Five Gopher alums challenged the nation’s best in both freestyle and Greco-Roman over the weekend in Iowa City at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. While every one of these five won at least one of his matches over the weekend, headlined by Pat Smith’s run to the championship series in Greco at 66 kilograms, none of the former Minnesota wrestlers captured a spot on Team USA.
Smith entered the weekend ranked fourth at his weight, meaning he outperformed his seed in making his appearance in the best-of-three series to decide the trials champion. Smith picked up decisions over Christopher Gonzalez and Michael Hooker in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, before squaring off with RaVaughn Perkins for the championship. Smith won the first match, 2-0, before dropping the second match on tiebreaking criteria after the bout ended in a 2-2 tie. Perkins defeated Smith 9-2 in the rubber match to take the top spot.
Ranked seventh in freestyle at 125 kg, Tony Nelson opened with a 6-3 win over Matt Meuleners before losing on tiebreaking criteria to Zach Rey in the quarterfinals. Rey would go on to finish second to World medalist Tervel Dlagnev in the event. Nelson was eliminated by Eric Thompson in the wrestlebacks.
In his opening match wrestling freestyle at 65 kg, Jayson Ness lost to Aaron Pico, who would finish as the tournament’s runner-up. In the wrestlebacks, Ness nearly pinned Iowa alum Brent Metcalf on his way to a 9-7 decision. Third-place finisher Zain Retherford eliminated Ness in the next round.
Both Gophers wrestling on Sunday finished 2-2 for the tournament, beginning with Alec Ortiz wrestling Greco at 75 kg. Ortiz was the last Gopher alum to secure his spot in the trials field when he won the Last Chance Qualifier tournament the prior week. After a 9-1 tech fall to move into the quarterfinals, Ortiz lost to eventual runner-up Geordan Speiller and slid over to the backside of the bracket. There, he defeated Timothy Bleau 11-3 before falling to third-place finisher Corey Hope.
Scott Schiller was the last Gopher to finish up his weekend, wrestling freestyle at 97 kg. Schiller lost his quarterfinal bout to 2015 NCAA champ Kyven Gadson before picking up a pair of wins in wrestlebacks, first over Blaize Cabell and then over Jeffery Felix. Schiller was eliminated in the consolation semifinals by J.D. Bergman.
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