FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Kyle Dake made fast work of his two opponents at the U.S. Olympic wrestling trials on Friday night to earn his much anticipated shot against Jordan Burroughs.
Dake, the two-time world champion looking to go to the Olympics for the first time, posted an 11-0 technical fall over Jason Nolf in the 74-kilogram challenge tournament final about an hour after he recorded a 10-0 tech fall over Evan Wick.
Next up Saturday night is a best-of-three meeting with Burroughs, the 2012 gold medalist and four-time world champion who will be attempting to make his third Olympics at age 32. Burroughs is 7-1 all-time against the 30-year-old Dake.
The biggest development of the trials’ first day occurred before the wrestling began when two-time world champion and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox was disqualified after not making weight.
Cox was removed from the bracket at 97 kilograms in men’s freestyle. The 26-year-old from Columbia, Missouri, had earned a spot in the challenge tournament semifinals based on winning gold at 2019 worlds in a non-Olympic weight class (92 kilograms).
Cox took bronze at 86 kilograms at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and then won consecutive world titles in 2018-19 at 92. He had announced a year ago he would move up to 97 kilograms and was supposed to be the main challenger to 2016 Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder this weekend.
With Cox out, Snyder will face Kollin Moore for a spot on the Olympic team in a meeting of former Ohio State wrestlers.
Former Penn State wrestlers David Taylor and Bo Nickal posted easy decisions and will meet in the 86 kilogram men’s freestyle finals.
“It’s Nittany Nation, and we should have our own country because of of how many guys are top guys in the world,” Nickal said. “We’re trained to represent the United States of America, which is the greatest honor in America.”
Rising star Gable Steveson will meet Nick Gwiazdowski in the 125-kilogram men’s freestyle finals. The second-seeded Steveson, who won an NCAA heavyweight title for Minnesota two weeks ago, posted an 11-0 technical over sixth-seeded Daniel Kerkvliet. The top-seeded Gwiazdowski advanced with a 6-0 decision over No. 4 Dom Bradley.
In women’s freestyle, Jenna Burkert won three matches in dominating fashion and will take on 2016 Olympic gold medalist Helen Maroulis in the finals at 57 kilograms.
Competing a week after her mother’s death, Burkert posted two technical falls and pinned world silver medalist Ali Ragan in 2:12.
“As happy as I am, I’m very sad that mom’s not physically here with me,” Burkert said. “I didn’t even actually want to come here. I thought it was going to be a lot, but I knew I had to do it. My mother’s last wish, honestly, so I had to do it for all of us. It’s been a long dream, so I had to see it through.”
Kylie Welker, a 17-year-old from Wisconsin who was the bottom seed at 76 kilograms in women’s freestyle, will face five-time world champion Adeline Gray. Welker made it through to the finals after a hard-earned 6-3 decision over Victoria Francis.
“(Gray) was my idol at one point,” Welker said, “and I worked until my idols became my competition, so I’m ready for it, I’m excited.”
In Greco Roman, Ryan Mango advanced to face Ildar Hafizov in the finals at 60 kilograms. Manago won 3-0 over Leslie Fuenffinger to set up the match with Hafizov, who competed for Uzbekistan in the 2008 Olympics and is trying to make the American team for the first time.
Ellis Coleman decisioned 11th-seeded Benjamin Peak 7-3 to set up a finals match with Alejandro Sancho at 67 kilograms in Greco Roman.
Of the 18 winners Saturday, 15 will be assured of competing in the Olympics. The United States has not qualified at 65 kilograms in freestyle and 77 and 130 kilograms in Greco Roman. To wrestle in Tokyo, the winners at those weights will need to finish first or second in a May 6-9 world qualifier in Bulgaria.