A group of three young Gopher wrestlers and four Gopher greats from the recent past will be in Lincoln, Neb., this weekend looking to earn a spot on the U.S. freestyle team for this summer’s World Championships. Only the winner of each weight at both the junior and senior level at this weekend’s World Team Trials will be guaranteed a spot on Team USA.
Looking first at the juniors, Mitch McKee is in the best position of all Gophers. McKee won the 60-kilogram junior national championship a few weeks ago, his second consecutive title. By virtue of that accomplishment, McKee is automatically placed in the best-of-three championship series at 60 kg this weekend while the rest of the field will have to navigate a challenge tournament bracket to decide who will oppose McKee in the finals.
While McKee waits in the championship series at 60 kg, a pair of Gophers joining the team this fall look to fight their ways through challenge brackets to secure their own spots in the finals: Jake Allar at 74 kg and Owen Webster at 84. Both have tasted national-level success already in their young careers. Allar was a 2016 junior freestyle national champion in Fargo, while Webster represented Team USA at the 2015 Cadet World Championships, where he won bronze.
Among the quartet of Gopher alums wrestling this weekend, volunteer assistant coach Zach Sanders and 2010 national champ Jayson Ness may have the toughest roads ahead, with deep fields at both 57 kg and 61 kg, respectively. That’s not to say Dylan Ness will have it easy at 70 kg, nor Tony Nelson at 125 kg. At the senior level, all four will encounter some of the best talent in the world as they advance in their brackets.
In addition to Gopher wrestlers in this weekend’s field, both Joe Rau and Hayden Zillmer will represent the Minnesota Storm as they look to secure their spots on the national team. Rau will compete at 86 kg, while Zillmer will wrestle at 97.
Junior wrestlers will get it started on Friday, with challenge tournaments beginning at 9 a.m. Central. Best-of-three championship series to settle all spots on the junior national team will begin at 4 p.m. On Saturday, the senior-level wrestlers take over, with challenge tournaments beginning at 9 a.m. and best-of-three finals starting at 5 p.m.
Fans can stream all the action from the World Team Trials live on FloWrestling.org, though access to the live video stream requires a FloPRO subscription. For those hoping to keep tabs on Gopher wrestlers, updates will be provided on Gopher Wrestling’s Twitter feed.
It may by the college wrestling offseason, but there’s no offseason for the Gopher Wrestling program. Whether it’s to hear the latest news about Gopher coaches or athletes during the summer months, 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.