What to Watch For From NY Wrestlers at the World Team Trials Beginning on Friday

 
 
On Friday and Saturday, many of the nation’s top wrestlers will take the mat at the World Team Trials in Oklahoma. A number of New York wrestlers will see action during the two-day competition, with representatives in most of the men’s freestyle classes and qualifiers in women’s freestyle and Greco Roman.  For a preview of what to look for from the Empire State grapplers, read on.

Men’s Freestyle

55 kg/121 pounds:

The Frontrunners: 2012 Olympian Sam Hazewinkel and US Open champion Obe Blanc are among the favorites in a deep field.

The New York Connection: Former Cornell All-American Frank Perrelli went all the way to the championship bout at the US Open earlier in the spring and has registered a number of quality victories at 55 kg/121 pounds recently.  He also took bronze in 2013 at the Cerro Pelado International and looks to challenge for the title in Stillwater. In addition, Mark McKnight, a wrestler who spent some time in the Empire State while wrestling for Buffalo, was the Pan American Championships gold medalist earlier this year and the fourth place finisher at the US Open.

Also taking the mat will be Army assistant coach Danny Mitcheff, who gained entry via a sixth place showing at the U.S. Open at 60 kg/132 pounds.  He is currently seventh in the Senior National rankings at that class, but is in the field at the lightest weight for this weekend. Lucas Malmberg, a state champion for Marathon High, who trained with the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club this season, qualified for the event by virtue of winning the Northeast Regional Championship but was not registered as of Thursday morning.

60 kg/132 pounds:

The Frontrunners: Coleman Scott earned Olympic bronze in London, but he’ll be challenged by US Open champion Reece Humphrey (who goes right into the championship series) and two-time NCAA champion Logan Stieber, who looked impressive in beating the World’s number one ranked grappler Opan Sat of Russia this spring.

The New York Connection: Cornell freshman Mark Grey captured the Northeast Regional title to earn a spot at the event, however, he will instead compete at the Junior World Team Trials on Sunday at 60 kg.

 66 kg/145.5 pounds:

The Frontrunners: Kellen Russell clinched a spot in the championship series with his title at the US Open. In that event, he defeated another two-time NCAA champion, Jordan Oliver, in the finals.  Oliver will again be a threat, as will former World Team member Brent Metcalf.

The New York Connection: At the US Open, current EIWA assistants made the podium with Columbia’s Adam Hall notching fourth and American’s Kyle Borshoff, a Section 5 native, grabbing seventh. In addition, Army graduate Phillip Simpson was sixth.

74 kg/163 pounds:

The Frontrunners: This bracket has a huge ‘wow’ factor.  Jordan Burroughs, perhaps the world’s best wrestler over the past year or two, comes in as the favorite.  He is still a flawless 54-0 in Senior level freestyle action.  The weight boasts a number of impressive challengers, however, including Kyle Dake, Andrew Howe, Trent Paulson and David Taylor.

Dake, Phototrens.com

The New York Connection:  Dake made a successful international debut against Iran at the Rumble on the Rails and will look to continue his freestyle success. A year ago at the Olympic Trials, Dake defeated solid freestylers Colt Sponseller and Nick Marable and pinned Taylor.  He also dropped a three-period contest to former World Team member Trent Paulson. Dake will get a chance to avenge that outcome right away, as Paulson will be his opening round opponent on Friday. If he wins that one, his next bout could be a rematch with David Taylor.

Speaking of Taylor, the Nittany Lion will open action against the winner of the Moza Fay vs. Dan Vallimont tilt. Vallimont, a Hofstra assistant coach, registered a seventh place showing at the US Open and a Northeast Regional crown.  He will look to make his presence felt in Oklahoma at 74 kg, while Monsignor Farrell alum Kevin Hartnett, who competes for Bloomsburg, is also eligible join the fray after taking the Northeast Regional championship at 70 kg.

84 kg/185 pounds:

The Frontrunners: Keith Gavin won the US Open and will be challenged by a solid field, including those who finished right behind him in Vegas –  Clayton Foster, Jon Reader, Ed Ruth and Phil Keddy.

The New York Connection: Cam Simaz and Enock Francois battled at the US Open and at the Northeast Regionals. Francois, an assistant at West Point, won the first meeting on the way to a seventh place finish, however, Simaz rebounded to control the rematch.  In the interim, Simaz, the former Cornell NCAA champion, recorded a silver finish at the University Nationals. Both wrestlers have the potential to make noise in this bracket over the weekend. The same could be said for former Section 1 resident Max Askren, who placed second at the Dmitry Korkin International in 2012.

96 kg/211 pounds:

The Frontrunners: London gold medalist Jake Varner isn’t registered for the event. JD Bergman, the US Open champion, will go directly to the best of three championship series, where he could face the foe he defeated for the title in Las Vegas – Chris Pendleton. Another name to watch, Wynn Michalak, took third at the US Open behind Bergman and Pendleton.

The New York Connection: Former Buffalo All-American Kyle Cerminara, who is currently 9th in the US Senior rankings, qualified for the tournament with a Northeast Regional championship. However, he is not in the brackets.

120 kg/265.5 pounds:

The Frontrunners: Tervel Dlagnev was the 2012 Olympian, but he was upended by Dominique Bradley at the US Open. (Bradley will not compete). Taking third at that event was Tyrell Fortune, who was impressive in winning the University Nationals.  And what about competitors like Zach Rey and Tony Nelson? All could challenge for the top spot, along with Nick Gwiazdowski (see below) and others.

The New York Connection:  Former Duanesburg standout (and current North Carolina State wrestler) Nick Gwiazdowski was seventh at the US Open and third at the University Nationals.  He’ll look to be in the thick of things in a talented heavyweight class.

Women’s Freestyle

Since only the four Olympic weights will be contested in Stillwater (48, 55, 63, 72 kg), a number of wrestlers may move up or down in weight to challenge for World Team positions. This should add excitement to the competition and could lead to some surprises.

At least three New York natives are eligible to compete over the weekend.  Suffolk County’s Jenna Burkert recently earned a fourth place finish at the US Open at 59 kg. There won’t be competition at that weight this weekend, but Burkert, who will represent the USA at the Junior Worlds again this summer, will wrestle at 63 kg.

Mary Westman of Cattaraugas picked up a sixth place finish in Las Vegas at 72 kg, and will look to climb the ladder in that bracket in Oklahoma.

In the lightweights, Fredonia’s Carlene Sluberski recently represented the United States at the “Battle of the Falls” showcase at the end of May. Her third place finish at 51 kg at the US Open qualified her for the weekend, although she was not in the field as of Thursday morning.

Greco Roman

At 55 kg, Brooklyn’s Dmitry Ryabchinsky is always in the mix.  He recently notched fifth at the US Open and will be looking to move up to challenge frontrunners Spenser Mango and Max Nowry.

William Simpson, an Army alum, is entered at 60 kg, while fellow West Point grad Jon Anderson will be at 74 kg. Anderson has seen a lot of success in recent years and has represented the United States in international action. He was third at the Olympic Trials, the 2013 US Open and the Haparanda Cup. He may be joined in the field by another Empire State grappler, Joe Uccellini of Troy, the 79 kg champion at the Northeast Regionals.

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World Team Trials action begins on Friday, June 21 with competition in men’s freestyle (60 kg, 74 kg and 96 kg); Greco (55 kg, 66 kg, 84 kg and 120 kg) and women’s freestyle (55 kg and 72 kg).

Vegas Recap for Thurs: Goldman Wins Another Title; Sluberski, Anderson and Koll Take Third

 
 
Jason Goldman of Thorobred made it two-for-two at the Veterans Nationals in Las Vegas, winning the 58 kg freestyle title a day after grabbing the championship in the Greco competition. On Thursday, Goldman won all four of his bouts, including two pins and a technical fall. He has now been a double champion at this event for three consecutive years.

At the U.S. Open:

A number of wrestlers with connections to the Empire State participated in the third place matches at the U.S. Open on Thursday.

Former Fredonia star Carlene Sluberski earned the bronze at 51 kg in women’s action, pinning Amy Fearnside of Jimmie Wrestling Club in her final contest. Also taking third was Army graduate Jon Anderson at 74 kg in Greco Roman, while Long Island native Jenna Burkert picked up fourth at 59 kg.

Two grapplers with New York ties – Kyle Borshoff and Army assistant coach Enock Francois advanced to Friday’s freestyle action at 66 and 84kg, respectively, with their showings in the Challenge tournaments on Thursday.

Western Junior Freestyle

Koll, Photo by BV

Lansing’s two-time state champion William Koll took third at 126 pounds, racking up a 6-1 record with three technical falls. His only setback was to the eventual champion, Zahid Valencia of California, in three periods. Koll only surrendered one point in his victories and defeated Jens Lantz of Wisconsin 3-0, 1-0 for the bronze.

For full results, see http://www.trackwrestling.com

Army Graduate Jon Anderson Wins World University Team Trials; Cornell's Perrelli, Hofstra Recruit Howes Finish Third in Challenge Event

West Point graduate Jon Anderson’s ultimate wrestling goal is to win a gold medal while representing the United States in Greco Roman action at the Olympics.   While he was an alternate for the Red, White and Blue this summer during the London Games, he assured himself of a chance to represent his country in 2012 international competition when he captured the 74 kg title at the World University Team Trials in Colorado on Saturday.   (For a closer look at Anderson and his Army background, see this article.)

Anderson earned his ticket to October’s World University Championships in Finland in dominating fashion, outscoring his opponents 41-1 on the day.   He began by sweeping his three bouts in the morning Challenge Tournament without yielding a point to make it into the best two-out-of-three championship series.

“I had a lot of fun every match,” Anderson said. “My technique felt great and I stayed in control. Coach Lewis said right before the tournament to take it one period at a time, one match at time.  I knew that I had to be in the moment for every moment that I was on the mat, and that’s what I did.”

Anderson’s opponent in the finals was Tanner Andrews, who earned an automatic bid after winning the University Nationals crown a few months ago.  The two certainly aren’t strangers. Andrews defeated Anderson at the Dave Schultz Memorial early in 2012 and Anderson returned the favor at the Olympic Trials in the consolation bracket, pinning Andrews on his way to a third place finish and a spot as an Olympic alternate.

The Army graduate was in control from the start and took the first bout, 1-0, 7-0.  In the second match, Anderson dropped the first period when he was unable to turn Andrews in par terre, however he won the second and third stanzas 3-0 and 4-0 on the strength of multiple takedowns and turns.

“Tanner’s a great competitor,” Anderson said of his opponent. “He always comes out and fights hard.  I knew it would be a scrap.  But I thought I was able to win it with my positioning, strength and conditioning.”

For Anderson, who thanked his family and friends for their “continuous awesome support”, the work has just begun.

“I had high aspirations for this weekend,” he said. “I’ve been training really hard without let up since the Olympic Trials.  I feel like I still have a lot of room to improve and I want to improve every day.  Things are continuing to click for me.”

He’ll keep that progress going, starting with a new training cycle at Fort Carson this week.

“I’ll be doing two workouts a day, with strength training, cardio and lots of wrestling.  My focus now is on winning the gold medal in Finland.  I feel like it makes no difference where I’m wrestling or who I’m wrestling.  I need to focus on my technique and my match every time.  That’s my mentality.  If I make my opponent wrestle my game, I don’t think anyone can hang with me.”

While Anderson spent time abroad during his military service, the trip to Finland will be his first overseas tour wrestling for his country.  He feels confident that it will be the first of many appearances for the United States.

“I’m very excited to represent my country in a world championship, whatever level that is,” he said. “In October, it will be in Finland for the World Universities, then I expect next summer it will be at the Senior Worlds.  And in 2016, I expect it to be in Rio, winning the gold medal there.”

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Frank Perrelli, Photo by Boris Veysman

Anderson wasn’t the only wrestler with New York ties on the mats in Colorado on Saturday.  Cornell All-American Frank Perrelli took third in the 55 kg Freestyle Challenge tournament, avenging his three period opening round loss to Kyle Hutter by defeating the former Old Dominion grappler 5-0, 1-0 in the bronze medal bout.  Perrelli pinned Panther Wrestling Club’s Cruse Aarhus to earn his shot at third.

Also taking third was Hofstra signee Dwight Howes, who more than held his own in a loaded 84 kg Freestyle Challenge bracket that included four NCAA All-Americans.  The Colorado native, who will spend this season at the Olympic Training Center, was tested right away, topping 2012 NCAA 184-pound third place finisher Austin Trotman in the first round before dropping a tight match to former Oklahoma State national runner up Clayton Foster.  Howes responded with a two-period decision over Navy’s Peter Huntley before defeating Trotman a second time for bronze.

Another Empire State native battling for third place in the Challenge tournament was All-American Kyle Borshoff at 66 kg, an additional weight featuring several accomplished NCAA grapplers.   The former American Eagle began his day by beating Simon Kitzis and Cole Von Ohlen before falling against NCAA champion Frank Molinaro.  In his first consolation contest, Borshoff faced another national title winner, Kellen Russell of Michigan, and came out on top, 3-1, 0-1, 3-1.  In his final bout of the day, he was edged 1-0, 1-0 by Adam Hall to grab fourth.

Hunter College’s Oliver Lopez, who previously competed for McKee High School in Staten Island, also took third place — in the Challenge tournament at 60 kg in Greco.

Full results are available on http://www.trackwrestling.com

Weapons of the Mind: Jon Anderson of the US Army is an Olympic Alternate

By Betsy Veysman

A year ago, Jon Anderson wasn’t ranked at 74 kg in Greco Roman wrestling.  In fact, he wasn’t even a full time Greco Roman wrestler.

Now, after a third place performance at the Olympic Trials on April 22 in Iowa City, Jon Anderson is an alternate on the United States Greco Roman Olympic Team after coming into the Trials seeded seventh.

So, how did he climb the ladder so fast?

It could be the experience he’s had with quick adjustments.  After all, Anderson moved around quite a bit as a child, living in Germany on two separate occasions as well as Washington, Kansas, Georgia and Virginia.

Or, it could be that becoming a force in Greco was less daunting than the many types of challenges he has seen over his years in the Army, including stints in Iraq.

But Anderson would tell you that much of his success is in his head.  The grappler believes that the mental skills training that he has applied to many aspects of his life and has shared with everyone from basic training personnel to Iraqi soldiers in the Middle East is the key to his progress.

When Anderson arrived at West Point for college, he was a relative newcomer to wrestling, having first tried the sport as a high school sophomore who was getting “run over” in football.  As a freshman 125 pounder, he tore his meniscus and although he made weight for the EIWA tournament by “skipping on one foot”, he was unable to compete.  The same was true for much of his second season as he again suffered a knee injury.

As a junior, he was determined to make up for lost time.  Having grown several inches, he competed at 141 pounds and was in a tight battle throughout the campaign for the starting job.  With the conference tournament approaching, he lost the last wrestleoff and once again didn’t participate in the postseason.   Disappointed, he wanted to be sure to take full advantage of his one remaining year.

“I got involved in the Center for Enhanced Performance,” Anderson said. “I learned about stepping up my mental strategies and being mentally prepared for anything. It made a big difference.  I had a great year as a senior that I was proud of.”

Anderson won the New York State title, the All-Academy Championships and placed third at the EIWAs at 165 pounds with a victory over former NCAA champion Troy Letters of Lehigh.

“The Letters match is the most memorable of them all for me,” he said.  “He was a wrestling legend and when I defeated him, I knew that I had the potential to go on and beat anyone.”

It turned out to be Anderson’s last collegiate victory as he went 0-2 at NCAAs after facing All-Americans in both of his matches – Iowa State’s Travis Paulson and Iowa’s Eric Luedke.

“I was still young in the sport and those guys were better,” he said. “But it left me really hungry.  It fueled the fire for me and it helped me to this day.  I didn’t dwell on it, I just focused on moving forward.”

That he did.  He was a graduate assistant at West Point Prep school for six months and went to Ranger School.  Starting in 2007, he was a platoon leader, an executive officer and a company commander.  He spent time in Iraq.  All the while, he kept working on his mental skills approaches, teaming up with sports psychologist Steve DeWiggins to develop programs he implemented within the military.

“We did mental toughness training,” he said.  “As a platoon leader, I used it to enhance infantry unit performance.  In Iraq, we used it to train Iraqi soldiers to do their missions better.  We trained drill sergeants and we did basic training cycles for new soldiers.  We focused on things like goal setting, energy management, imagery, attention control and building confidence.  The results were phenomenal. And along the way, I continued to apply everything to myself.”

While Anderson hadn’t wrestled for a while after college, he got involved in Combatives, which he described as mixed martial arts in the Army.  He and some colleagues formed “Team No Name” and trained together.

He won the 2010 All-Army Combatives Championships, including a victory in the finals over an opponent Anderson said trained in MMA for eight years.

“Combatives was a springboard for me back into wrestling,” he said. “I wanted to keep the momentum going.  I started training for Greco Roman events.”

Why Greco?  It wasn’t because of experience, which for Anderson was limited to a couple of tournaments while at West Point.

Anderson chose Greco because after the success he had in Combatives, he had a new goal in mind.

“I wanted to be an Olympic champ,” he said. “I knew my best chance was in Greco.  I never had a lot of success in Freestyle and Greco evens things out on the feet and turns it into a fight.  That works for me.”

Anderson received extended duty to train for the 10 months prior to the Olympic Trials.  He moved to Colorado Springs, watched a lot of video and worked out with the World Class Athlete program.

“I was submerged in training,” he said. “I improved by leaps and bounds.  I needed to use the mental skills training because I needed to make up time.  Most of the other guys had been wrestling Greco for years and I only had a matter of months.  I used imagery to learn quicker, stayed really mentally focused and applied the techniques every day.  I wrote down my goals every day.  I visualized what I wanted and had a great routine before stepping on the mat.”

Although seeded seventh, Anderson felt confident coming into the Trials.

“My goal was to place first,” he said.  “I was expecting great things.  I felt that I was doing a little better at each competition and that I was peaking at the right time.  I felt that it would be a good tournament.”

It was.  He began by losing the first period against Marco Toledo in his initial match, but he came back to win 0-1, 1-0, 4-1.  That victory earned him a meeting with Andy Bisek, who had qualified the 74 kg spot for the United States for the London Olympics and according to Anderson, was the favorite despite his number two seed.

“That might have been the best part of the tournament for me – gut wrenching Bisek,” Anderson said. “In the third I had to get the turn to win.  He’s been pretty much unstoppable at the tournaments he’s been in.  I hit a fake left, gut wrench right and secured the victory.  I’ve been working on that, drilling that.  It all came together for me in that match.  I knew I needed a perfect match to beat him and I did it.”

Eventual champion Ben Provisor defeated Anderson 1-0, 1-0 in the semifinals, sending him to the consolation bracket.  In his next bout, he dropped the first period 4-0 to Tanner Andrews of the USOEC.

“I lost to him at the Dave Schultz International in February so I had some vengeance to pay back there,” Anderson said.  “I came out for business in the second period.  I turned up the heat and stayed aggressive.  I have a refocus technique that I used when down throughout the tournament. I told myself to ‘turn on the smokes’.  I tried a few moves and eventually got in a scramble, got him off balance, caught him on his back and pinned him.”

Next up was the third place match, which had significant implications.  With a win, Anderson would make the national team and be an alternate on the Olympic team.  But even beyond that, a win would allow Anderson to stay in Colorado and train.  Otherwise, he said he would “probably be back to a typical officer timeline” and would have to wait at least several months to get back to the Centennial State.

Anderson had lost the first period of each of his four matches to that point, but not in the bronze bout.  Jake Fisher gutwrenched Anderson early, however the former West Point grappler reversed it and got the fall in 1:54.  Third place was his.

“Fisher was the top guy at the weight for a long time,” he said. “I fell behind but stayed with it and put an end to it quickly. I finished the tournament right.”

Anderson now feels that he has the tools, both mentally and physically, to continue his rapid improvement in the Greco discipline.

“I’ll be attending all the Olympic team camps, improving every day,” he said. “I want to keep winning matches for the US Army and the United States.  I want to be part of the Olympic experience.  It’s a very valuable time right now.”

While focused on his goals on the mat, Anderson is also a Masters Student in Sports Psychology, as well as a husband and a father to a seven month old.

He credited his great support structure of “faith, family, friends and chain of command” for helping him.  And of course, he is grateful for his mental skills training, especially with DeWiggins.

The pair has worked over time on the four-phase mental skills approach that begins with preparation well before an event, including setting goals and utilizing positive imagery.

Anderson can visualize himself on the Olympic podium.

“The work I’ve done with Steve [DeWiggins] has been a great asset to my life and training. Everything Steve and I have touched, from implementing battle drills to my Olympic dreams, has turned to gold.  Now, I want to make that into a physical gold medal.”