Nick Lee fights off a shot attempt from Yianni Diakomihalis at 2023 Final X. The two will wrestle best-of-three in Denver on Saturday.
Team USA Olympic wrestling hopefuls to vie for key Pan American Olympic Qualifier spots
by Richard Immel, USA Wrestling
Four critical roster spots for Team USA are up for grabs this Saturday at the Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier Wrestle-Off being held at Regis University in Denver, Colo. Of the 11 wrestlers in action, three are past World champions, with five others owning at least one World medal.
Some of the more formidable names in the sport will take the mat—Two-time World champion Amit Elor is making her inaugural foray into an Olympic weight class, World champions Dom Parrish and Jacarra Winchester are expected to give fans an epic best-of-three clash, and World finalist Yianni Diakomihalis goes head-to-head with reigning U.S. World Team member Nick Lee in a rematch of last year’s thrilling Final X series.
It will be an adrenaline-charged series of matches across four weight divisions—men’s freestyle 65 kg and women’s freestyle 53 kg, 62 kg and 68 kg. The winner of each bracket earns the right to represent the U.S. in Acapulco, Mexico, later this month to qualify the weight class for Team USA at the Olympic Games.
The U.S. has yet to qualify 11-of-18 weight classes for the upcoming Olympic Games. The first qualification attempt came at last year’s Senior World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, with the top-five placers in each Olympic weight class earning a coveted qualification spot for his or her nation.
From an American perspective, six Greco-Roman weight classes remain in need of Olympic qualification. This group of athletes was finalized at the U.S. Senior Nationals last December, with each champion earing a roster spot. For the remaining international styles, two men’s freestyle weights and three women’s freestyle weights are in the same boat, setting the stage for pivotal showdowns this weekend.
Notably, reigning men’s freestyle U.S. World Team member Zane Richards stands unchallenged by another qualified opponent and is locked in for Acapulco at 57 kg.
The buzz surrounding wrestling powerhouse Amit Elor is nothing short of electric this Olympic cycle as she descends from her traditional weight class of 72 kg to battle for the Olympic spot at 68 kg. Elor owns a total of eight World gold medals spanning all age divisions and is considered a gold medal contender for Paris should she make the team.
Saturday marks Elor’s maiden competition at her new weight class since establishing herself among the World’s elite, and the opposition is nothing short of thrilling. A duo of World bronze medalists, Forrest Molinari and Mallory Velte, plus reigning World Team member Emma Bruntil create a bracket filled with promise for exciting action but will also shed some early light on what fans can expect at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
The bracket construction in this weight class pits Molinari against Velte to open the event, with Elor facing the winner. Whomever emerges of these three will wrestle Bruntil in a best-of-three series to conclude the festivities.
The women's freestyle contenders at 68 kg
The U.S. has enjoyed a spell of wrestling prowess at the 53 kg weight class the past few years with multiple athletes claiming a World gold medal. 2022 World champion Dom Parrish will be challenged by 2019 World champion and Tokyo Olympian Jacarra Winchester in a matchup of familiar foes.
Both women were on the U.S. World Team last year and hold impressive international track records. However, this Senior-level series has seen Winchester assert her dominance, holding an imposing 8-0 series lead heading into Saturday's highly anticipated event. Their most recent clash in February 2022, at the Bout at the Ballpark event, saw Winchester emerge victorious with a 5-2 win.
Expect all the thrills in the lone men’s freestyle series on Saturday. Nick Lee and Yianni Diakomihalis are two wrestlers with high motors and contrasting styles on the mat that have a knack for generating heart-stopping finishes.
The two have tangoed three times on the Senior level with Lee winning each bout. This includes a razor thin two-match Final X series sweep to make last year’s U.S. World Team. Diakomihalis owns the international pedigree edge with a Senior World silver medal and a pair of U17 World titles to his name. That said, Lee is rapidly expanding his freestyle arsenal and is every bit a threat to make a deep Olympic run.
The final bracket of the event features three World medalists from three distinct weight classes. Tokyo Olympic representative and two-time World runner-up Kayla Miracle stands poised to face the winner between World medalists Macey Kilty and Jennifer Page for the 62 kg spot.
All three women were integral members of the U.S. World Team last year, adding an extra layer of juice to this contest. Kilty is dropping down from 65 kg where she was a World finalist. Page is making the move up from 59 kg where she earned a bronze medal at the World Championships. The trio each own wins over the other in past seasons, so it’s anyone’s guess who will earn the trip to Acapulco.
The women's freestyle contenders at 62 kg
Complete brackets and live results from the Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier Wrestle-Off can be found on Trackwrestling.com. A live broadcast of the event will be available through FloWrestling.com with the purchase of a monthly or annual subscription.
Tickets remain available for those seeking to attend in person. Purchase tickets online through RMAC Sports with prices sitting at $15 for adults and $10 for seniors. Children and students at Regis University can get in for free.
This event will be held alongside the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) Women’s Championships. Action is set to start at 10 a.m. (MT).
Men’s freestyle 65 kg
Best-of-three series – Nick Lee (State College, Pa./Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC) vs. Yianni Diakomihalis (Rochester, N.Y./Titan Mercury WC/Spartan Combat RTC)
Women’s freestyle 53 kg
Best-of-three series – Dom Parrish (Scotts Valley, Calif./Sunkist Kids WC) vs. Jacarra Winchester (Colorado Springs, Colo./Titan Mercury WC/USOPTC)
Women’s freestyle 62 kg
Best-of-three series – Kayla Miracle (Tempe, Ariz./Sunkist Kids WC) vs. winner of round one
Round one (single elimination) – Macey Kilty (Stratford, Wis./Sunkist Kids WC) vs. Jennifer Page (Bellefonte, Pa./Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC)
Women’s freestyle 68 kg
Best-of-three series – Emma Bruntil (Acme, Wash./Titan Mercury WC/USOPTC) vs. winner of round two
Round two (single elimination) – Amit Elor (Walnut Creek, Calif./Titan Mercury WC/New York City RTC) vs. winner of round one
Round one (single elimination) – Forrest Molinari (Tempe, Ariz./Sunkist Kids WC) vs. Mallory Velte (Corvallis, Ore./Titan Mercury WC/Beaver Dam RTC)
10 a.m. (MT)
Match #1 – Mallory Velte vs. Forrest Molinari (WFS 68 kg single elimination)
Match #2 – Nick Lee vs. Yianni Diakomihalis (MFS 65 kg best-of-three round one)
11 a.m. (MT)
Match #3 – Macey Kilty vs. Jennifer Page (WFS 62 kg single elimination)
Match #4 – Amit Elor vs. Match #1 winner (WFS 68 kg single elimination)
Match #5 – Yianni Diakomihalis vs. Nick Lee (MFS 65 kg best-of-three round two)
12 p.m. (MT)
Match #6 – Dom Parrish vs. Jacarra Winchester (WFS 52 kg best-of-three round one)
Match #7 – Kayla Miracle vs. Match #3 winner (WFS 62 kg best-of-three round one)
Match #8 – Emma Bruntil vs. Match #4 winner (WFS 68 kg best-of-three round one)
Match #9 – Nick Lee vs. Yianni Diakomihalis (MFS 65 kg best-of-three round three, if necessary)
1 p.m. (MT)
Match #10 – Jacarra Winchester vs. Dom Parrish (WFS 52 kg best-of-three round two)
Match #11 – Match #3 winner vs. Kayla Miracle (WFS 62 kg best-of-three round two)
Match #12 – Match # 4 winner vs. Emma Bruntil (WFS 68 kg best-of-three round two)
2 p.m. (MT)
Match #13 – Dom Parrish vs. Jacarra Winchester (WFS 52 kg best-of-three round three, if necessary)
Match #14 – Kayla Miracle vs. Match #3 winner (WFS 62 kg best-of-three round three, if necessary)
Match #15 – Emma Bruntil vs. Match #4 winner (WFS 68 kg best-of-three round three, if necessary)