By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Tyler Graff controls Martin Berberyan in the finals at 60 kg/132 lbs. John Sachs photo.
LAS VEGAS – Tyler Graff’s decision to take an Olympic redshirt season already is starting to pay off.
The two-time All-American from Wisconsin delivered with a strong performance by winning the Men’s Freestyle Olympic Trials Qualifier on Saturday at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Graff downed past World bronze medalist Martin Berberyan 2-0, 2-3, 1-0 in the finals at 60 kg/132 lbs. Berberyan, 31, a three-time Olympian and 2005 World bronze medalist for Armenia, recently became a U.S. citizen.
Graff was named Outstanding Wrestler.
“The plan’s for greatness,” Graff said. “I’m taking an Olympic redshirt and seeing how things are going. I have one goal in mind and I’m going to keep going until I get there.”
The top three finishers in each weight class, who haven’t already qualified, earn a spot in April’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City
Graff was one of seven champions crowned on Saturday.
Also capturing titles were Ben Kjar (55 kg/121 lbs.), Adam Hall (66 kg/145.5 lbs.), Trent Paulson (74 kg/163 lbs.), Jon Reader (84 kg/185 lbs.), Craig Brester (96 kg/211.5 lbs.) and Chad Hanke (120 kg/264.5 lbs.).
Kjar swept Precin 3-2, 6-0 in the finals. Kjar had lost to Precin in the third-place match in the NCAA Championships this past March.
“Practice makes perfect, and I needed to get some matches under my belt,” Kjar said. “The last couple of years I dedicated to college. Since I hadn’t wrestled much freestyle for a long time, I needed some experience under my belt.”
2011 NCAA champion Jon Reader continues to look impressive in freestyle after sweeping Mack Lewnes 8-2, 8-2 in the finals.
“I’m trying to make an Olympic Team and trying to win an Olympic gold medal,” Reader said. “It is a relief to qualify for the Trials. It’s great. Now I can focus on April.”
Hall won by forfeit over past World Team member Dustin Schlatter to capture the title at 66 kilos.
Past World Team member Trent Paulson downed Colt Sponseller to earn his title.
Past NCAA runner-up Craig Brester continues to climb the ladder after defeating Trevor Brandvold in the finals.
2011 World Team Trials runner-up Chad Hanke prevailed over past NCAA champion David Zabriskie to win the heavyweight title.
The U.S. Olympic Team Trials are scheduled for April 21-22 in Iowa City.
55 kg/121 lbs.
1st place – Ben Kjar (Utah Valley) dec. Brandon Precin (New York AC), 3-2, 6-0
3rd place – Mark McKnight (Nittany Lion WC) dec. Shawn Contos (Nittany Lion WC), 0-7, 2-2, 1-0
5th place – Earl Hall (New York AC) dec. Tyler Cox (Gator WC), 5-0, 4-2
60 kg/132 lbs.
1st place – Tyler Graff (New York AC) dec. Martin Berberyan (SK Golden Boys), 2-0, 2-3, 1-0
3rd place – James Kennedy (New York AC) dec. Drew Headlee (Sunkist Kids Wrestling), 4-0, 4-0
5th place – Andrew Hochstrasser (Bronco Wrestling Club) dec. Daniel Dennis (New York AC), 6-0, 7-5
66 kg/145.5 lbs.
1st place – Adam Hall (New York Athletic Club) won by forfeit over Dustin Schlatter (Minnesota Storm)
3rd place – Jason Chamberlain (Bronco WC) dec. Kevin LeValley (Minnesota Storm), 2-0, 1-0
5th place – Chase Pami (Sunkist Kids) dec. Joe Johnston (Gator WC), 4-1, 1-2, 5-1
74 kg/163 lbs.
1st place – Trent Paulson (Sunkist Kids) dec. Colton Sponseller (New York AC), 6-0, 2-0
3rd place – Tyler Caldwell (Sunkist Kids) dec. Moza Fay (Gator Wrestling Club) (Dec 4-0,3-1)
5th place – Matt Moley (New York AC) dec. Nate Carr Jr. (Unattached), 3-2, 6-0
84 kg/185 lbs.
1st Place Match - Jon Reader (Sunkist Kids) won by tech fall over Mack Lewnes (New York AC), 8-2, 8-2
3rd place – Bryce Hasseman (Gator WC) dec. Kamarudeen Usman (GRIT Athletics WC), 1-0, 1-0
5th place – Tyrel Todd (NYAC) won by injury default over Travis Paulson (Sunkist Kids)
96 kg/211.5 lbs.
1st place – Craig Brester (NWTC) dec. Trevor Brandvold (New York AC), 5-2, 2-0
3rd place – Tanner Hall (New York AC) dec. Luke Lofthouse (Hawkeye WC), 1-0, 0-3, 4-2
5th place – Tyler Lehmann (Unattached) pinned Ryan Tomei (Unattached), 7-0, 0:10
120 kg/264.5 lbs.
1st place – Chad Hanke (NWRTC) dec. David Zabriskie (Sunkist Kids), 1-0, 1-1
3rd place – Brent Jones (OTC) pinned James Friedrich (Checkmat), 6-0, 0:38
Wrestlers who qualified for April’s Olympic Team Trials from this qualifying event
55 kg – Precin, Contos, McKnight
60 kg – Graff, Berberyan, Kennedy
66 kg – Hall, Chamberlain, Pami
74 kg – Sponseller, Caldwell, Fay
84 kg – Reader, Lewnes, Hasseman
96 kg – Brester, Brandvold, Hall
120 kg – Zabriskie, Jones, Friedrich