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The World Team Trials get underway...

Andrew Carpenean-US PRESSWIRE

The U.S. World Team Trials are getting underway this weekend in Madison, WI, which is a big deal.  In fact, outside of the NCAA Tournament (and maybe the Big Ten Tournament, if you want to fly your homer flag), it's probably the biggest wrestling event of the year in the United States.  Why?  Because the results here determine who represents the United States (for the most part) at the World Championships this September in Uzbekistan. That's not to say that the other major freestyle event of the year -- the US Open -- is unimportant, though.

The winner of the US Open puts himself (or herself) in pole position to earn that spot on the U.S. team heading to Uzbekistan -- they got an automatic berth in the finals of the Trials.  The finals utilize a best 2-of-3 format.  The US Open champion is automatically placed as one of the competitors in those finals.  That means that someone line Brent Metcalf, who bossed his way through the US Open, will only have to wrestle one opponent and win two matches in order to punch his ticket to the World Championships.  The remaining wrestlers at each weight wrestle through a qualifying tournament in order to earn the other spot in the best 2-of-3 finals.

Tomorrow sees three men's weights in action: 57 KG (125.5 LBS), 97 KG (213 LBS), and 125 KG (275 LBS).  Brent Metcalf wrestles at 66 KG (145.5 LBS), so he won't be wrestling tomorrow -- he'll be in action on Sunday.  However, several other past Iowa wrestlers will be in action, including Tony Ramos and Matt McDonough (both at 57 KG).  Micah Burak, brother of current Iowa wrestler Nathan Burak and member of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, will also be in action at 97 KG.  There's no one with Iowa ties wrestling at 125 KG.  (There are also three women's weight classes in action tomorrow -- 48, 58, and 69 KG.  You can find those competitors here.)

WHERE: Madison, WI
WHEN: 10 am CT, Saturday, May 31
HOW TO WATCH: Flowrestling ($), Universal Sports Network (June 9, 5 PM CT)

Men's Freestyle

57 KG/125.5 LBS

2014 US Open Champion Sam Hazewinkel v. TBA

1) Angel Escobedo
2) Nick Simmons
3) Matt McDonough
4) Tony Ramos
5) Danny Mitchell
6) Brandon Precin
7) Zach Sanders
8) Mark McKnight
9) Kyle Hutter
10) Nico Megaludis
11) Frank Perelli

(8) Kyle Hutter v. (9) Mark McKnight
(6) Brandon Precin v. (11) Frank Perelli
(7) Zach Sanders v. (10) Nico Megaludis

(1) Angel Escobedo v. Hutter/McKnight
(4) Tony Ramos v. (5) Danny Mitchell
(3) Matt McDonough v. Precin/Perelli
(2) Nick Simmons v. Sanders/Megaludis

Escobedo/Hutter/McKnight v. Ramos/Mitchell
McDonough/Precin/Perelli v. Simmons/Sanders/Megaludis

...and so on.

We've spent the last 4-5 years watching McDonough and Ramos wrestle and contend for championships, but we probably need to adjust our expectations for them here.  Really, this tournament is just about giving us an idea of where they stand right now against some of the best guys at this weight.  Ramos is just a few months removed from a folkstyle national championship and hasn't seriously competed in freestyle for several years.  McDonough's folkstyle career ended in 2013, but he's also spent much of the past season rehabbing from the arm injury that hampered him during his senior season at Iowa.  So neither guy has a ton of experience at this level or even in this discipline.

Both guys could see some very good competition -- Escobedo and Simmons are seasoned veterans on the international scene and will give Ramos and McD very stiff tests should they all make it to the semifinals of the challenge tournament.  Along the way, we could see some matchups that are very familiar to B1G fans.  McD could see his old jNW nemesis Brandon Precin in the second round, while the first round is already guaranteed to feature another clash between Sanders and Megaludis, two guys who tangled when Sanders was at Minnesota.  Top-4 finishes for either (or both) of Ramos and McD would be a good result here, I think.  If they do more than that -- awesome.

BEST 2-OF-3 FINALS PREDICTION: Hazewinkel v. Simmons (Hazewinkel in 3)

97 KG/213 LBS

2014 US Open Champion Jake Varner v. TBA

1) Wynn Michalak
2) J.D. Bergman
3) Dustin Kilgore
4) Deron Winn
5) Micah Burak
6) David Zabriskie
7) Cam Simaz
8) Jack Jensen
9)  J'Den Cox
10) Cayle Byers

(8) Jack Jensen v. (9) J'Den Cox
(7) Cam Simaz v. (10) Cayle Byers

(1) Wynn Michalak v. Jensen/Cox
(4) Deron Winn v. (5) Micah Burak
(3) Dustin Kilgore v. (6) David Zabriskie
(2) J.D. Bergman v. Simaz/Byers

Michalak/Jensen/Cox v. Winn/Burak
Kilgore/Zabriskie v. Bergman/Simaz/Byers

This weight is primarily the purview of college 197ers who add some mass -- except David Zabriskie, who's wrestling at this weight after competing at heavyweight during his college days at Iowa State.  (And he was not a particularly small heavyweight, either.)  Burak, as noted, has Iowa ties, so if you're looking for someone to root for at this weight, there's your man.  Kilgore is probably the most attack-minded guy at this weight and should be the most entertaining to watch... but that aggression could easily backfire on him, too, and cost him some matches.  Really, this is a weight where the challenge tournament feels like a formality. Jake Varner is an Olympic gold medalist and he cruised through this weight at the US Open; it's hard to see what's changed in the span of six weeks.

BEST 2-OF-3 FINALS PREDICTION: Varner v. Michalak (Varner in 2)

125 KG/275 LBS

2014 US Open Champion Tervel Dlagnev v. TBA

1) Dom Bradley
2) Tyrell Fortune
3) Zach Rey
4) Nick Gwiazdowski
5) Jarod Trice
6) Matthew Meuleners
7) Justin Grant
8) Eric Thompson
9) Connor Medbery

(8) Eric Thompson v. (9) Connor Medbery

(1) Dom Bradley v. Thompson/Medbery
(4) Nick Gwiazdowski v. (5) Jarod Trice
(2) Tyrell Fortune v. (7) Justin Grant
(3) Zach Rey v. (6) Matthew Meuleners

Bradley/Thompson/Medbery v. Gwiazdowski/Trice
Fortune/Grant v. Rey/Meuleners

There's no Iowa ties at this weight, although Eric Thompson wrestled at Iowa State once upon a time (and more recently wrestled at Grand View University in Des Moines) and Jarod Trice is currently competing out of a wrestling club based out of Ames.  Gwiazdowski is the current NCAA champion, while Medbery is another current NCAA competitor.  As far as what else to expect from the big fellas... you got me.

BEST 2-OF-3 FINALS PREDICTION: Dlagnev v. Rey (Dlagnev in 2)

This thread will also serve as the open thread for the event.