medals will help fill out the bracket, with Chris Dardanes, Nick Dardanes and Jayson Ness all set to compete at the weight. Three-time All-American Scott Schiller will represent Minnesota at 97 kilograms. The last Gopher to begin his tournament will be Tony Nelson at 125 kilograms. Nelson placed third at that weight at the Bill Farrell.
The top seven wrestlers at each weight, in both Greco and freestyle, will earn an invitation to next April’s Olympic Trials.
Greco competition will get underway at 12 p.m. (Central) on Friday, with championship finals set to begin at 9 p.m. Freestyle will take center stage on Saturday, beginning at Noon and concluding with title bouts beginning at 7 p.m.
The action from Las Vegas will be streamed live on Flowrestling.org. Watching the live stream requires a FloPRO subscription. Periodic updates on how the nine Gopher alums in Vegas will be provided by Gopher Wrestling on Twitter. A full recap of weekend results will be available on GopherSports.com at the event’s conclusion.
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