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Men’s Freestyle Olympians travel to Azerbaijan for Freestyle World Cup, May 12-13

Jake Varner competing at 96 kg at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Varner is one of five Olympians competing at Freestyle World Cup this weekend. Larry Slater photo

The U.S. men’s freestyle team has travelled to Baku, Azerbaijan for training and to compete in the Freestyle World Cup, May 12-13.

The World Cup is the annual international dual meet championships, and is one of the most prestigious events in the world. Only the top nations in the world are invited to participate. There are nine other teams in the event including: Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Japan, Belarus, Bulgaria and Turkey. The United States placed third in the 2011 World Championships, which qualified our nation to participate in this event.

The tournament will be broken into two pools of five teams. Based upon the dual meet results of each pool, finals will be held to determine all 10 places in the competition.

The U.S. roster includes five 2012 Olympians and one Olympic Team Trials Champion.

The 2012 U.S. Olympians on the tour are Sam Hazewinkel at 55 kg/121 lbs., Jared Frayer at 66 kg/145.5 lbs., Jordan Burroughs at 74 kg/163 lbs., Jake Varner at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. and Tervel Dlagnev at 120 kg/264.5 lbs.

Coleman Scott, who won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, will compete at 60 kg/132 lbs. Since the Trials have concluded, the U.S. has qualified to compete in the Olympics at the weight class. There will be a wrestle-off with Scott, Shawn Bunch and Reece Humphrey for this Olympic berth at a date and location to be announced.

Also participating on the World Cup tour for the United States are top freestyle stars Nick Simmons at 55 kg/121 lbs., Angel Escobedo at 60 kg/132 lbs., Chase Pami at 66 kg/145.5 lbs., Kyle Dake at 74 kg/163 lbs., Keith Gavin at 84 kg/185 lbs. and Dustin Kilgore at 96 kg/2111.5 lbs.

“There’s no break for us after the Olympic Trials since we knew we would be coming to the World Cup. We’re ready to get back up on the saddle,” said National Freestyle Coach Zeke Jones. “Three weeks before the Olympic Trials, I told everyone wrestling in it, if you’re planning on making the Olympic Team you need to take care of your travel to Azerbaijan now. As you would expect, every Olympian sent his paperwork in because he knew he would be boarding a plane nine days later to train and compete here.”

Jones considers the World Cup an important part of the preparation of the Olympic Team for this summer’s London Games.

“Part of why we got together so quickly was to train, compete, and start to gel as a team. I can’t tell you how good this team is. They like each other, will do anything for each other, and want America to be the best in the world. Dake and Burroughs, Simmons and Hazewinkel, and Frayer and Pami are all working together on the mat to get better. Plus after practice the guys are hanging out, getting along great and enjoying their moment as a team,” said Jones.

Jones knows there is limited time for preparation, and is confident that the training and competition on this trip will pay dividends later in the summer with Olympic medals on the line.

“I know our men. They know it’s 13 short weeks before we compete in London and the gloves are off. We have work to do. Part of that work was coming to train and compete against the best. The training has been excellent. Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan both have full teams and all of their No. 1 and No. 2 wrestlers here. On Friday we did five matches with them and it was an all out battle. We matched up our best against theirs and it got intense. There’s too many match ups to tell you about but I can tell you the matches we had with them will be quarterfinal, semifinal, and gold medal matches in London,” said Jones.

Winning the team title at the World Cup is very important to this team.

“I know most people in America right now are focused on the Olympics. Not us. We’re focused on the World Cup. We brought a team here to win, nothing else. With the exception of Jake Herbert and our 60 kgwrestle off, we have our Olympic Team here because we targeted this tournament and the wrestlers that are here to compete against. This is the second biggest competition of the year and we’re here to knock down some doors,” said Jones.

Being mentally prepared will be important to success, according to Jones.

“Today in our staff meeting, Coach John Smith talked about how important this competition is and how you need to have the right mindset when you step out on the mat. We have to be ready to attack when the whistle blows,” he said.

At Baku, Azerbaijan, May 12-13


55 kg/121 lbs. – Sam Hazewinkel, Norman, Okla. (Sunkist Kids)
55 kg/121 lbs. – Nick Simmons, Corvallis, Ore. (Sunkist Kids)
60 kg/132 lbs. –Coleman Scott, Stillwater, Okla. (Gator WC)
60 kg/132 lbs. – Angel Escobedo, Columbus, Ohio (New York AC)
66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Jared Frayer, Norman, Okla. (Gator WC)
66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Chase Pami, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
74 kg/163 lbs. – Jordan Burroughs, Lincoln, Neb. (Sunkist Kids)
74 kg/163 lbs. – Kyle Dake, Ithaca, N.Y. (New York AC)
84 kg/185 lbs. – Keith Gavin, Bethlehem, Pa. (Lehigh Valley AC)
96 kg/211.5 lbs. –Jake Varner, State College, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC)
96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Dustin Kilgore, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Tervel Dlagnev, Columbus, Ohio (Sunkist Kids)

Baku, Azerbaijan, May 12-13

Saturday May 12
10:00 AM-12:30 PM – Competition, sessions 1-2
2:30 PM-3:00 PM – Opening Ceremony
3:30 PM-7:30 PM- Competition, sessions 3-5

Sunday May 13
10:00 AM -12:30 PM – Finals, 5-10th place matches
2:00 PM- 5:00 PM – Finals, 3rd place and championship matches

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