Wisconsin redshirt senior Seth Gross will take his first crack at qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Trials in freestyle this weekend at the Bill Farrell Memorial International in New York.
The winner of each weight class secures a place in the tournament that sets the United States’ roster for the 2020 Olympics.
“This is the first one. It is going to be loaded,” Wisconsin head coach Chris Bono said at his weekly press conference. “There is national champs upon national champs going to be in this weight.”
Gross is one of six NCAA champions in the field at 57 kilograms in the first trials qualifier of this Olympic cycle. Calling this weekend an incredible challenge is a drastic understatement.
So what’s the gameplan?
“He has got to go be Seth Gross,” said Bono. “He’s somebody that I don’t count out of anything. He’s very capable. He’s been on some world teams and competed at the world level. He’s won a lot in this international style of wrestling throughout every age group. There’s no reason why he can’t go win this tournament. There’s no reason why he can’t make the Olympic team this year.”
Gross’ decision to compete at 57 kilos has come with some concern from outside observers.
For the bulk of his folkstyle career, Gross has competed at 133 pounds – a weight many believe is a significant weight cut in and of itself. This weekend, he will have to make weight at 125.663 pounds, a weight class he has not competed at since 2012.
His head coach isn’t concerned.
“His weight has been great,” Bono said. “He has been very, very light. He’s weighed-in under the weight class every time he has weighed in for each dual meet at 133 pounds. And he’s focused. This has been on his radar since he got healthy. This is one of the reasons we don’t have a match this weekend is to give this guy … an opportunity to go try to qualify this weekend.”
Gross isn’t the only athlete in the UW wrestling room with his eyes set on reaching wrestling’s pinnacle.
“We have a lot of guys in that room with Olympic aspirations,” Bono said. “Evan Wick is another guy that maybe we talked about sending this event who will try to make it [to the Olympic Trials] at one point.”
“To have Seth actually going through it right now is amazing. It’s hard on Seth, he’s been training in two different styles of wrestling. He’s had to come down a weight class. He’s doing a great job and showing everybody what it takes to be an Olympic champion and that’s very important when it comes to leading these young guys.”
Gross started his folkstyle season with a 5-0 record for the Badgers. He is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation at 133 pounds and also holds down the top spot in FloWrestling’s pound-for-pound rankings.
Bono views this weekend as an opportunity to showcase the type of culture he and his staff are trying to impart in Madison.
“This is what we are trying to really establish here,” said Bono. “When we came here and started to change the program and create a culture, it is about winning at the highest level. And winning an olympic gold medal is the highest level.”