USA Olympic Trials: Wrestling and Judo

The Trials will be broadcast this weekend on MSNBC. Be sure to check your local listings. Although the Olympics come every four years, athletes spend a lifetime preparing for their chance to represent their country. For athletes in the disciplines of both wrestling (Freestyle and Greco-Roman) as well as Judo, the last stop on the road to Beijing 2008 was Las Vegas, where the Olympic Trials were held June 13-15. Being that the Trials only come every four years, there was certainly a sense of drama about the competition. This was only heightened by the bitter realization that for more than a few athletes, if they didn’t win this would be their last competition in the sports they have dedicated and sacrificed so much for. Only one athlete from each weight class would have the honor of going on to represent the United States at the Olympics. Athletes competed year long to even qualify for the Trials. Tops seeds had an extra advantage in that a loss would not automatically eliminate them from contention, rather it would force a best out of three series. This means even if a #2 seed hoped to topple a #1 seed, they would have defeat them three times to get the berth! As a practitioner of Jiu Jitsu and the submission grappling arts I could definitely appreciate what I was watching, even if I didn’t fully understand it. It was absolutely a blast to watch, and there were many things to learn from watching some of the top athletes in grappling give it everything they had. There was a reported attendance of just over 22,000 spectators for the weekend, many rabid fans of the sport who were far more informed than I was, and many who had made long journeys to Vegas to support their friends and families as they pursued their Olympic Dream. There were a few names I recognized and I getting in the spirit of things I would often choose favorites and cheer for one competitor or the other, however at the end of day the cheers came the loudest for those who had made it, and had earned the right to represent my country, the United States of America at the 2008 Olympics. Beyond Beijing, it’s a pretty safe guess that a number of these athletes will eventually make the transition to Mixed Martial Arts, and with the high level of athleticism and skill they bring they certainly have the potential to be a force quickly. One of the highest profile wrestlers who will definitely be making the the leap is “King” Mo Lawal who is already training with Dan Henderson and Team Quest. On this day he had other things on his mind, as he was upset by #2 seed Andy Hrovat. A training partner and friend of Rafael Lovato Jr.’s managed to take second in the under 100kg division of Judo. One person going to the Olympics I recognized was Clarissa Chun, the Women’s Freestyle Wrestling 48 Kilo champion, who is known to hang out in Jiu Jitsu schools as well. Backstage at a MMA event at Hawaii I thought I saw her take down former UFC champion Matt Hughes, although I cannot accurately attest to the number of Mai Tai cocktails imbued by everyone involved. The Trials themselves were a tremendous event, full of emotion, competition and at the end it just made me feel proud to be an American. The Trials will be broadcast this weekend on MSNBC. Be sure to check your local listings. Full Results for the Wrestling Trials can be found here: Full Results for the Judo Trials can be found here: The Trials will be broadcast this weekend on MSNBC. Be sure to check your local listings.

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