The Ultimate World Team Trials Preview

The Ultimate World Team Trials Preview

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE WORLD TEAM TRIALS LIVE, 5/30 - 6/1

History will be made in Madison when our World Team for 6 of the 8 weights will be set. The US Open was a tasty appetizer, but now we are ready for the main course. The best of the best set their sights on Madison.

In this preview I’ll give you the complete rundown: All the potential competitors(but know that not everyone on the list will necessarily compete), some analysis of styles and of course my predictions.

Remember that we’ll have a challenge tournament and then the best two out of three finals where the US Open winner is waiting. To the breakdown.


57KG

US Open Champ Waiting In Finals
Sam Hazewinkel

Challenge Tournament Qualifiers
Nick Simmons
Tony Ramos
Andrew Hochstrasser
Tyler Graff
Danny Mitcheff
Ryan Mango
Zach Sanders
Mark McKnight
Angel Escobedo
Nathan Tomasello
Kyle Hutter
Frank Perrelli
Jesse Delgado
Nico Megaludis

This weight will tell us a lot about a few of our guys going forward. We’ve got the future vs. the now element with guys like Megaludis, Ramos and Graff in the field. Simmons and Escobedo are our most credentialed and skilled veterans in this field.

We didn’t see Simmons at the Open, but we know what he brings to the table: A stylistic nightmare. The East Lansing Strangler has as varied an arsenal as anybody at 57KG and I think is one of our best options for the World team. He may give up a takedown every now and then, but all he needs is one chance on top and he can end it with a variety of turns.

I thought Escobedo may be the guy at the US Open, but injury derailed all of that and prevented him from making a run. 5th in the World last year, Angel brings skill and experience. He’s a unique athlete with a variety of dangerous attacks and turns, but none more dangerous than his double leg.

I’m excited to see what Tony Ramos brings to the table. I believe this will be a learning experience for Tony. He may get some takedowns on guys, but I think he may struggle with some of the small idiosyncrasies of freestyle that he hasn’t been a part of for some time. Though he’s always been a good freestyler, he hasn’t competed against our best guys in some time. He’s a good guy for the future, but right now, I think he won’t be quite ready. His day is coming, however.

I was glad to see Nico get a wildcard. He can test his mettle against the best, and if things don't work out, but he places top 6, he can wrestle off Nahshon for the University spot.  He is quick, strong and ferocious. I love his leg attacks when he lets them loose and he has great body awareness. I see him struggling to score against our elite guys and that will be the difference.

So to the picks. I like Simmons to take the challenge tournament over Escobedo. I tend to err on the side of the guy with the most offense/ways to score, and that’s Nick. However, their history gives me some pause. Escobedo has had success against Simmons historically. Escobedo’s health is what prevents me from giving him the nod. I truly think the winner here takes the series against Haze, whoever it is.

Haze got over the hump against Simmons in 2012 under the old rules. I think scoring potential favors Simmons. I haven’t seen the offensive repertoire from Haze necessary to push Simmons. The guy who beats Simmons will need quick leg attacks and finishes. That’s not Haze. That guy is Escobedo probably, but will he be ready? I’m not sure. Simmons over Haze in 2.

CP’s Predictions
1-Nick Simmons(2 matches)
2-Sam Hazewinkel
3-Angel Escobedo
4-Tony Ramos
5-Andrew Hochstrasser

65KG

US Open Champ Waiting In Finals
Brent Metcalf

Challenge Tournament Qualifiers
Kellen Russell
Jordan Oliver
Jason Chamberlain
Jason Tsirtsis
Frank Molinaro
Reece Humphrey
Nick Dardanes
Kyle Ruschell
Kevin LeValley
Nick Fanthorpe

Stinks that we won’t have Logan Stieber in the mix, but this is still an insane weight. Metcalf was an absolute monster at the US Open, he just beat the top ranked guy in the World, and he’s sitting in the challenge tourney finals. So yeah, he’s a huge favorite.

I don’t know what to make of Jordan Oliver, uniquely talented like almost nobody at any weight, yet he’s been falling short to guys I figured he’d have bypassed by now. As athletically and offensively gifted as anyone, Oliver brings power, speed and slickness to the table. However, the aggression and necessary grit may not be there. If Oliver lets it fly and makes a point to just score and score, nobody can keep up with him, perhaps even Metcalf. However, we’ve seen a more tentative and reserved Oliver lately. Yes, Kellen Russell is hard to score on, and some caution is necessary. However, if you don’t give yourself numerous opportunities to score on a guy like Russell, you’re playing right into Kellens game.

Kellen Russell is one of those guys who in bursts can be incredibly dangerous. He’s got the best body awareness/control of anyone in this weight. Great ducks, a few leg attacks and of course elite defense. He’s shown to be significantly behind Metcalf, and I don’t think that changes between the US Open and now. I think he and Oliver are the class of the challenge tournament, but I’m not sure he has the upside to challenge Metcalf or at the World level. We will see.

I think the move up for Humphrey is going to be a difficult adjustment. He’s slick and technical with a unique skill set with upper body attacks (RIP Ryan Blake) as well as smooth leg attacks. That being said, his 60KG domestic success is not going to translate equally at 65.

Molinaro and Chamberlain probably bring up the 3 and 4 spots here. Both have had some success but there’s not much to suggest they’re ready to knock off the Russell’s and Oliver’s of the world.

I’ve been erroneously picking Oliver to win for some time and I’m done with it.  Kellen has won both matchups and continues to improve.  Though Oliver is seemingly a much better matchup against Metcalf, we may not see that match considering Kellen has been great against Oliver.  Metcalf is the guy here.  We saw it at the US Open it is Brent Metcalf and everybody else.  Maybe JO slips by Kellen somehow and gets one match, but after seeing Metcalf, I think that could be giving too much credit. Metcalf takes it in two.

CP’s Predictions
1-Brent Metcalf(In 2)
2-Kellen Russell
3-Jordan Oliver
4-Reece Humphrey
5-Frank Molinaro

74KG

US Open Champion Waiting In Finals
Jordan Burroughs

Challenge Tournament Qualifiers
David Taylor
Andrew Howe
Nick Marable
Alex Dieringer
Dan Vallimont
Tyler Caldwell
Thomas Gantt
Taylor Massa
Quinton Godley

I’ve heard it said, and even said it myself “It’s too bad we have all these studs at 74.” Today it finally hit me: That’s crap. If our studs were all spread out, we wouldn’t have these epic matches and tournaments. So instead of lamenting the fact that a stud will be left at home while the other goes on to World renown, I’m going to get excited that we’ll see those battles. I’ll never forget watching Dake v. JB last year, nor DT v. JB at the US Open this year.

The moment JB came back and beat Taylor at the US Open all I could think was “I can’t wait for the World Team Trials.” Now they’re here. Our deepest and most entertaining weight. It is truly a shame that we won’t have Dake in the mix, but we move on knowing we’ll be thoroughly excited throughout this tournament.

I hope we see Andrew Howe here at the Trials. He’s one of only a few guys to ever truly push Burroughs and I really want to see he and Taylor go again. It was an uncharacteristic mistake by Howe at the Trials last year when he got teched by DT. I think he’ll try to stay a bit more fundamental against Taylor this time around and look to wear on Taylors head and get to his legs. Last time around he went for the head pinch, got countered and immediately teched. Howe will adjust and make it closer.

Seeing the emotion and disappointment on Taylor’s face after the US Open was pretty tough. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall to hear what the coaches had to say to him after that one. Because here’s the thing: He wrestled great. He made a mistake, he can beat him. He should have walked away optimistic for the future matchups. Losing like that can make it hard to see the silver lining, but if he can I think we’ll see him run through the Challenge bracket and truly test Burroughs. He scored 4 off the cradle, not something likely to be duplicated I realize. However, he keeps innovating and finding ways to score. He’ll probably break something out we didn’t see coming for this one as well. He was able to score points off his own attacks, not merely counter. The fact that he took an attack out of JB’s arsenal is huge, despite the fact that JB rarely shoots singles to that side. I think we continue to see layers added to Taylors game? Scary stuff, right?

I think Tyler Caldwell may be our next best guy, but I’m curious if we’ll see him at the Trials after having competed at the University trials last week. His defense/experience probably separates him from the rest.

Godley, Massa and Vallimont probably fill in after the DT/Howe/Caldwel. I doubt we see Marable here, but if he does, he’ll be a potential finalist against DT in the challenge bracket.

Ultimately I’m not picking against Jordan Burroughs. I know DT was close, that’s kind of my point. We think of JB having been insanely dominant in his career, and he has been. However, he’s been in tons of close matches: Howe a few times, Goudarzi a few times, Tsargush twice, Aliyev, Dake, Taylor. All have been in position to win and JB just finds a way. His mental toughness, focus and ability to ignore negativity/adversity is what makes him the best I’ve ever seen. He could find himself in danger again, but when it comes crunch time, there’s only on JB. He’ll find a way.

CP’s Predictions
1-Jordan Burroughs(In 2 Matches)
2-David Taylor
3-Andrew Howe
4-Tyler Caldwell
5-Quinton Godley


86KG

US Open Champion Waiting In Finals
Keith Gavin

Challenge Tournament Qualifiers
Ed Ruth
Chris Perry
Clayton Foster
Jon Reader
Quentin Wright
Robert Hamlin
Phil Keddy
Austin Trotman
Patrick Downey

Maybe the weight I’m most excited about, yes even more that 74. I am thoroughly intrigued by Ed Ruth. He’s been one of my favorites since his Freshman year. He’s starting to really put it all together after having a little difficulty with the Freestyle transition. There’s nobody with more scoring potential than Ed in this field. However, he can tend to hemorrhage points at times, struggling to avoid giving up exposure as well as leaving his legs open at times.

Chris Perry is right up there with Keith Gavin as our most tactical and strategic guys at 86KG. Lots of people think Perry could be the guy. I think a few things could keep him from winning here. First, he’s undersized as a 174 pounder. Growing into this weight will be a year long process, not something done in two months. Second, while he’s incredibly difficult to score on, I think the better athletes like Clayton Foster and Ed Ruth may be too much for him to keep up with point for point. I’ve wanted to see Ruth v. Perry for awhile now. I think it’d be a crazy one, but I’d have to favor Ruth. P.S. Chris Perry has a ridiculous sweep single when he wants to use it. That shot could be the x factor. If it’s firing he could take the whole thing.

Clayton Foster was in some of the most heart-racing matches of the entire US Open. He got the late score against Ruth to make the finals against Gavin where a late takedown was the difference. He’s beaten World and Olympic medalists at this point, but I’m wondering how he can do against a slightly more seasoned Ruth and the incredibly savvy Chris Perry.

I think after those three there’s a fairly significant drop off. Scary thought considering NCAA Champs Jon Reader and Quentin Wright are in the field. However, that’s what it looks like to me. Wright is still quite rudimentary underneath and I fear that his margin for error is so small considering when he gets taken down he’s at such a high risk for getting turned.

I’ve slept on Keith Gavin time and time again, and will I learn? Guess not, because once again I’m picking against him. Ultimately he’s been having the last laugh, but I really think that our best athlete/option will be coming out of the challenge tournament. I like Ruth or Perry to come through and knock out Gavin in 3. Those will be classics for sure.

I am taking Ruth to get it done. I think he can beat both Perry and Foster and he’ll have too much offense for Gavin. I told you I err on the side of offense and I’m sticking with that right here.

CP’s Predictions
1-Ed Ruth(In 3 matches)
2-Keith Gavin
3-Chris Perry
4-Clayton Foster
5-Jon Reader

97KG

US Open Champion Sitting In Finals
Jake Varner

Challenge Tournament Qualifiers
Wynn Michalak
JD Bergman
J’den Cox
Jack Jensen
Chris Pendleton
Cayle Byers
Dustin Kilgore
Deron Winn
Micah Burak
David Zabriskie
Cam Simaz

Hope we’ll see Killer back in the mix at 97. He was missed at the US Open. Really this weight seems like Jake Varner and everyone else. He seemed to outclass everyone each step of the way. He’s back to gold medal form.

Wynn Michalak got the pin of JD Bergman and is also the last American to beat Jake Varner. He’s probably the consensus to emerge from the challenge tournament victorious, but it will be tough. Michalaks cradle of Bergman is almost stunning, but when you look at the guys he’s beaten, we can’t be but so shocked.

Just when you think JD Bergman maybe on the backside of his career he comes back and surprises you. The Buckeye has battled injuries throughout much of his career, but he looked solid at the US Open. He’s a monster physically who can punish positional errors with the best of them. He’s great with an underhook and upper body ties. Can’t count him out of any match, even one against Varner.

Micah Burak may be a bit under the radar but he’s been fairly solid throughout his career. Recall he beat Dustin Kilgore in 2 straight matches at University trials last year. He’s a big dude, and though he can be defensive, his leg attacks are timely and effective.

We missed Kilgore at the US Open, but hope we will see him at the trials. I think his wide open style will make it tough for him to make a World Team at any point. He’s not the biggest guy at 97, and though his aggression is admirable, it can often cost him points when guys counter his frequent attacks. He’s got a great single and can hand fight with the best. I just think his style will struggle to translate against our best.

Deron Winn had a fine showing at the US Open in April. He picked apart Chris Pendleton early in the tournament. He’s a dynamic athlete with a variety of attacks. Like Kilgore, I think he’ll struggle against the bigger 97’s. Guys like Varner and Bergman proved to be mis-matches. I don’t expect that to change from a month ago.

So ultimately this is Varner and everyone else. I’d be fairly surprised to see him drop one match. Varner has added to his arsenal and we’re seeing his ankle picks, leg attacks and shrugs more and more often. He once had the reputation of being a bit too reserved and positionally focused instead of offense. He’s beaten that stereotype to death. He’s one of our best scorers at any weight.

CP’s Predictions
1-Jake Varner(In 2 Matches)
2-Wynn Michalak
3-JD Bergman
4-Micah Burak
5-Deron Winn

125KG

US Open Champion Waiting In Finals
Tervel Dlagnev

Challenge Tournament Qualifiers
Dom Bradley
Tyrell Fortune
Nick Gwiazdowski
Connor Medbery
Zach Rey
Jarod Trice
Matt Meuleners
Justin Grant
Les Sigman
Trevor Smith
Eric Thompson

Stoked to see the big boys as we have a loaded field here. Tervel is firmly planted as the class of 125, but there are a host of challengers who could give him some problems if they were to make the finals.

Dom Bradley is the last guy in America to beat Tervel. He had to serve a suspension for a failed drug test and missed the trials. He made an uncharacteristic mistake at the Open that Tervel exploited, and exploited, and exploited until the match was over. It won’t come so easy next time around. His match with Fortune at the US Open was a bit misleading. He won, but Fortune was the more offensive wrestler, with Dom able to counter off of his mistakes, if they hit again, Fortune may only be a few tweaks away from reversing that result.

Nick Gwiazdowski is an interesting addition to this field. The NCAA champ is among the best athletes in this class, but from an experience standpoint, it could make things tougher. We know he’s got amazing attacks as he is prolific with a double, single and high crotch. I love his style, but against the positional and more traditional heavies, I worry that his style could get exploited into counters. Could be wrong about this. Wouldn’t be the first time I underrated Gwiaz.

High flying Tyrell Fortune had some trouble breaking through against Dom, but he’s a definite contender to win the challenge bracket. He ripped through a Dom-less challenge tournament a year ago only to be handled by Dlagnev. Fortune is powerful and dangerous with his throws. He’s never more than a few seconds away from ending a match. His lack of leg attacks (or should I say use of them) does concern me and I believe limits his ceiling here.

I have always loved watching Tervel Dlagnev. He’s such an impressive athlete for his size and has such a unique style for a heavyweight. He’s working on finding more fun and enjoyment in competition and it surely was working for him at the US Open. He’s our best guy for international competition and will assuredly be a medal threat. His low attacks and setups are almost unbelievable when you consider his size. He can get moved around a bit and horsed around but the last time I saw that was against Dom in the US Open 1 year ago. Give me Tervel in 2.

CP’s Predictions
1-Tervel Dlagnev(In 2 Matches)
2-Dom Bradley
3-Tyrell Fortune
4-Nick Gwiazdowski
5-Zach Rey





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