The U.S. Open returns to Las Vegas in 2017 after taking a one-year hiatus due to the Olympic year in 2016. This year’s event, which will serve as the World Team Trials for Greco competitors and as a World Trials qualifier for freestyle wrestlers, will include seven Gopher alums and one current Gopher wrestling across both styles.
On the freestyle side, four Minnesota alums, current Gopher Bobby Steveson and Regional Training Center athlete Daniel DeShazer will be wrestling at five different weights in Vegas.
Volunteer Assistant Coach Zach Sanders makes his return to the freestyle scene at 57 kilograms, while both DeShazer and four-time All-American and 2010 National Champion Jayson Ness will both wrestle at 61 kilograms. In his last senior-level competition, Ness won a silver medal at the Paris International in late January.
Dylan Ness, a four-time All-American like his older brother, will be wrestling at 70 kilograms. This weekend will be his first competitive action since an injury last April during the Last Chance Olympic Trials qualifier tournament, in which he wrestled both Greco and freestyle.
Steveson, the lone current Gopher in the field, shows up at 97 kilograms. He recently completed his redshirt freshman season at Minnesota, a year in which he qualified for his first NCAA tournament while wrestling at 184 pounds. Steveson wrestled in the UWW Junior National Championships last year, where he finished third.
Last, but never least, is four-time All-American and two-time National Champion Tony Nelson, who will be wrestling at 125 kilograms. In his last competition, Nelson won gold in the Ukraine in March.
Winning a freestyle title at the U.S. Open guarantees that athlete a spot in the best-of-three championship series at the U.S. Freestyle World Team Trials in Lincoln, Neb., this June. The top seven finishers at each weight, including the champion, are all guaranteed spots in the World Team Trials field, though those placing second through seventh this weekend will have to fight their way through the trials bracket in Lincoln to reach the championship final.
While freestyle wrestlers look to use their trip to Vegas to take the next step toward a spot on Team USA, this weekend will round out the U.S. Greco team for the World Championships later this summer in Paris. Three former Gophers wrestling in two different weight classes will look to navigate the tournament bracket to reach the best-of-three championship series.
At 71 kilograms, Pat Smith and Brad Dolezal will both look to reach the finals in one of the deepest Greco weights at the tournament. Up at the next weight class, 75 kilograms, Alec Ortiz hopes to find his way to the top of the podium and onto the national team as well.
Both styles will get started on Friday, though the Gopher alums wrestling Greco will only compete on Saturday. Freestyle starts with the preliminary and opening consolation matches, as well as championship quarterfinals, during the day session starting at 11 a.m. Central on Friday morning. Championship semifinals will be wrestled Friday night starting at 9:30 p.m.
On Saturday morning, freestyle will wrestle the remainder of its consolation matches, and its medal matches, starting at 11 a.m., followed by championship finals at 8 p.m. On the Greco side, 71 and 75 kilogram competition begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, wrestling up to the medal matches. The closing session, featuring medal matches and the best-of-three championship series, begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
All the action will be available on FloWrestling.org this weekend, with live streams of all mats available to those with FloPRO subscriptions, in addition to live scoring and brackets. Gopher Wrestling’s Twitter account will also be keeping tabs on current and former U of M wrestlers in the field. Be sure to follow Gopher Wrestling on Twitter for updates and recaps.
While it is the college wrestling offseason, it’s prime season for freestyle and Greco. To stay up-to-date on how past, present and future Gophers are doing in competition this summer, or just for general news about the program, GopherSports.com is your home for Gopher Wrestling news. Be sure to follow Gopher Wrestling on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest updates.