Out of the 72 Greco-Roman athletes that qualified to participate in the 2012 Wrestling Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City, Iowa, this past weekend, 14 of them were USOEC athletes.
Of those USOEC athletes that qualified to make the 2012 Olympic Team, four worked through their brackets to place top four in their respective weight classes and are now members of the U.S. National Team.
Sophomore Max Nowry had the most successful tournament by being the only USOEC athlete to participate in a finals match for the Olympic Team spot at 55 kg. After wrestling through his 11-man bracket with past and current teammates, Nowry made it to the final challenge match.
Nowry’s first match was against Dmitry Ryabchinskiy, his teammate at the USOEC. He said he was glad the match ended in his favor this time.
“We wrestle each other all the time in the room, and the winner between us two goes back and forth all the time,” Nowry said. “It could have gone either way.”
Nowry’s opponent was a previous USOEC teammate, 2008 Olympian and World Team Member Spencer Mango (U.S. Army) who had not given up a point the entire tournament.
The two met center mat at the Carver Hawkeye Arena for a best-of-three match for the Olympic spot.
In the first match, Nowry and Mango were tied 0-0 coming to the end of the first period. Mango caught Nowry on his back in the last 10 seconds for a pin and the end of the first match.
Nowry headed into the second match needing to win two straight periods in order to claim the Olympic spot. Nowry said after talking to head coach Rob Hermann, he had a new game plan for the second match.
“Coach told me that when I’m in the room goofing around and having fun that I seem to wrestle better,” Nowry said. “I decided to go into this second match and have fun with it.”
The first period went to Mango by a single point and the second period by three points, clinching his second consecutive Olympic team spot.
Even with the loss, Nowry is still feeling optimistic for upcoming national team competitions.
“I’ve got University World Team Trials coming up,” Nowry said. “Even if I didn’t make an Olympic team, I can still make the university team. I am really looking forward to that competition.”
Also competing in the 55 kg weight class was senior Paul Tellgren, who ended his tournament with a 4-1 record and a bronze medal. His second and third victories were against previous teammate Mike Fuenfinger and current teammate Isaiah Verona, respectively.
Tellgren’s first match was a loss against Nikko Triggas of the New York Athletic Club in two periods. The two met again at the end of the bracket battling for third place. This time Tellgren swept the match, beating Triggas 1-0 in the first period and 2-1 in the second period.
Making the long cut down to make 66 kg from his usual 74 kg was sophomore Kendrick Sanders. He said it was a hard process full of challenges to overcome.
“The weight-cut was tough because I had to do a lot of things I wasn’t used too like laying off of certain foods and from going out,” Sanders said. “I had to come in early and work out two or three times a day; towards the end the weight came off slower and slower.”
Sanders made weight at weigh-ins and said it was worth it in the end.
“The weight cut paid off for me in the long run,” Sanders said. “I didn’t finish the way I wanted to, but I came back and made the national team; I am satisfied with it for now.”
He took third place at the end of the day with a 3-1 tournament record. Sanders’ only loss was to the athlete who ended up winning the Olympic spot: Harry Lester, U.S. Army.
The bronze-medal match for Sanders was against Glen Garrison (U.S. Army); he took the first two periods in a 1-0, 1-0 period sweep.
Sophomore Toby Erickson competed for the USOEC at 120 kg and, much like teammate Tellgren, he also had a 4-1 record and the third place bronze medal.
Also similar to his teammate, Erickson’s first and last match was the same person: Nick Severson (Minnesota Storm).
The only difference in Erickson’s match was that he won both matches against Severson.
Erickson’s first match with Severson lasted all three periods. The first period Erickson won 1-0; the second Severson pulled ahead 3-0. Erickson set up what could have been a three-point throw to win the period but the referee only awarded him two points. In the third and final period, Erickson shut down Severson with a 2-0 win.
Meeting Severson again in the bronze-medal match, Erickson didn’t even give his opponent the chance to score a point or go beyond the first period.
“Severson is a tough guy to start a tournament out against,” Erickson said. “I knew I was going to beat him the second time instead of just squeaking by.”
After pushing and pulling to offset his opponent for the majority of the first period, Erickson was able to catch his opponent off guard.
He put Severson into a pinning position and was awarded the fall with a mere second before the buzzer sounded the end of the period.
Even though Erickson did not make the Olympic Team, he is still happy with how he performed over this past year.
“I’m a National team member after my first year on the senior circuit,” Erickson said. “To make it this far is a great feeling; I can only go up from here.”
Other athletes that competed for the USOEC at the 2012 Olympic Trials were freshmen Lee Wildes and Verona, sophomores Joseph DeNova, Marcus Finau, Ryabchinskiy, juniors Tanner Andrews, Aaron Briggs, Josh Castellano, Marc Stenberg, and senior Zac Nielsen.
Out of the seven Greco-Roman weight classes, six Olympian spots are filled by USOEC alumni: Spencer Mango at 55 kg, Ellis Coleman at 60 kg, Justin “Harry” Lester at 66 kg, Chas Betts at 84 kg, Ben Provisor at 74 kg and RC Johnson at 96 kg.
While the women’s freestyle team will be moving to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., USOEC Greco will remain at NMU under head coach Hermann and produce elite student athletes.