Hipps: World Team challengers missing at U.S. Open

Many of the nation's top wrestlers competed at the 2014 U.S. Open this past weekend in Las Vegas. However, there were some accomplished wrestlers that did not compete but are expected to be in the field at the 2014 U.S. World Team Trials in Madison Wis. While the U.S. Open is a premier senior level wrestling event and a qualifier for the U.S. World Team Trials, it's not the only qualifier -- or way to qualify -- for the U.S. World Team Trials. Each style has criteria to qualify for the U.S. World Team Trials and Olympic Team Trials. Some of the criteria are consistent across all three styles, like being a past World or Olympic team member, while other criteria are specific to a style. There are a variety of different reasons why wrestlers do not compete at the U.S. Open. Some reasons are injury related, others are school related, and others are personal and not made public.

Let's look at 10 freestyle wrestlers that did not compete at the U.S. Open but have already qualified for the U.S. World Team Trials and could challenge for spots on the 2014 U.S. World Team.

Kyle Dake was runner-up to Jordan Burroughs at the 2013 U.S. World Team Trials (Photo/John Sachs,
Kyle Dake

Kyle Dake injured his foot while training for the U.S. Open, which kept him from competing in Las Vegas, but he is expected to wrestle at the U.S. World Team Trials in Madison. The four-time NCAA Division I champion (in four different weight classes) was a runner-up at last year's U.S. World Team Trials to Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs, and has been successful in international events overseas. In November he finished fifth at the Golden Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he had a win over two-time World champion and Olympic bronze medalist Denis Tsargush of Russia. Dake won a gold medal at the Cerro Pelado International in February.

Update: On Wednesday, Kyle Dake announced that he will not be competing at the U.S. World Team Trials in Madison.

Andrew Howe

Andrew Howe is coming off a college season (and career) in which he finished as an NCAA runner-up at 174 pounds to Chris Perry of Oklahoma State. Howe, like Dake, has established himself as one of the top wrestlers in the U.S. at 74 kilos. He was fourth at the Trials last year behind Burroughs, Dake, and Taylor, but was runner-up in each of the previous two Trials. Howe has given Burroughs some of his toughest matches in the U.S. He took Burroughs to three periods in one of the matches at the 2011 U.S. World Team Trials, and again in the first (and only) match of the best-of-three finals at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials before Howe tore his ACL, which caused him to default. At the Trials Howe will be wrestling in familiar territory as he spent the first three seasons of his college wrestling career in Madison at the University of Wisconsin.

Dustin Kilgore picked up a win at the World Cup against Armenia (Photo/John Sachs,
Dustin Kilgore

Dustin Kilgore, a resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, is expected to be in the mix for a Trials title in Madison at 97 kilos. He was a third-place finisher at the U.S. World Team Trials last year, which earned him a spot on the U.S. National Team. If he can come out on top in the challenge tournament at the U.S. World Team Trials, which will include J.D. Bergman and Wynn Michalak, among others, he will get a crack Olympic champion Jake Varner in the best-of-three finals. Kilgore was a runner-up at the Dave Schultz Memorial in February. He wrestled for Team USA at the World Cup and picked up a win in his only start against Armenia. Kilgore was also dominant in his match against India at the NCAA Fan Festival in Oklahoma City.

Nick Simmons

Nick Simmons finished fifth at the World Championships in 2011 at 55 kilos, but failed to make the U.S. team in 2012 and 2013. At the 2012 Olympic Team Trials, Simmons defeated Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo before losing to longtime rival Sam Hazewinkel. Last year he moved up to 60 kilos and finished fourth at the U.S. World Team Trials behind Reece Humphrey, Jimmy Kennedy, and Logan Stieber. It's unlikely that Simmons will see any of those wrestlers this year as all three are competing at either 61 kilos or 65 kilos, while Simmons is expected to compete at 57 kilos. If Simmons can win the challenge tournament in Madison, his finals opponent in the best-of-three finals will be rival Sam Hazewinkel, who received an automatic berth in the finals by winning the U.S. Open.

Obe Blanc

Many have wondered when Obe Blanc will return to competition after he withdrew from the 2013 World Championships following a failed drug test. In November he moved from Stillwater, Okla., to College Park, Md., where he has been training. Blanc has been a late bloomer in his wrestling career. He failed to earn All-American honors as a senior at Oklahoma State in 2009, but has since won two U.S. Open titles and two U.S. World Team Trials titles at 55 kilos. He will be one of the favorites to win the challenge tournament if he competes in Madison.

Nick Gwiazdowski defeated Tony Nelson to win the NCAA title (Photo/John Sachs,
Nick Gwiazdowski

Nick Gwiazdowski captured an NCAA title at heavyweight this past season as a sophomore at North Carolina State. His finals victory came over two-time NCAA champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota. Even though he did not compete at this year's U.S. Open, Gwiz qualified for the U.S. World Team Trials in Madison by winning the NCAA championship. He has already had success on the senior level in freestyle. Last year Gwiazdowski placed seventh at the U.S. Open and fourth at the U.S. World Team Trials. His teammate Pete Renda won a FILA Junior National freestyle title this past weekend, and his assistant coach Jamill Kelly was a 2004 Olympic silver medalist in freestyle.

Les Sigman

Les Sigman, who trains with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, was on the 2010 U.S. World Team, but has not been able to get back to that level since. Last year he competed at 96 kilos, where he finished fifth at the U.S. Open. With his club teammate Jake Varner returning at 97 kilos, Sigman is back at heavyweight.

Adeline Gray earned a World bronze medal in 2013 (Photo/Tony Rotundo,
Adeline Gray

The 23-year-old Adeline Gray has become the face of women's wrestling in the United States. She is currently ranked No. 1 in the world at 75 kilos. She has never made the U.S. Olympic Team, but was a World champion in 2012 and claimed a World bronze medal in both 2011 and 2013. She has been a University World champion and Junior World champion. Gray went 4-0 at the World Cup this year, and notched wins over a pair of past World champions and a World silver medalist. Gray won her World title at 67 kilos and has contemplated wrestling at 69 kilos, but has been competing at 75 kilos.

Kelsey Campbell

Kelsey Campbell, a 2012 Olympian, did not compete last season. She has battled inconsistency since returning to competition. She went 0-2 at the Minnesota Storm Holiday Classic in December. Earlier this year she failed to place at the Dave Schultz Memorial, but bounced back to earn a silver medal at the Golden Grand Prix and place fifth at the Klippan Lady Open. Campbell earned a spot on the U.S. World Cup team at 55 kilos by defeating Katherine Fulp-Allen. At the World Cup in mid-March she went winless in three matches and suffered an injury.

Haley Augello was an undefeated national champion as a freshman (Photo/John Sachs,
Haley Augello

Haley Augello is one of America's young, rising stars in women's wrestling. This past season as a freshman at King University she was an undefeated WCWA national champion. She was twice named ASICS High School Girls Wrestler of the Year. Augello won a Cadet World title in 2011 and competed at the Junior World Championships in 2012 and 2013. Last year she made her mark on the senior level, finishing runner-up at the U.S. Open and fifth at the U.S. World Team Trials. Augello will be looking to make her first U.S. World team on the senior level, but will have her work cut out for her. In the challenge tournament she will have to navigate her way through a field that includes Katherine Fulp-Allen, who defeated her at the Dave Schultz Memorial. If Augello does get past Fulp-Allen and others to make the best-of-three finals, she will meet U.S. Open champion Whitney Conder, a wrestler who has multiple wins over Augello in the past year.


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wcokeley (1) about 4 years ago
No love for the Greco guys that didn't compete at the Open but will be competing in Daytona? Jesse Thielke?
hrkjgel7 (1) about 4 years ago
Greco is going to get left behind. Feels like it already has.
tonyrotundo (1) about 4 years ago
Tony Rainbows?