USA Wrestling will set its roster for the 2016 Junior World Championships at the United World Wrestling Junior Freestyle World Team Trials this weekend in Irving, Texas. Across brackets stocked full of the top young wrestling talent in the country, the names of five Gophers appear in five different weight classes.
This group of five includes two 2016 junior national champions – Mitch McKee and Rylee Streifel. By virtue of their titles earlier this spring in Las Vegas, both McKee and Streifel have automatically qualified for the best-of-three championship series at their weights, needing to pick up just two wins against a single opponent to claim their spots on Team USA. Streifel will compete at 120 kilograms, while McKee will wrestle at 60kg.
On Thursday of this week, McKee will also wrestle at Beat the Streets in Times Square in an exhibition match against Peiman Biabani of Iran. By rule, McKee reserves the right to defer his best-of-three series to a later date at any time until weigh-ins for this weekend’s event are complete. Meanwhile, Streifel’s best-of-three series is guaranteed to take place in Texas.
The other three Gophers in the field – Fredy Stroker, Larry Early III and Bobby Steveson – will begin their weekend in challenge tournaments. By winning the challenge tournament at their respective weights, tournaments which are set in traditional, double-elimination brackets, any of these wrestlers earns the right to compete against the junior national champion at his weight to earn a spot on the junior national team. Stroker will be competing at 66kg, Early at 74kg and Steveson at 84kg. At the junior national championships in late April, Steveson took third place, while Stroker took fifth. Early advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to the backside of the bracket.
This weekend’s tournament, which will be held at Alliant Energy Center in Irving, will begin on Saturday. Stroker and Streifel will compete that day, with the challenge tournament beginning at 9:30 a.m. Central and the best-of-three finals series beginning at 2 p.m. McKee, Early and Steveson will wrestle on Sunday, with the same start times as Saturday.
GopherSports.com is your home for updates about future Gophers, current Gophers, former Gophers – basically every Gopher on the wrestling scene. To stay up-to-the-minute on everything surrounding the Minnesota program, be sure to follow Gopher Wrestling on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.