2021 Olympic Trials Preview
Becoming an Olympian is the pinnacle of wrestling and something little boys and girls always dream of when growing up. The chance to represent the USA on the biggest stage in sports comes only once every four years. Obviously with COVID everything got pushed back a year and this is the weekend we have been waiting for in over a year. There are five Hoosier natives vying for the coveted spot on the Olympic team this weekend.
Watching the trials will be on NBCSN on TV along with the Peacock Network online. The Peacock Network has a free seven day trial to use that would be enough for this weekend. The schedule is at the bottom of this article for reference during the weekend. The format for the Olympic Trials differs slightly in each division, however the base is the same. Some weight classes have wrestlers sitting until the best of three finals, some do not. On Friday the bracket challenge will occur where wrestlers will wrestle in a single elimination tournament. The finals on Saturday will be a best of three series to determine the USA representative. If a weight has someone sitting out until the finals the bracket will be wrestled until a champion is determined. If not the bracket will halt at the finals with the finals being a best of three series.
For the Olympics each country must qualify their weight via their placement at the World Championships and a series of continental and last chance qualifiers. The USA is qualified in every weight for Women’s Freestyle. Men’s freestyle is not qualified at 65kg, while Greco-Roman is not qualified at 77kg and 130kg. There is one more last chance qualifier for every country that has not qualified the specific weight to enter. That event is May 6-9 in Bulgaria where the USA will look to qualify the remaining three spots.
Indiana has the most representatives in the Women’s Freestyle division at the Olympic Trials. Both Sarah Hildebrandt and Kayla Miracle have the privilege of already being in the best of three finals. They earned the bye to the finals via qualifying the weight class for the Olympic Trials at the Pan-Am championships a year ago. Yorktown’s Alara Boyd is in the challenge bracket at 68kg.
In 2018 Granger native and Penn grad Sarah Hildebrandt brought back a silver medal at the World Championships and is looking to make her first Olympic team. She is sitting until the finals on Saturday and will be the winner of a bracket that consists of 14 women battling it out for the right to wrestle her. The top seed is Whitney Conder while the second seed is Alyssa Lampe. Hildebrandt has recently beaten Conder in a special wrestle-off last February to wrestle at the Pan-Am championships. She teched Lampe in November on a Wisconsin RTC card.
Bloomington native and Culver Academies grad Kayla Miracle has had success at every level possible in this sport. She was the first girl to qualify for the state finals in Indiana and has been breaking down barriers since she strapped on her first headgear. She will be sitting out until the best of three finals at 62kg. The top seed in her weight is Maya Nelson and the second seed is Macey Kilty. All three of these women were on the 2019 U23 World Team where Miracle and Kilty both won silver medals. Nelson was at 65kg and Kilty was at 68kg. The last time Miracle wrestled Nelson was 2012 at Fargo and it does not appear as if she has wrestled Kilty. Nelson defeated Kilty at the World Team Trials tournament in 2019 and should be the favorite to win again.
Alara Boyd has brought back world medals two out of three times while representing the USA. She was a Cadet bronze medalist in 2016 and silver medalist in 2017. She also wrestled at the world championships in 2019 in the Junior age group. She comes into the Olympic Trials as a 5 seed at 68kg. Boyd qualified for the trials via winning the NCWWC championship about a month ago. In the first round she will have a familiar opponent in Ashlynn Ortega. Boyd defeated Ortega just over a year ago at the WCWC Nationals in the semi-finals by the score of 7-1. The likely next opponent would be Forrest Molinari. Molinari has been a mainstay on the women’s circuit that includes a 5th place finish in the world in both 2018 and 2019. The second seed and likely finalist out of the bottom bracket is Alex Glaude who was a 2019 Final X finalist. Sitting in the best of three finals in 2019 World Champion Tamyra Stock-Mensah.
On the men’s side of things Indiana will have two representatives in Mater Dei’s Nick Lee and Lawrenceburg’s Mason Parris. Others to watch include former Indiana University runner-up Nate Jackson at 86kg and Gable Steveson at 125kg. Steveson grew up in the state and won multiple ISWA titles during his youth.
Lee will come in as the 6th seed and have Minnesota’s Mitch McKee in the first round. They have wrestled multiple times in folkstyle with Lee gaining all the recent victories. McKee is very dangerous in folkstyle and will be an interesting first round match. The winner of that will face off with #3 seed Jordan Oliver, a former Oklahoma State national champion. Lee was teched by Oliver at the US Nationals in December of 2019. The two-seed at this weight is Yianni Diakomihalis that could be a potential semi-final opponent. Also lurking in that side of the quarter bracket is 2016 Olympian Frank Molinaro whom Lee beat at 2019 US Nationals. On the top half of the bracket is another Penn State stud in Zain Retherford along with multiple-time world team member James Green.
Just like the NCAA’s, the heavyweight bracket is loaded with talent at the Olympic Trials. Mason Parris will come in as the 3rd seed and have Daniel Kerkvliet in the first round. They recently wrestled at the Big Tens where Parris won by major decision. Kerkvliet has multiple world medals and a dangerous opponent in the international styles. The semi-finals would feature another familiar foe in Gable Steveson. While they have not met in freestyle, Steveson owns three folkstyle wins over Parris. The top half of the bracket features world team mainstay Nick Gwiazdowski and former NCAA champions Anthony Nelson and Dom Bradley. Parris was 1-1 with Gwiazdowski at the RTC cup this fall.
Indiana does not have any natives on the Greco-Roman side of things. However, former Indiana University starter Lucas Sheridan is the 2nd seed at 97kg. He has had a solid amount of success in Greco-Roman and would be Indiana’s first Olympic representative since Charles Burton in 2000. There are also four wrestlers participating that have wrestled at the IndianaMat Hoosier Preseason Open. Mason Manville is the 6th seed at 77kg in Greco-Roman. He was an IHPO runner-up in 2011. Nick Lee won IHPO as a 7th grader in 2011, while making the semi-finals in 2012. Logan Massa participated in the IHPO in 2010 as an 8th grader and will be at 74kg at the trials. Lastly, Gable Steveson was a middle school champion in 2012 at IHPO.
U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials Broadcast Schedule
|Friday||Challenge Tournaments||11 a.m.||Peacock | LIVE STREAMS|
|Challenge Tournament Finals Mat 2||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN | LIVE STREAM|
|Challenge Tournament Finals Mats 1, 3, 4||7:30 p.m.||Peacock | LIVE STREAMS|
|‘Rulon’ film premiere on Rulon Gardner||11 p.m.||NBCSN | STREAM|
|Saturday||Challenge Tournament Consolations||1 p.m.||Peacock | LIVE STREAMS|
|Championship Series Mat 2||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN | LIVE STREAM|
|Championship Series Mats 1, 3, 4||7:30 p.m.||Peacock | LIVE STREAMS|