By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
One of United States wrestling’s biggest events will consume the city of Stillwater this weekend with wrestlers across the country — many with Olympic experience and medals — at the U.S. World Team Trials.
The event will be held at historic Gallagher-Iba Arena for the first time since 1989 and include senior and FILA junior qualifying for freestyle and Greco-Roman.
“I’m excited about it,” Oklahoma State wrestling coach and two-time Olympic gold medalist John Smith said. “... We’re excited about it, but we keep in mind all of the people that are involved in order to make this happen. We have a lot of volunteers here in Stillwater and obviously the administration that been able to make this happen.”
Former Olympians and NCAA champions will fill the four mats to earn a spot on the U.S. team for the world championships that will be held in September in Budapest, Hungary. Competition begins each day at 11 a.m. with the finals scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
The weight classes will be completed within one day of competition with the semifinal matches likely to be completed in the early afternoon. The consolations and third-place matches conclude the early session each day — which is expected to end at approximately 4 p.m.
Friday and Saturday will consist of U.S. World Team matches — with a select group of weight classes competing each day — while Sunday will be the U.S. FILA Junior World Team matches, which will begin at 9 a.m. with finals scheduled for 3 p.m. On Friday, the men’s freestyle weight classes will be 60, 74 and 96 kilograms — which will include former OSU wrestlers Coleman Scott (60) and Chris Pendleton (96) — while 55, 66, 84 and 120 kg will wrestle Saturday and include ex-Cowboys Obe Blanc (55), Jordan Oliver (66) and Clayton Foster (84).
One of the unique aspects of the three-day event in an arena named after one of the sport’s most prolific coaches — Ed Gallagher — will be the women’s freestyle qualifying. Never has a women’s bout been held in the hallowed hall of Gallagher-Iba. There will be two weight classes per day qualifying in women’s freestyle.
“It’s such an honor to be here and to be able to wrestle here,” said Brittney Roberts, who competes at Oklahoma City University and won the U.S. Open championship at 72 kg. “I honestly didn’t know no women had wrestled here before, but it’s such a huge honor because I know OSU wrestling is huge here.”
With a shadow hanging over the sport concerning its place in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, the United States Olympic Committee has named the team trials in Stillwater an official Olympic Day event. Olympic Day is celebrated around the world on June 23 and has been recognized each year since 1948 to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games on June 23, 1894.
“We are excited to be part of the worldwide Olympic Day celebration this year, by recognizing Olympians during one of our most important events of the year, the World Team Trials in Stillwater,” said Rich Bender, USA Wrestling Executive Director. “Wrestling has a long and rich Olympic heritage, and is proud to be a member of the Olympic family. We welcome all Olympians who would like to enjoy world-class competition to come out and join us at the World Team Trials.”