By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
Dominating this weight class for the last two Olympic cycles has been Dremiel Byers, who was a 2002 World champion. Byers also won a 2009 World silver medal and a 2007 World bronze medal, as well as competing in the 2008 Olympic Games. Based upon his World Championship results, Byers gets to sit out until the best-of-three series after winning the U.S. Open this year, a big advantage for him. Byers continues to win on the international level, claiming gold medals in events in Poland and Cuba within the last year.
Second behind Byers at the U.S. Open was his Army teammate Timothy Taylor, who was also a runner-up at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials behind Byers. Taylor has been consistently one of the top heavyweights on the U.S. scene in recent years and actually has a few individual wins over Byers.
Battling injuries recently is past U.S. Open champion Brandon Rupp, who has placed behind Byers at the World Team Trials earlier in the quadrennium. Rupp was sixth at U.S. Open because of his challenges. Rupp has won a number of international medals in recent seasons, and has the size, strength and skill to compete at a high level.
Michigan State wrestler Steve Andrus was third at the U.S. Open this year, and competed in the Junior World Championships last year. Newcomer Jake Kettler from Minnesota finished fourth at the Open, his best performance to date on the Senior level. Pete Kowalczuk, a past University World medalist, finished fifth at the U.S. Open. Qualifying for Oklahoma City with seventh place at the U.S. Open was Michael Gregory, who is coached by Jason Loukides in Greensboro, N.C.
Regional champions who have qualified to compete are Akil Patterson (Northeast) and Nikola Bogojevic (Northern Plains). Patterson has been active on the Senior circuit for a number of years. Bogojevic is a college freshman who has had strong Greco-Roman efforts on the age-group levels. Also making the field is University Nationals runner-up Patrick Carey.
This weight class belongs to Dremiel Byers until somebody takes it away. Based upon past performances, Timothy Taylor and Brandon Rupp have shown the most success pushing Byers in their matches. Two-time Olympic medalist Rulon Gardner is considering a comeback from retirement for a run at the 2012 Olympic team, but is not expected to be on the mat this year. Even if Gardner returns for next season, Byers remains the man to beat at this division based upon his consistency and abilities.
2011 U.S. Open results at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. in Greco-Roman
1st - Dremiel Byers, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Army) dec. Timothy Taylor, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Army), 2-0, 1-0
3rd - Steve Andrus, Manhattan, MI (Michigan WC) dec. Jake Kettler, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm), 2-0, 6-0
5th - Peter Kowalczuk, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) inj. dft. Brandon Rupp, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids),
7th - Michael Gregory, Greensboro, N.C.. inj. dft. Michael Delaney, Alexandria, Va.
2011 World Team Trials qualifiers at 120 kg/264.5 pounds in Greco-Roman
U.S. Open Champion – Dremiel Byers, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
U.S. Open, second place – Timothy Taylor, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army)
U.S. Open, third place – Steve Andrus, Manhattan, Kan. (Michigan WC)
U.S. Open, fourth place – Jake Kettler, Ramsey, Minn. (Minnesota Storm)
U.S. Open, fifth place – Peter Kowalczuk, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
U.S. Open, sixth place – Brandon Rupp, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
U.S. Open, seventh place – Michael Gregory, Greensboro, N.C. (YES Wrestling)
Northeast Regional Trials Champion – Akil Patterson, Frederick, Md. (New York AC)
Northern Plains Trials Champion - Nikola Bogojevic, Superior, Wis. (Minnesota Storm)
University Nationals Champion – Peter Gounaridis, Leominster, Mass. (Sunkist Kids)
University Nationals Runner-up – Patrick Carey, Scottsdale, Ariz. (TWC)