Kamal Bey scores with a big throw at the U23 World Team Trials (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
If I didn't have my usual headache and stomach ache that overtakes me every time my son wrestles in big events, the music blaring, even during the matches, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota, would have been enough to bring them on. This weekend USA Wrestling put on a first-of-its-kind event, U23 World Team Trials and thankfully the music was one of the few negatives at a mostly positive and successful tournament.
Here are five takeaways from a veteran tournament goer:
1. The more the merrier
It was a much scaled down event compared to the University Nationals held previously for roughly this same age group. That might have more to do with the time of year it was held and that it was not held in conjunction with UWW Cadet World Team Trials as Universities have been. The good news here is the timing of the tournament will change. According to USA Wrestling's Gary Abbott, the U23 tournament will move to the spring next year. That should bring in more collegiate wrestlers who maybe didn't want to attend this year and risk injury or take focus away right before the folkstyle season. Trackwrestling lists 293 wrestlers participated across three styles, Greco, women's wrestling and freestyle at the U23 trials. That's compared to 1,064 UWW Cadet and University Nationals wrestlers listed on Trackwrestling in freestyle alone in 2015.
2. Location, location, location
Rochester, Minnesota, is a great town. Easy to navigate. Hotels are located very close to the Mayo Civic Center where the tournament was held. Plenty of reasonably priced restaurants to satisfy different tastes. The venue held four mats, all visible from the stands and there's another room that's even more intimate for a couple more mats. Nothing to complain about here. So, will USA Wrestling bring the tournament back to Rochester? No word on that yet, Abbott left open the possibility we could see U23s in Akron, Ohio. That's where University Nationals have been held.
Greco-Roman coaches Matt Lindland and Gary Mayabb take in action at U23 World Team Trials (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
3. Getting down to business
The tournament ran smoothly as you would hope and expect. All sessions were on time and competition rolled from one match to the next seamlessly. The one organizational glitch came when it was time for the freestyle best-of-three finals matches. The first match was done two mats at a time in a seemingly random order. The next match was done one at a time and in a way that seemed to have nothing to do with the order of the first matches. Organizers might have saved the most-contested second matches for the end. (No weight class in freestyle went to a third match.). This is fine, but have it posted or let spectators know somehow what the order will be. In fairness, they did announce which weight classes were on deck, but better to list the full order of matches in advance.
4. The best of the best or the best of the rest
This event featured plenty of marquee matchups and it delivered some incredibly exciting moments. Just watch the Greco semifinal match between Alex Meyer and Kamal Bey at 80 kilograms. But it seemed to have some holes when it comes to the mid-level guy looking for a break-out moment. What I noticed was a couple of top-tier wrestlers in each weight class and then a big drop to the rest of the field. This is something that hopefully will go away once the tournament is moved to the spring after the folkstyle season and more college athletes attend.
5. Stop the music madness
This is the one big knock on the event. It might seem like a small thing. So what that there was music during the matches? It's nice to hear the sounds of the match. The effort of the wrestlers, the voices of the coaches and even the refs sometimes. The match doesn't need music. I don't want to hear "everyone was kung fu fighting" while I'm watching two athletes actually fighting for position and points. I also don't want to hear songs that use the "N" word. This might be something to get more young people to attend and watch, but it's alienating many people who are already there. What's worse, the music didn't even stop for injuries. When Nathan Tomasello went out of bounds and hit a scoring table it was a scary moment -- and the ridiculous music played on.
Sam Brooks defeated Myles Martin in the finals at 86 kilograms (Photo/Mark Beshey, The Guillotine)
Music aside, my headache and stomach ache went away when my son made the U23 World Team. Congratulations and good luck to all the wrestlers who will compete in Poland in November.