As we head into next weekend's World Team Trials in Lincoln, Nebraska, there is just one question at 57kg: Can anyone stop Tony Ramos, or is he just too clutch?
Ramos has only been defeated by one opponent domestically at this weight since his senior level career began. That was Daniel Dennis in last year's Olympic Team Trials finals, and Dennis has since retired.
Trials Previews: 61kg | 65kg | 70kg | 74kg | 86kg
A 2014 NCAA champ for Iowa, Ramos has the most international experience of anyone in this weight, and seems to have put himself in a great training situation as well. He comes in at No. 16 in our world rankings done by Seth Petarra. After winning the U.S. Open, he earned himself a bye to the finals for the second time in his career.
Make sure to tune in on Saturday, June 10th for all the WTT action; the schedule can be found here. Brackets will be on FloArena, and we go live at 10am central time. On to the full preview.
Nico Megaludis, Titan Mercury
Tyler Graff, Titan Mercury
Darian Cruz, Lehigh Valley WC
Nahshon Garrett, Sunkist Kids
Nathan Tomasello, Titan Mercury
Frank Perrelli, Titan Mercury
Zach Sanders, Minnesota Storm
Alan Waters, Titan Mercury
Jesse Delgado, Titan Mercury
Thomas Gilman, Hawkeye WC
Commentary: Heading into the challenge tournament, Pan Am champ Tyler Graff should be the top seed. Graff did not compete at the Open, but owns a 10-0 tech over Nahshon Garrett from last year's Olympic trials. He has the best par terre game in this field, and not just from direct transitions off takedowns. Whether it is a leglace, gut wrench or trap arm, he is able to work all three once action has stopped and his opponent bellys down.
In 2017, Graff owns nine wins over foreign competition, gaining a good deal of experience this year. Despite making two junior world teams and wrestling in the 2013 World University Games, the four-time All American for Wisconsin has never been one to compete overseas much. Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle is that he and Ramos have never wrestled in freestyle.
Now training at Arizona State, Garrett should be the two seed in Lincoln. The 2016 NCAA champ for Cornell put together a great Open after taking some losses at the Bill Farrell and Dave Schultz that made his run in Vegas slightly more surprising.
Many think that Garrett has the most potential to knock off Ramos, in large part due to him having 3-0 leads with 90 seconds to go in both of their matches. However, that gets back to part of what makes Ramos so difficult to beat, his ability to be clutch and stage late comebacks. It will be fun to see Garrett's go-behind and low single against a trimmed down, more highly competitive trials field.
The proverbial fly in the ointment heading into the Open was Nathan Tomasello, especially after bulking up to 133 during the college season. His style transitions well in that he is very efficient with his leg attacks and holds center better than most. One of the big concerns with NaTo making the world team is that he has never put his hands on a foreigner.
An X-factor for WTT is Nico Megaludis, who looked great in the fall at the Bill Farrell and World Clubs Cup, then carried that into winter by winning the Paris Grand Prix. But he defaulted out of the Open after losing to Tomasello, who he should be able to avoid as Nico should be the four seed and Tomasello the three seed.
Megaludis should be able to make the semis, as it appears Zach Sanders will be the fifth seed. Sanders handed Nico his first career loss in college, and beat him twice more that year. But then Megaludis knocked him off in the NCAA quarters and never looked back. This is a winnable first round match for Nico.
As we continue looking at seeds, we get another fun quarterfinal matchup. This one's a rematch of the third place match from the Open, which Nathan Tomasello won on a last second gut wrench over Frank Perrelli. Having his best year on the senior level, it will be fun to see what adjustments Perrelli has made since that match. For perspective, Perrelli lost to Jesse Delgado 4-2 in Cuba and then teched him 13-3 in Vegas.
NaTo should go in as the favorite on paper to beat Perrelli once again, not just based on their prior match but also on his resume over the past two years, but it is not inconceivable Perrelli could find a way to win. Of note, Perrelli beat Nahshon 15-8 at the Schultz as well, which makes me think he is a potential dark horse to make the challenge tourney finals.
Now we're starting to get into the pigtails. Remember #FlapGate? How could you forget. That's what we're looking at in a potential 7/10 matchup of Alan Waters and Thomas Gilman. Waters had himself a great fall tour, and entered Vegas as the three seed, but fell to sixth after losing in the semis.
Gilman made two junior world teams and a cadet world team, but until the last chance qualifier had not competed in freestyle since his 2014 junior bronze medal. It's easy to expect fireworks in that one. The winner of that one gets Nahshon in the quarters. Gilman was 2-0 against Garrett in college, while Waters was teched 11-0 by Nahshon in the semis of the Open.
The other pigtail could pit two-time NCAA champ Jesse Delgado against the most recent champ in Darian Cruz. Delgado just made his senior level debut in February, and did not have any wins over qualifiers at the Open. Cruz could be the nine seed based on his win over Gilman at NCAAs, and also teched his way through Northeast regional. Winner gets Graff in the quarters.
Projected SeedsTony Ramos - bye to finals
- Tyler Graff
- Nahshon Garrett
- Nathan Tomasello
- Nico Megaludis
- Zach Sanders
- Frank Perrelli
- Alan Waters
- Jesse Delgado
- Darian Cruz
- Thomas Gilman
Prediction: Until further notice, this is Ramos' weight to lose. I picked against Tony in my preview for the Open, and regretted that decision the second I saw him the morning of the tournament. Not only does Ramos have the most international matches under his belt, but the training camps he has been to this year makes me think his training situation is better than anyone else's at 57kg.
The stats tell us at least one person who has a bye will lose in Lincoln. With the way this weight will cannibalize each other in the challenge tourney, it seems unlikely someone can take two-of-three from Ramos.
But who faces him in the finals, and who wins the third and final national team spot? Despite not being enamored with Nahshon's draw, I believe he makes the challenge tourney finals against Graff, and wins any possible "true third" match. Graff finally gets his shot against Ramos, but loses two matches close.
- Tony Ramos, Sunkist Kids
- Tyler Graff, Titan Mercury
- Nahshon Garrett, Sunkist Kids