World champions Kyle Dake and David Taylor advanced to Saturday’s U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials freestyle finals as the highest-profile athletes to compete in Friday’s challenge tournaments in Fort Worth, Texas.
Dake, the 2018 and 2019 World champion at 79kg (not an Olympic weight class), easily dispatched two foes to reach an anticipated 74kg finals series with 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs on Saturday night, live on NBCSN and Peacock.
Taylor, the 2018 World champion at 86kg, won his lone match to make Saturday’s finals in that division. Taylor gets fellow former Penn State star Bo Nickal for a spot on the Olympic team.
On Saturday, best-of-three, head-to-head finals series in 18 divisions (six each in men’s freestyle, women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman) determine Team USA. Fifteen winners will qualify for the Olympics. The other three can qualify for Tokyo at an international tournament in May.
On Friday morning, J’den Cox, the other world champion who was to compete in a challenge tournament, missed weight and was removed from the 97kg freestyle bracket. Cox appealed. A resolution was not announced before the end of the challenge tournament on Friday.
Before missing weight, Cox was expected to reach a showdown with Olympic champion Kyle Snyder, who has a bye into Saturday’s finals.
Helen Maroulis, who in Rio became the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic wrestling title, and world champions Adeline Gray, Tamyra Mensah-Stock and Jacarra Winchester are among the other wrestlers who have byes into Saturday’s finals.
Jenna Burkert, wrestling one week after her mother died after complications from open-heart surgery, advanced to face Maroulis in the 57kg finals.
“It is that relentless drive of hers that has helped me to continue into this week, as awful as I feel, and carry on to my second Olympic Trials as I grieve her loss,” Burkert, a three-time world championships team member, posted on Instagram. “While she is gone, physically, I still carry on the mission we set forth to achieve together over twenty years ago. She spent a lifetime motivating me in person, and it is because of my champion that I now intend to honor her legacy by competing for her.”
Kylie Welker and Kennedy Blades, both 17, advanced to finals and can break the record of youngest female wrestler in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org. No U.S. woman younger than 21 wrestled at an Olympics (women’s events debuted in 2004). But they are big underdogs against Gray and Mensah-Stock, respectively.
The men’s 65kg freestyle division produced newsmakers Friday.
Zain Retherford, the No. 1 seed who wrestled at the world championships in 2017 and 2019, was upset in the challenge tournament semifinals by No. 5 seed Joey McKenna. The No. 2 seed, Yianni Diakomihalis, was upset by No. 3 seed Jordan Oliver in the other semifinal. The Rio Olympian at 65kg, Frank Molinaro, retired after an earlier loss to Diakomihalis.
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!