The emotion at the U.S. Olympic Trials in wrestling Saturday night in Fort Worth, Texas, was overflowing as men and women achieved the dreams of their lifetimes while other athletes saw themselves fall a win or two shy of earning a bid to compete in the Olympics Games.
There was Kyle Dake, the four-time NCAA Division I champion from Cornell (2010-13), who finally beat Jordan Burroughs – the 2012 Olympic champion and a four-time world champion — in the finals at 74 kilograms. When it was over, Burroughs was on his knees on the mat and Dake had a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
Burroughs had beaten Dake three times in the finals for the spot on the U.S. team for the world championships in 2013, 2015 and 2017. In fact, Burroughs had not lost in a competition for a spot on a U.S. Olympic or World Championship team since 2011.
Helen Maroulis, an Olympic gold medalist for the United States at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, won an emotional third match over 2019 World Team member Jenna Burkert in women’s freestyle at 57 kg. Maroulis, who briefly retired after suffering from concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder, celebrated one side of the mat as Burkert sobbed at the other side.
Burkert lost her mother a little over a week ago after complications from open heart surgery.
Adeline Gray, a five-time world champion and 2016 Olympian, earned her second Olympic berth while Tamyra Mensah-Stock was ecstatic after earning her spot at 68 kg with a sweep of Kennedy Blades, the upset-minded 17-year-old high school student from Wyoming Seminary.
David Taylor, a 2018 world champion, outlasted training room teammate Bo Nickal to earn the spot at 86 kg, while two-time world champion Kyle Snyder earned his second straight Olympic berth at 97 kg.
Two weeks after winning his first NCAA championship, No. 2 seed Gable Steveson beat former North Carolina State star Nick Gwiazdowski to earn an Olympic bid at 125 kg and made his now-traditional full somersault on the mat afterward in celebration.
Dake dominated the final with Burroughs, giving up just two points to sweep the best-of-3 championship series with a 3-0 and 3-2 victory. Both points that Dake gave up in the second match were for stepping out of bounds.
Several times, Burroughs moved in for a takedown but Dake defended very well. “It’s nice to see (the hard work) pay off but it’s no time to slow down,” Dake said.
In 2016, Dake moved up to 86 kg but lost to J’den Cox at the Olympic Trials final. Dake moved down to 79 kg for the last two world championships (2018, 2019), which he won before moving to down to 74 kg to challenge Burroughs again.
“It’s been a long time coming for me,” Dake said. “I feel I have always been just right there. I felt I have put in the time and work to become an Olympian.”
Burroughs sat on his knees after the final whistle while Dake respectfully put a hand on his shoulder and talked softly to him.
“I thanked him,” Dake, 30, said. “I told him I appreciated him. He has pushed me for a long time. His work ethic. The way he has improved the sport. The fact that he is a five-time world champion is something I am striving to be.”
Burroughs, 32, told NBC, “It’s hard. It will be hard for a while. I just will continue to move forward with confidence and hope that the future is still bright for me.”
Maroulis had to go to a decisive third match to earn her second Olympic berth at 57 kg. Burkett got a takedown with 16 seconds left in the second match to earn a 6-5 victory.
In the third and final match, Maroulis came out aggressively and tripped Burkett with a swing of her leg and put her on her back for a 24-second pin and a berth on the Olympic team.
“(I am) grateful because I didn’t know if this would ever happen. I didn’t know if I would ever get back on this stage. I didn’t know if I would be healthy,” said Maroulis, who won the match despite a torn MCL she suffered about two weeks ago.
Burkett sobbed afterward with the emotion of her mother’s recent passing, wrestling in the tournament and coming close to an Olympic spot crashed upon her.
“I didn’t want to come here and thought it would be a lot but it was my mother’s last wish so I had to see it through,” she said.
“I know my mom didn’t care about wins and losses but I just wanted to honor her with a win. I just wanted to do her proud,” Burkett told NBC after the finals.
Helen Maroulis with an incredible foot sweep to eventual fall to clinch her spot on the US Olympic team. Circles right w/ collar tie & sweeps out opp's left foot as opp tries to square up. Collar tie becomes a cross face as they hit the mat. pic.twitter.com/yeQ5gVTdLp
— Dan Sweeney (@DPSBreakdowns) April 4, 2021
Jake Fisher, the former Greens Farms Academy and South Side Wrestling Club coach, lost in his semifinal match at 77 kg in the Greco-Roman division on Friday. He forfeited his consolation round match on Saturday.
Jesse Porter, the 10th seed from New York Athletic Club, swept Peyton Walsh, the former Navy wrestler in the finals, 8-1 and 7-7 on criteria to win a 77 kg spot on the Olympic team. Porter still needs to finish in the top two at qualifying tournament in Bulgaria in May to earn a spot in the Olympic tournament. Walsh beat Fisher, 4-1 on Friday.
Final Championship Series in women’s freestyle
50 kg – Sarah Hildebrandt (New York AC) vs. Victoria Anthony (ASU RTC/Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Bout One – Hildebrandt tech. fall Anthony, 12-2
Bout Two – Hildebrandt tech. fall Anthony, 10-0
Hildebrandt qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
53 kg – Jacarra Winchester (Titan Mercury WC) vs. Ronna Heaton (Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Bout One – Winchester dec. Heaton, 7-4
Bout Two – Winchester tech. fall Heaton, 12-2
Winchester qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
57 kg – Helen Maroulis (Sunkist Kids) vs. Jenna Burkert (ARMY WCAP)
Bout One – Maroulis dec. Burkert, 5-3
Bout Two – Burkert dec. Maroulis, 6-5
Bout Three – Maroulis pin Burkert, 0:24
Maroulis qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
62 kg – Kayla Miracle (Sunkist Kids) vs. Macey Kilty (Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Bout One – Miracle dec. Kilty, 8-4
Bout Two – Kilty dec. Miracle, 4-3
Bouth Three – Miracle inj. dft. Kilty, 0:32
Miracle qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
68 kg – Tamyra Mensah-Stock (Titan Mercury WC) vs. Kennedy Blades (Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Bout One – Mensah-Stock dec. Blades, 12-4
Bout Two – Mensah-Stock dec. Blades, 8-1
Mensah-Stock qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
76 kg – Adeline Gray (New York AC) vs. Kylie Welker (Titan Mercury WC)
Bout One – Gray tech. fall Welker, 10-0
Bout Two – Gray tech. fall Welker, 11-0
Gray qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
Final Championship Series in men’s freestyle
57 kg – Thomas Gilman (TMWC/ NLWC) vs. Vitali Arujau (TMWC/ Spartan Combat)
Bout One – Gilman pin Arujau, 5:42
Bout Two – Gilman dec. Arujau, 2-2
Gilman qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
65 kg – Joseph McKenna (TMWC/ PENN RTC) vs. Jordan Oliver (Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Bout One – Oliver dec. McKenna, 3-0
Bout Two – Oliver dec. McKenna, 5-2
Oliver wins U.S. Olympic Team Trials, and will attempt to qualify the weight class for the Olympic Games at the World Olympic Games Qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 6-9
74 kg -. Kyle Dake (TMWC/ Spartan Combat) vs. Jordan Burroughs (Nebraska WTC/Sunkist Kids)
Bout One – Dake dec. Burroughs, 3-0
Bout Two – Dake dec. Burroughs, 3-2
Dake qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
86 kg – David Taylor (TMWC/ NLWC) vs. Bo Nickal (TMWC/ NLWC)
Bout One – Taylor dec. Nickal, 4-0
Bout Two – Taylor dec. Nickal, 6-0
Taylor qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
97 kg – Kyle Snyder (Nittany Lion WC/TMWC) dec. Kollin Moore (TMWC/ Ohio RTC)
Bout One – Snyder tech. fall Moore, 10-0
Bout Two – Snyder dec. Moore, 5-1
Snyder qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
125 kg-. Gable Steveson (Gopher Wrestling Club) dec. Nick Gwiazdowski (TMWC/ Wolfpack WC)
Bout One – Steveson tech. fall Gwiazdowski, 10-0
Bout Two – Steveson dec. Gwiazdowski, 10-4
Steveson qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
Final Championship Series in Greco-Roman
60 kg – Ildar Hafizov (ARMY WCAP) vs. Ryan Mango (ARMY WCAP)
Bout One – Hafizov dec. Mango, 7-0
Bout Two – Hafizov tech. fall Mango, 8-0
Hafizov qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
67 kg – Alejandro Sancho (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Ellis Coleman (ARMY WCAP), two matches to none
Bout One – Sancho dec. Coleman, 2-0
Bout Two – Sancho dec. Coleman, 3-1
Sancho qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
77 kg – Peyton Walsh (All-Marine Wrestling Team) vs. Jesse Porter (New York Athletic Club)
Bout One –Porter dec. Walsh, 8-1
Bout Two – Porter dec. Walsh, 7-7
Porter wins U.S. Olympic Team Trials, and will attempt to qualify the weight class for the Olympic Games at the World Olympic Games Qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 6-9
87 kg – Joe Rau (Titan Mercury) vs. John Stefanowicz (All-Marine Wrestling Team)
Bout One – Stefanowicz dec. Rau, 6-5
Bout Two – Stefanowicz dec. Rau. 2-1
Stefanowicz qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
97 kg – G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist Kids) vs. Braxton Amos (Wisconsin RTC)
Bout One – Hancock tech. fall Amos, 8-0
Bout Two – Hancock tech. fall Amos, 8-0
Hancock qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team.
130 kg – Adam Coon (NYAC/CKWC) vs. Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Bout One –Coon tech. fall Schultz, 10-0
Bout Two – Coon dec. Schultz, 3-3
Coon wins U.S. Olympic Team Trials, and will attempt to qualify the weight class for the Olympic Games at the World Olympic Games Qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 6-9