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2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Greco-Roman Lightweight previews: 60 kg, 67 kg and 77 kg

by Mike Willis, USA Wrestling

Ildar Hafizov, a 2008 Olympian for Uzbekistan, is seeking his first Olympic berth for Team USA.

The 2021 Olympic Team Trials are just around the corner, set for April 2-3 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Fans can watch all of this weekend’s action live on NBC and its platforms.

Below is a short preview of each of the first three weight classes.

60 kg

With a field as deep as 60 kg, the advantage obtained by sitting in the best-of-three finals is a massive one. Ildar Hafizov claimed the privilege when he made the finals of the Pan American Olympic qualifier last March, earning an Olympic berth at 60 kg for Team USA. Hafizov was the 2019 World Team member at this weight class and also made the 2017 World Team at 59 kg. Before representing the U.S., Hafizov wrestled internationally for Uzbekistan, competing at the 2007, 2009 and 2011 World Championships as well as the 2008 Olympic Games. Hafizov was the 2016 Olympic Team Trials runner-up at 59 kg.

2019 63 kg World Team member Ryan Mango will be one of the favorites to see Hafizov in the best-of-three finals. Mango, who finished third in the 2016 Olympic Team Trials at 59 kg, has not wrestled in competition since 2019. Another current Senior World Team member is Max Nowry, who finished fifth at the 2019 World Championships at 55 kg. Nowry moved up to 60 kg for the 2019 Bill Farrell International, where he made the finals before defaulting to Mango. However, he went back down to 55 kg for his most recent competition, the 2020 Pan Am championships last March, where he won gold.

2018 World Team member Dalton Roberts is another wrestler to watch for. Roberts has competed on four age-group World Teams in addition to the 2018 Senior World Teams. His most recent showing was a fifth-place finish at the 2019 Senior Nationals. Leslie Fuenffinger is another one of the favorites in the field. A two-time Junior World Team member, Fuenffinger is currently No. 2 on the National Team at 60 kg. Fuenffinger is the 2019 Senior Nationals champion and the 2019 U.S. Open champion. In the Open finals, he defeated Hafizov, 6-4.

Others to watch in the bracket include Taylor LaMont, a 2016 Junior World bronze medalist and seven-time age-group World Team member, Sam Jones, a 2014 World University Championships bronze medalist who is currently No. 3 on the National Team at 63 kg, Travis Rice, a two-time age-group World Team member who won the Last Chance Qualifier and Randon Miranda, a three-time age-group World Team member who finished runner-up at the Last Chance qualifier.

60 kg seeds

Ildar Hafizov (U.S. Army WCAP) – sitting to the best-of-three finals

1. Leslie Fuenffinger (U.S. Army WCAP)

2. Ryan Mango (U.S. Army WCAP)

3. Max Nowry (U.S. Army WCAP)

4. Taylor LaMont (Sunkist Kids)

5. Dalton Roberts (NYAC)

6. Sam Jones (NYAC)

7. Travis Rice (NYAC - Illinois RTC)

8. Randon Miranda (NYAC)

9. Joseph Palmer (Cyclone RTC)

67 kg

Alejandro Sancho earned the right to sit in the best-of-three finals after qualifying the weight class for the Olympic Games with a runner-up performance at the 2020 Pan Am Olympic Qualifier. Sancho placed third at the Pan Am Championships the week prior, and filled in for an injured Ellis Coleman. Sancho is a two-time age-group World Team member, the 2019 Senior Nationals champion and Bill Farrell International champion.

Coleman, a 2012 Olympian, should be considered a favorite. Coleman represented the U.S. at all three World Championships this quad. He is also a 2014 World Team member and a two-time Junior World bronze medalist. Coleman defeated Sancho in the best-of-three series to make the 2018 World Team, two matches to one.

2019 72 kg World Team member Raymond Bunker has not competed down at 67 kg since the 2018 Greco-Roman Team Trials. He took gold at the 2020 Pan Am Championships at 72 kg and earlier this month placed fifth at the Matteo Pellicone Tournament in Italy, also competing at 72 kg. Current No. 2 on the National Team Jamel Johnson will be a serious threat. A 2012 World University Championships bronze medalist, Johnson finished fifth at the 2019 Senior Nationals.

67 kg also has a strong contingent of up-and-coming talent, including 2019 Junior World bronze medalists Peyton Omania and Alston Nutter. Omania, a four-time age-group World Team member, was an NCAA qualifier for Michigan State this past season as a freshman. Nutter, who is moving up from 63 kg, trains at Northern Michigan. He is a two-time Junior World Team member and hasn’t competed since earning bronze at the 2019 Junior Worlds.

Other young talent in the bracket includes 2019 and 2020 Senior Nationals runner-up Calvin Germinaro, Benji Peak, 2020 Senior Nationals champion and Last Chance Qualifier runner-up and Lenny Merkin, the Last Chance qualifier champion and a 2019 U23 World Team member.

67 kg seeds

Alejandro Sancho (U.S. Army WCAP) – sitting to the best-of-three finals

1. Ellis Coleman (U.S. Army WCAP)

2. Raymond Bunker (U.S. Marines)

3. Jamel Johnson (U.S. Marines)

4. Xavier Johnson (U.S. Marines)

5. Calvin Germinaro (Minnesota Storm)

6. Lenny Merkin (NYAC)

7. Nolan Baker (NYAC)

8. Peyton Omania (NYAC)

9. Alston Nutter (Sunkist Kids)

10. Michael Hooker (U.S. Army WCAP)

11. Benjamin Peak (Sunkist Kids)

12. Colton Rasche (U.S. Marines)

77 kg

77 kg is one of two Greco-Roman weight classes that still need to qualify for the Olympic Games. Therefore, no one is sitting in the best-of-three finals. Pat Smith is the returning World Team member at this weight class. He is a 2014 World University Championships silver medalist and the 2016 Olympic Team Trials runner-up at 66 kg. He was also the 2017 World Team member at 72 kg. He is a 2019 Pan Am Games champion and the 2020 Senior Nationals runner-up.

Two-time Olympian Ben Provisor aims to make his third-straight Olympic Team. Provisor made the 2012 Olympic Team at 74 kg, but has primarily competed at much higher weight classes since then, including 85 kg, where he made the 2016 Olympic Team and the 2017 World Team. 2016 66 kg Olympic Team Trials champion RaVaughn Perkins also made the move up to 77 kg. Perkins is a 2018 World Team member at 72 kg. He placed third at the 2019 Senior Nationals at 77 kg, and recently finished eighth at the 2020 Matteo Pellicone Tournament up at 82 kg.

2017 World Team member Mason Manville is another to watch in the bracket. Manville has been plagued by injuries in recent years, but when he’s on, he’s tough to beat. A 2014 Cadet World Team member in freestyle (where he won gold) and Greco-Roman, his most recent placements were third at the 2019 U.S. Open and second at the 2019 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament. Veteran competitor Jake Fisher returned to competition in 2018 after a hiatus. The 2010 World Team member was in fine form at the 2019 Senior Nationals, logging a runner-up finish with wins over Junior World Silver medalist Andrew Berreyesa, National Team member Peyton Walsh and RaVaughn Perkins on his way to the finals.

Three-time U23 World Team member and four-time U23 Nationals champion Jesse Porter qualified for the Trials with a runner-up finish at Last Chance Qualifier, as did the LCQ champion Austin Morrow, a 2019 U.S. Open fourth-place finisher.

77 kg seeds

1. Jake Fisher (Curby 3 Style WC)

2. RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC)

3. Pat Smith (Minnesota Storm)

4. Ben Provisor (BVRTC)

5. Peyton Walsh (U.S. Marines)

6. Mason Manville (U.S. Army WCAP)

7. Corey Hope (NYAC)

8. Austin Morrow (NYAC)

9. Brandon Mueller (505 WC)

10. Jesse Porter (NYAC)