Wrestling: After the U.S. Open, looking ahead to the World Team Trials and Final X

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

The U.S. Open was this past weekend. Kyven Gadson took first, Thomas Gilman took second, and a handful of other former Hawkeye and Cyclone wrestlers placed. Iowa State’s David Carr and Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi also both won Junior titles.

Now what?

The U.S. Open is, basically, the freestyle and Greco-Roman national championships (think NCAAs, but in the Olympic styles). But it’s also just the first step in the 2019 World Team qualifying process.

Here, we explain what's next, and what this past weekend’s results mean moving forward. The Senior world teams — men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco — will be finalized in June. The Junior world teams will be decided next month.

The World Team qualifying process

Up next: The World Team Trials Challenge Tournament, set for May 16-19 in Raleigh, North Carolina. It will feature Senior men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman, and Junior men’s freestyle.

For the Seniors, which is open to everybody and is usually made up of post-graduates and some of the best college wrestlers, this is the second of three steps. Winning the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament will advance them to Final X.

Final X is the final step, where a best-of-three series decides the world team spots for men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman. It is broken up into two dates — June 8, at Rutgers, and June 15, in Lincoln, Nebraska. There are 10 total weights for each team, making 30 world team spots, so 15 will be decided at Rutgers, and the other 15 at Nebraska.

For the Juniors (anybody born from 1999-2001; mostly college freshmen, sophomores and high-school juniors and seniors), Raleigh is the second of two steps that will decide the men’s freestyle world team spots (the Junior women’s freestyle team will be decided May 10 in Texas; the Junior Greco team was decided at the U.S. Open).

Thomas Gilman, a two-time Senior world team member, two-time Junior world team member and one-time Cadet world-teamer, finished second at the U.S. Open this past weekend in Las Vegas.


Who qualified for Final X

Those are the remaining steps, but they’re not open to just anybody. Here’s a rundown of who’s qualified.

Half of the Final X spots have already been claimed, by virtue of a returning world medalist at said weight or the U.S. Open champion winning a weight without a returning world medalist.

An example: Northern Iowa graduate Joe Colon automatically qualified for Final X at 61 kilograms (134 pounds) in men’s freestyle because he won bronze at the 2018 world championships at that weight.

Another example: Gilman did not medal at the world championships last year at 57 kilos (125 pounds), so because he lost to Daton Fix in the U.S. Open finals Saturday, Fix qualified for Final X.

Here are the wrestlers with Iowa ties who have qualified for Final X:

  • Colon (returning world medalist, men’s FS 61-kg)
  • Alli Ragan (U.S. Open champ, women’s FS 59-kg)
  • Forrest Molinari (U.S. Open champ, women’s FS 65-kg)

Everybody else must win the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament to get to Final X.

Hawkeye Wrestling Club's Alli Ragan qualified for the 2018 World Team. Watch her post-Final X interview below:

Who qualified for World Team Trials

There’s another wrinkle in this process, too. If there is a weight with a returning world medalist who's already in Final X, the U.S. Open champ automatically qualifies for the World Team Trials finals.

Example: Gadson won the U.S. Open at 97 kilos (213 pounds), but former Ohio State star Kyle Snyder is a returning world silver medalist at that weight and qualifies for Final X, like Colon. So Gadson is in the WTT finals, and will wrestle the winner of the challenge tournament in a best-of-three series to qualify for Final X.

Wrestlers must qualify for the Senior WTT Challenge Tournament. The biggest one is finishing in the top seven at the U.S. Open, but there are others — past Senior, U23, and Junior World Team members, NCAA Champions, winning the Last Chance Qualifier, and more.

Here are the wrestlers with Iowa ties who have currently qualified for the Senior WTT Challenge Tournament:

WTT Finals

  • Gadson (U.S. Open Champ, men’s FS 97-kg)
  • Pat Downey (U.S. Open Champ, men’s FS 86-kg; David Taylor is a returning world champ)
  • Kayla Miracle (U.S. Open Champ, women’s FS 62-kg; Mallory Velte is a returning world bronze medalist)

WTT Challenge Tournament

  • Gilman (U.S. Open second, men’s FS 57-kg)
  • Cory Clark (U.S. Open fifth, men’s FS 61-kg)
  • Tony Ramos (U.S. Open sixth, men’s FS 61-kg)
  • Earl Hall (U.S. Open seventh, men’s FS 61-kg)
  • Brandon Sorensen (U.S. Open fifth, men’s FS 70-kg)
  • Sam Brooks (U.S. Open third, men’s FS 86-kg)
  • Spencer Lee (NCAA Champ, 125 pounds [men’s FS 57-kg])
  • Auston Gomez (Junior World Team, men’s FS 61-kg)
  • Colton McCrystal (U23 World Team, men’s FS 70-kg)
  • Drew Foster (NCAA Champ, 184 pounds [men’s FS 86-kg])
  • Jacob Warner (Junior World Team, men’s FS 92-kg)
  • Lauren Louive (U.S. Open fourth, women’s FS 59-kg)
  • Megan Black (U.S. Open fifth, women’s FS 59-kg)
  • Rachel Watters (U.S. Open fifth, women’s FS 72-kg)

It remains unclear if guys like Lee, Foster, Gomez, etc., will compete in Raleigh, but they can if they so choose.

The Hawkeye Wrestling Club's Kayla Miracle won the women's freestyle U.S. Open title at 62 kilograms (136 pounds) this past weekend in Las Vegas. She has qualified for the best-of-three finals at the World Team Trials next month in Raleigh, North Carolina. If she wins there, she'll qualify for Final X.


Junior World Team Trials

For Juniors, there are numerous ways to qualify for the World Team Trials, but the key thing is that champions from the Junior competition at the U.S. Open get an automatic bye to the best-of-three finals.

That means Iowa State’s David Carr and Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi are both two wins away from the Junior men’s freestyle world team. Carr won at 74 kilos (163 pounds) while Cassioppi won at 125 kilos (275).

The rest must win the challenge tournament to get to the best-of-three finals. Here’s a list of wrestlers with Iowa ties who qualified from this past weekend:

  • Iowa’s Nelson Brands, 74-kg
  • UNI signee Parker Keckeisen, 79-kg
  • Iowa signee Abe Assad, 86-kg
  • Iowa State’s Joel Shapiro, 92-kg
  • Iowa’s Connor Corbin, 92-kg
  • UNI’s Tyrell Gordon, 92-kg
  • Alburnett grad Tanner Sloan, 97-kg

There is no Final X for Juniors, so the winners of the best-of-three finals in Raleigh will qualify for the Junior World Team.

Iowa State's David Carr won a Junior men's freestyle national title at 74 kilograms (163 pounds) in Las Vegas this past weekend. As such, he has qualified for the best-of-three finals at the Junior World Team Trials next month in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Looking ahead

In a way, the U.S. Open this past weekend was only the beginning of a busy spring of wrestling. There are more events that’ll decide other age-level world teams — the Cadets and U23 world team trials, for example, run May 31-June 2.

The World Championships is the ultimate goal. The Cadet World Championships are in Bulgaria, July 29-Aug. 4; Juniors are in Estonia, Aug. 12-18; U23s are in Hungary, Oct. 28-Nov. 3; and Seniors are in Kazakhstan, Sept. 14-22.

There are still more events, too, but none as big or impactful as making a world team. Most are used to wrestling season spanning October through March, but the diehards know it truly runs all year long.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.