PHILADELPHIA Nine members of the University of Pennsylvania wrestling team will be competing with America’s best wrestlers in two separate events in Las Vegas on Friday and Saturday. Rob Hitschler, Zach Shanaman and Matt Herrington will take part in the U.S. National Wrestling Championships while Rick Rappo, Brett McCurdy, Matt Dragon, Lior Zamir, Jack Sullivan and Jack Kitchen will grapple in the FILA Junior National Championships.
The U.S. National Wrestling Championships is the major qualifying event for the World Team Trials in all three styles. The top seven athletes in each division will enter the World Team Trials tournament in their division. The Men’s World Team Trials will be in Sioux City, Iowa May 27-28.
Both Dragon and Herrington wrestled in the NCAA Championships in March. Dragon won the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) title at 149 pounds. He finished the season with a 32-7 record and advanced to the Round of 12 at the NCAA Championships. Herrington’s fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships earned him All-America honors. The junior was a runner-up at 174 pounds at the EIWA’s.
Those who attend the U.S. Nationals will find that the format has changed from last year, as well as from previous national tournaments.
What is new this year in the men’s divisions in Las Vegas will be a Qualification Tournament held the day prior to the U.S. National Championships. Basically, most of the athletes in each weight class will have to “wrestle in” to compete in the U.S. Nationals.
In the men’s divisions at the U.S. Nationals, there will be eight wrestlers in each weight class who do not have to wrestle in that Qualification Tournament. These will include the current members of the U.S. National Team (the top three as set at the 2005 World Team Trials), along with those who qualify through the Dave Schultz Memorial, and athletes who are chosen by a Separation Committee to advance directly to the U.S. Nationals.
The final selection of the eight athletes who are separated out and move into Saturday’s competition was made on Tuesday. See www.TheMat.com for details.
The Qualification Tournament in men’s freestyle and men’s Greco-Roman will be held on Friday, April 14. Wrestlers will compete in each weight class until eight wrestlers are left (four in the championship bracket and four in the consolation bracket).
Those eight wrestlers in each weight class will then advance to compete on the following day, joining the eight athletes who were separated out. The U.S. Nationals will feature 16 athletes in each weight class, in a double-elimination bracket, with consolation wrestlebacks to seventh place.
For fans, what this means is that all 21 weight classes at the U.S. Nationals will have their gold-medal finals on Saturday, April 15. Wrestling fans who attend the action on that day will get to see every single champion crowned, seven in each of the Olympic styles.