Hipps: 10 matchups to watch at the 2014 U.S. Open

Andrew Hipps

4/15/2014
Andrew Hipps, InterMat Senior Editor
andrew@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @InterMat

A lot has changed in international wrestling since last year's U.S. Open. Wrestling is back in the 2020 Olympic Games. There have been rule changes, format changes, and FILA redistributed its weight classes to provide more opportunities for female wrestlers. There are now six weight classes in each of the three styles in Olympic years. Previously there were seven weight classes in both men's freestyle and Greco-Roman, and four weight classes in women's freestyle. In non-Olympic years, like this year, there are eight weight classes in all three divisions at the World Championships. Each weight class at the U.S. Open is now contested over two days (Friday and Saturday), as opposed to one day in previous years.

Wrestlers who finish in the top seven in each of the six Olympic weight classes will qualify for the U.S. World Team Trials on May 30-June 1 in Madison, Wis. The winners in that event will compete at the World Championships, which take place Sept. 8-14 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

I have compiled a list of what I see as the 10 most intriguing matchups that could happen at this year's U.S. Open in Las Vegas. Obviously, none of the matchups listed below are assured to happen, but most, if not all, should could happen.

Men's Freestyle

Jordan Burroughs topped David Taylor at the 2013 U.S. Open (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Jordan Burroughs vs. David Taylor

Jordan Burroughs vs. David Taylor is arguably the most anticipated matchup of this weekend's U.S. Open. Kyle Dake will not be competing, and Burroughs and Taylor will likely be on a collision course to meet in the finals at 74 kilos. Burroughs, an Olympic gold medalist and two-time World champion, has never lost at the U.S. Open and will be looking to win his fourth straight World (or Olympic) title in September. His remarkable 69-match win streak was snapped earlier this year by Nick Marable (who is now competing at 70 kilos), but Burroughs has been nothing short of dominant since. He went 5-0 at the World Cup, which included two technical falls, two pins, and a 7-1 victory. Taylor is fresh off winning his second NCAA title in his senior season at Penn State. He was recently named InterMat Wrestler of the Year and also earned his second Dan Hodge Trophy. Burroughs and Taylor met in the U.S. Open finals a year ago, with Burroughs winning in two periods, 3-1, 1-0.

Logan Stieber edged Jordan Oliver in the NCAA finals in 2012 (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
Jordan Oliver vs. Logan Stieber

In 2012, Logan Stieber edged Jordan Oliver in the NCAA finals at 133 pounds, and at the time many believed it would be the last time the two wrestlers would compete against each other since they were wrestling in different weight classes in freestyle. Stieber, a student-athlete at Ohio State, was competing at 60 kilos, while Oliver, a 2013 graduate of Oklahoma State, was settling in at 66 kilos. However, now that FILA has changed the weight classes, both Stieber and Oliver are back in the same weight class, 65 kilos, at least this weekend. Oliver and Stieber are both past Junior World medalists looking to get on their first senior World Team this year.

Brent Metcalf vs. Reece Humphrey

While Oliver and Stieber are two of the young, rising stars at 65 kilos, Brent Metcalf and Reece Humphrey are the established veterans looking to earn their first World hardware. Both have represented the United States at the World Championships on multiple occasions. Humphrey was on the U.S. World Team in 2011 and 2013 at 60 kilos, while Metcalf represented the red, white and blue at the Worlds in 2010 and 2013 at 66 kilos. Metcalf was unbeaten at this year's World Cup in Los Angeles. Humphrey competed down a weight class at 61 kilos for the World Cup, where he went 1-1. He opened with a win over Valodya Frangulyan of Armenia. In his second match he faced World bronze medalist Masoud Esmailpoor Jouybari of Iran, and raced out to a 7-1 lead before surrendering that lead and eventually losing 10-8.

Coleman Scott is looking to regain his form from 2012 when he won bronze in London (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
Jimmy Kennedy vs. Coleman Scott

Jimmy Kennedy and Coleman Scott have a rivalry that goes back several years. In 2008, Scott defeated Kennedy in the NCAA semifinals at 133 pounds en route to winning his NCAA championship. The two wrestlers have met numerous times since in freestyle. Kennedy has begun to blossom as a freestyle wrestler under the guidance of Andy Hrovat at the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was a runner-up at the U.S. World Team Trials last year. In October, Kennedy claimed a gold medal at the Intercontinental Cup in Russia, and won a new Lada Granta car in the process. He also captured a gold medal at the Yasar Dogu International in February. Scott is looking to regain his form from 2012 when he was an Olympic bronze medalist in London. He struggled with an arm injury in 2013 that hindered his performance and caused him to bow out of the U.S. World Team Trials early. Scott wrestled in the Dave Schultz Memorial, where he finished fourth, losing to Amit Kumar of India and Kennedy's teammate B.J. Futrell in the bronze-medal match. Scott and Futrell could meet again in Las Vegas, with the winner facing Kennedy in the finals.

Jake Varner vs. J.D. Bergman

Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner has returned to competition this year after a long layoff. He competed in the Yasar Dogu International in mid-February, where he won his first match over Faruk Akkoyun of Turkey, but early in his second match was forced to withdraw from the competition due to injury. Bergman, a two-time U.S. World Team member, is currently ranked No. 1 in the U.S. at 97 kilos. Last year he made the U.S. World Team for the first time since 2010 after battling injuries in 2011 and 2012. Bergman went 2-2 at this year's World Cup. There is no denying the fact that Varner is the more accomplished wrestler of the two on the world stage, but interestingly J.D. Bergman has had the upperhand in the series. In 2010, Bergman defeated Varner in the finals of the U.S. Open, U.S. World Team Trials, and New York AC International Open.

Keith Gavin earned victories over Clayton Foster in the finals of both the U.S. Open and U.S. World Team Trials last year (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
Clayton Foster vs. Keith Gavin

Clayton Foster has emerged as not only a favorite to make the U.S. team at 86 kilos, but also a serious threat to win a medal at the World Championships in September. He opened a lot of eyes last year by finishing runner-up at both the U.S. Open and U.S. World Team Trials. But it was Foster's performance at this year's World Cup that has U.S. wrestling fans excited about his potential on the world stage. At the World Cup, Foster went undefeated in four matches. He crushed two-time World champion Ibragim Aldatov of Ukraine, 7-2, and also notched a win over Olympic and World bronze medalist Ehsan Lashgari of Iran. It's Keith Gavin, though, that currently holds the top ranking in the U.S. at 86 kilos. Last year he defeated Foster in the finals of both the U.S. Open and U.S. World Team Trials. Gavin is savvy veteran who is looking to stay on top. He was a runner-up at the Grand Prix of Paris earlier this season, but saw action in only one of five matches at the World Cup, with Foster getting the other four matches.

Greco-Roman

Justin Lester defeated Kendrick Sanders last June (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Justin Lester vs. Kendrick Sanders

The 30-year-old Justin Lester and 23-year-old Kendrick Sanders are two of the most explosive and dynamic Greco-Roman wrestlers in the U.S. Both are expected to compete at 71 kilos this weekend in Las Vegas and will likely meet in the finals on Saturday night. Lester, a two-time World bronze medalist, has bounced between 66 kilos and 74 kilos, and many believe 71 kilos will be a perfect fit for him. Sanders has been on fire, winning both the Minnesota Storm Holiday Cup and Dave Schultz Memorial, and finishing undefeated at the Jack Pinto Cup. The two wrestlers met at last year's U.S. World Team Trials, with Lester winning that match 2-1.

Joe Betterman vs. Spenser Mango

Joe Betterman and Spenser Mango have been two of the most consistent U.S. Greco-Roman wrestlers over the past five years. The two wrestlers have combined to win nine U.S. Open titles. Betterman's four titles have come at 60 kilos, while Mango's five titles have come at 55 kilos. Their careers have followed similar paths. They were teammates in the USOEC program at Northern Michigan University, and now both are in the U.S. Army's World Class Athlete Program (WCAP). With the weight class changes, Betterman and Mango now find themselves in the same weight class, 59 kilos, competing for the same spot. Earlier this year Betterman and Mango faced each other in the finals of the Dave Schultz Memorial. In that match Betterman overcame an early deficit to win a 4-2.

Women's Freestyle

Clarissa Chun defeated Alyssa Lampe in the best-of-three finals at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Clarissa Chun vs. Alyssa Lampe

Clarissa Chun, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist and 2008 World champion, missed all of last year because of an injury, but has returned to competition this year. She won a bronze medal at the Grand Prix of Paris, with her lone loss coming to World champion and two-time Olympic medalist Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan. Chun is the most accomplished woman in the competition, but is not the favorite in the U.S. in her weight class based on world rankings. Two-time returning World bronze medalist Alyssa Lampe is currently ranked No. 1 in the world. Chun and Lampe have met several times throughout their careers. Chun edged Lampe at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the best-of-three finals, two matches to one.

Randi Miller vs. Veronica Carlson

Both Randi Miller and Veronica Carlson are ranked in the top 15 in the world at 69 kilos in women's freestyle. Miller stepped away from wrestling after capturing an Olympic bronze medal in 2008. During her time away from wrestling she dabbled in MMA and won a match in the Invicta organization in April of 2012. The 30-year-old Miller returned to wrestling this season and seems to be getting better each time she steps on the mat. Miller was a runner-up at the New York AC International in November, and then won gold medals at both the Minnesota Storm Holiday Cup and Dave Schultz Memorial. In 2013, Carlson was a U.S. Open champion and also represented Team USA at the World Championships. Carlson seems to be coming into her prime as a wrestler at age 23, which makes a possible showdown between Miller and Carlson very intriguing.

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