CORALVILLE, Iowa (AP) The U.S. wrestling team will find out this weekend which 18 athletes will earn the right to represent their country at the Summer Olympics.
Half the wrestlers who make the team might not make it to Rio, though.
The U.S. has earned spots in just nine of 18 classes ahead of the Olympic Team Trials, which start Saturday in Iowa City. The U.S. still has plenty of chances to add Olympic berths in upcoming tournaments in Mongolia and Turkey, so for many of the wrestlers who win team spots this weekend, the path to Rio will have just begun.
Here are some of the things to watch as the Americans fill out their 2016 team:
Jordan Burroughs (74 kilograms) isn't just the best wrestler in the U.S. He's arguably the top pound-for-pound wrestler in the world, and his path to the Olympics should be smooth. As a defending world champion, Burroughs won't have to wrestler until a best-of-three final. That means the rest of the athletes at 74 kilograms will have to wrestle through a grueling qualification bracket just to earn the right to face Burroughs, who is 122-2 at the international level with three world titles and a gold medal from the 2012 Olympics.
Ohio State's Kyle Snyder last summer became the youngest world champion in U.S. history at just 19. Snyder scuttled plans to take an Olympic redshirt in January and went on to win the heavyweight title at the recent NCAA championships despite giving up roughly 40 pounds to his opponent, Nick Gwiazdowski of North Carolina State. Snyder, like Burroughs, won't wrestle until the finals at 97 kilograms, where 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner could await him.
''The more you compete, the more you allow yourself to learn,'' Snyder said.
Three-time world champion Adeline Gray is the best hope the U.S. has at winnings its first gold medal in women's Olympic wrestling, which dates to 2004. Gray qualified for Rio at 75 kilograms by winning a world championship in Las Vegas and she's on a 35-match winning streak that dates back almost three years.
''The fact that we don't have any Olympic gold medals right now is really kind of sad. The U.S. is a dominant country in this sport,'' said Gray, a defending two-time world champion. ''I'm really looking forward to being on the top of the podium.''
A CLEARER PATH
The 86-kilogram men's freestyle competition features a slew of past collegiate stars who bulked up in order to avoid Burroughs. Kyle Dake, the only wrestler to win four NCAA titles at four separate weights, is ranked second behind 2012 Olympian Jake Herbert. Past NCAA champions Ed Ruth and David Taylor, both of whom trained under Olympic champion Cael Sanderson at Penn State, should also be strong contenders. This is a weight that could produce a medal for the U.S. this summer - if the Americans earn a spot.
The U.S. has guaranteed Olympic spots in 57, 74, 97 and 125 kilograms in men's freestyle, 63 and 75 kilograms in women's freestyle, and 75, 85 and 130 kilograms in Greco-Roman, which only men compete in ... Erin Clogdo and veteran Elena Pirozhkova figure to be the top contenders in the women's 63-kg tournament ... Andy Bisek (75 kg) is the only Greco-Roman wrestler who has earned a berth in the finals in his division. Heavyweight Robby Smith is also a strong favorite in Greco-Roman, a discipline the U.S. has struggled with in the past.
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