Jordan Holm (85 kg, Minnesota Storm) had the Pan American Olympic Qualifier in his sights right from the start of the season, and he made good on it by coming away with a gold medal and another weight qualified for the US prior to next month’s Olympic Trials.
Holm was barely challenged throughout, cruising through his bracket with Yorgen Cova Pulido (VEN) providing the most resistance in what was a 3-0 victory for the American.
With the weight now qualified, the World Teamer can now focus on Iowa City, where he could see challenges from teammate and reigning National champ Jake Clark — as well as 2012 Olympian Ben Provisor (NYAC) and Pan Am Games winner Jon Anderson (Army/WCAP).
Holm’s first victim was Alexander Brown-Thieriault (CAN), a dual-style wrestler who was not of the same competitive level. The points piled up quickly, as Holm raced out to a dominant tech. Up next was the aforementioned Pulido, who played a tight yet controlled game, doing his best not to open up against Holm’s attacks. In the finals, Alfonso Yepez (MEX) (who pretty much appeared to want to be anywhere else but on that mat) had no answer for what was coming, despite his best efforts to scamper out of trouble. It was another tech fall for Holm, and one that brought with it a gold that further cemented the Minnesotan’s status as the man to beat next month at Carver Hawkeye Arena.
The gauntlet has been thrown down. Holm wanted to accomplish qualifying the weight and he did just that. With the Olympic Trials looming ever closer, there is now approximately a four week break until the next battles begin. It’ll be interesting to see where and how things stack up in Iowa, but Holm has already planted his flag.
Close Call for Rau
’14 World Team member and this year’s National champ Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) had a great tournament. Impressive, even. The only problem? He was unable to qualify 98 kilograms.
Rau’s day got twisted up in the semifinals, as Yasmany Lugo Cabrera (CUB) snagged a headlock that resulted in a fall. Rau came back nicely to earn a bronze via tech over David Albino (BRA). Couple that with his first-round win over Pan Ams silver medalist Kevin Mejia Castillo (HON), and under any other circumstance, this would have been looked at as a very strong showing.
There are two more shots for Rau and the other Americans who failed to qualify their weights: Mongolia in April and Turkey two weeks after that. While it would have been nice for the US to secure their qualifications before the Trials, it also isn’t a path that has not been paved before, either.
Hafizov Comes Up Short
’08 Olympian Ildar Hafizov (59 kg, Army/WCAP) began the day on a high note, notching a breezy 9-2 win over Ali Mejias of Mexico. But he ran into trouble in his second match with Steven Takahashi (CAN) in a surprising shootout. Hafisov was actually in control towards the end. However, Takahashi kept coming and opportunistically hit on a four pointer in the final :10 to down the Uzbek-American. Takahashi failed to make the finals, thus eliminating Hafizov.
The Pan Am Qualifier ended with three weights still in need of qualification – 59 kg, 66 kg, and 98 kg. The Olympic Trials will arrive sooner on the calendar than either of the other qualifying opportunities. The US team now needs to regroup and zero in on its collective goal of coming out of Iowa City with the strongest representatives possible to get the job done. It’s not all a mess. There were strong performances both weekends, and it is clear that the athletes are beginning to near peak levels of fitness. Hopefully, confidence follows closely behind.