It was nearly impossible to fully process every aspect of the 2017 U.S. Open as it was happening in Las Vegas. There were so many upsets and incredible matches, fascinating storylines playing out, and goals being accomplished.
A few days later and with a clear head, it's time to glance back at the Open, what it meant for each weight, and also look forward to World Team Trials in Lincoln, Nebraska, on June 10th.
We started off at 57kg, moved up to 61kg and now arrive at 65kg. We're going over Open results, listing current trials qualifiers, and projecting the seeds. Complete brackets and archived matches for the Open can be found on FloArena.
65kg Trials QualifiersJordan Oliver, bye to finals
Frank Molinaro, 2016 Olympian
BJ Futrell, Bill Farrell champ
Evan Henderson, Dave Schultz medalist
Zain Retherford, NCAA champ
Jimmy Kennedy, Open 4th
Kellen Russell, Open 6th
Nick Dardanes, Open 7th
Dean Heil, NCAA champ
Jordan Oliver broke through and finally earned himself a bye to the trials finals. Though it was not without some controversy, Oliver backed up his talk and beat Kellen Russell, Zain Retherford and Frank Molinaro all in a row to win the Open; he had already beaten all three of those guys previously. With one of his best weight cuts and a strong recovery, Oliver looked huge for the weight and was constantly level changing and leg attacking, keeping his opponents on their toes.
In three previous trips to trials finals, Oliver lost, but had to go through the challenge tournament. Now that he sits in the finals, a fully rested JO is a terrifying prospect for anyone coming through the tourney. Expect his lefty collar tie and low-to-high single on his opponent's right leg to look even better in Lincoln.
Molinaro made his first finals Open, but not in the same way that he made the Olympic team last year. He only hit one four off a double/high crotch, but it was possibly the best double of the tournament. Now down in Blacksburg as the Virginia Tech assistant, Molinaro's corner duties were split by Jared Frayer and Cody Sanderson.
Similar to their match two years ago from the Bill Farrell, Oliver won on criteria by getting takedowns while only allowing Molinaro to score 1s off shot clock points and stepouts. Whether the adjustments come from Nittany Lion WC or Southeast RTC, Molinaro will have to make adjustments to finish takedowns against Oliver on offense and stop Oliver's low single on defense.
Those adjustments are all contingent upon Molinaro getting through Zain Retherford in the finals, which is what will happen if seeds hold. Still new to the senior level, Retherford separated himself from most of the field with three 10-0 techs, but a close loss to Oliver and a close win over Jimmy Kennedy. He did not hit any backbow turns on top, but was able to score some points off of his gut wrench and leg lace.
Looking forward to Lincoln, Zain may have to fundamentally change the way he wrestles. He knocked off Kennedy once again, but his two wins over him are 2-2 on criteria and a 4-3 match that had him trailing twice. The way matches were officiated in Vegas seems to indicate his style is not favorable under the current rule set, meaning he is susceptible to being put on the clock in both periods, as well as be hit with caution and 2s for hands to the face.
Jimmy Kennedy takes full advantage of his superior athleticism. He is very adept at capitalizing on the mistakes in his opponent's games, particularly when scoring in counter situations. Although we should never see him at 61kg, his current standing on the 65kg ladder is just outside making the national team. As the likely three seed, he will present a tough challenge for Retherford to get through to make the finals, as evidenced by their two close matches over the past year.
Evan Henderson has been steadily improving over the course of this year and is now training at Wolfpack WC, setting himself up as someone who could be the bad draw in Lincoln as the possible four seed. That seed could be dependent upon if BJ Futrell goes 61 or 65; the latter is where he won the Bill Farrell in November.
Kellen Russell wound up sixth at the Open after forfeiting out in his last two matches. He went 0-2 at Pan Ams and seems like a lock for the six seed, which would pit him against his Cliff Keen WC teammate in Jimmy Kennedy. Rounding out the list of those already qualified are Nick Dardanes and Dean Heil.
Looking forward to the last chance qualifier, we could see guys like Mario Mason, Jaydin Eierman and Anthony Abidin show up.
Projected WTT SeedsJordan Oliver - bye to finals
- Frank Molinaro
- Zain Retherford
- BJ Futrell
- Evan Henderson
- Kellen Russell
- Nick Dardanes
- Mario Mason
- Dean Heil