United World Wrestling has just announced that there will be World Championships held for the non-Olympic weights in Hungary this December. Prior to today’s announcement, this was an idea that had been previously talked about, and late last month rumors began to swirl something might actually be happening. Now it’s confirmed. The non-Olympic weights having their own World Championships is a great way to give Greco Roman athletes who did not get a chance to compete at the Olympics something huge to strive for.
The non-Olympic weights for Greco Roman wrestling are 71 kg and 80 kg. On the American side of things, Justin Lester (Army/WCAP) held down the 71 kg spot for 2014 and 2015, defeating Minnesota Storm talent Pat Smith both years. At 80 kg there have been two different representatives: Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) in 2014 and Patrick Martinez (Army/WCAP) last year. Said Martinez: “Waking up this morning and seeing this news got my juices flowing! I didn’t think I was going back down to 80 kg, but this might change things.”
There is no question that news like this is going to have more than just a trickle-down effect on American Greco athletes. Over the past couple of seasons quite a few big names have played around at the non-Olympic wrestling weights. Along with Lester, Martinez, and Smith have been standouts like Kendrick Sanders (NYAC, 71 kg), Michael Hooker (Army/WCAP, 71 kg) Dillon Cowan (USOTS, 71 kg), and Cheney Haight (USOTS, 80 kg), among others. Jon Anderson (Army/WCAP) and two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (NYAC) are also athletes who have made appearances at non-Olympic weights several times over the past two years and change.
As of now, there is no word yet on when and where the US World Team Trials will be held, or how they will decide on qualification. “I’ll be curious to find out what the selection process is going to be”, said Smith. “It’s not the pinnacle for this year, but it’s nice to have a shot at winning a world medal.” Smith is expected to compete once again at 71 kg.
Many of the other wrestlers do not fit comfortably in either 75 or 85 kg, so when the Olympic year came into full view, choices had to be made. Cuts that were once quite manageable became grueling. For some, it has had the opposite effect. Greco wrestlers who were already close to their competitive weight had to decide whether to go up or down. Although this is a part of international competition the athletes were fully aware of coming into this year, it did not make the greater part of their 2015-16 campaigns any easier. But now, they are being rewarded, and in a big way.
Stay tuned for more on this story plus other news coming soon!