Already, two Minnesotans--triathlete Gwen Jorgensen of St. Paul and track cyclist Kelly Catlin of Arden Hills--have secured places on the U.S. team for this summer's Rio Olympics. We could see a couple more make the team Saturday and Sunday at the Olympic trials for wrestling in Iowa City. So it seemed like the ideal time to resurrect the Star Tribune's Olympic blog.
This blog will keep you updated on Minnesota's Olympic hopefuls in the coming months. Team Strib also will be covering some of the Olympic trials--including wrestling--and will be in Rio. Today, we have a look ahead to the wrestling trials, and news on Jorgensen and gymnast Maggie Nichols of Little Canada.
The official count of Minnesota-connected athletes at the wrestling trials has climbed to 22. You can find a partial list and other trials info here. Last weekend, five more wrestlers qualified. Apple Valley senior Mark Hall will compete in freestyle (74 kilograms). In Greco-Roman, Donny Longendyke (130kg), Alec Ortiz (75kg) and Justin LaValle (59kg) of the Minnesota Storm club and Crosby's Hayden Zillmer (85kg) were added to the field. There also are two others who were missing from our original list: Apple Valley's Mason Manville (75kg, Greco-Roman) and Matt Meuleners (125kg, freestyle), who wrestled for Central High School in Norwood Young America.
As usual, Minnesota is sending a large and powerful contingent of Greco-Roman wrestlers to the trials. There has been at least one Minnesota-connected wrestler on every Olympic team dating to 1968, and several guys have an excellent shot at keeping that streak going.
This morning, USA Wrestling released a fresh set of Greco-Roman rankings in advance of the trials. Three Minnesotans are No. 1 in their weight class, led by two-time world bronze medalist Andy Bisek, a Chaska native. Bisek's 2015 world bronze medal means he advances directly to Sunday's best-of-three championship series, where he will face a challenger determined by Sunday's preliminary matches. Northfield native and Golden Valley resident Jordan Holm is No. 1 at 85kg, and Joe Rau of Minneapolis is No. 1 at 98kg.
Holm and Bisek earned automatic No. 1 rankings for the trials because they were on the U.S. team that competed at the 2015 world championships and qualified their weight classes for the Olympics. The trials winners at 75kg, 85kg and 98kg are assured of competing at the Olympics. Winners in the other three weights still have to qualify for the Rio Games and will have two chances to do so.
Check the blog for news from the preliminary sessions at the trials. We'll post a wrapup after Saturday and Sunday prelims, and I'll be tweeting throughout the competition. Follow me @BlountStrib for updates.
In other news:
--Nichols had been named to the U.S. team competing at this weekend's Pacific Rim Championships in Everett, Wash., but withdrew Tuesday. USA Gymnastics says Nichols has "a slight knee injury'' suffered after the team was selected. Nichols has been replaced by Ragan Smith of Texas, who moved up to the senior ranks this year and has gotten off to a great start.
The Americans are sending plenty of heavy hitters to the meet, including 2015 world gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Brenna Dowell. Nichols has plenty of recovery time before the major Olympic selection meets. The Secret U.S. Classic is June 3-5, the U.S. championships are June 23-25 and the Olympic trials are July 8-10.
--Jorgensen kicks off her ITU World Triathlon Series season Friday at Australia's ITU World Triathlon Gold Coast. She won an ITU World Cup event in New Zealand last week.
Jorgensen is trying to build on her 15-race win streak in ITU competition, which dates to May 2014. If you live in St. Paul, you might have seen her training last fall. During her short offseason here, Jorgensen and her husband, former pro cyclist Pat Lemieux, live above a St. Paul bike shop. She swims at St. Thomas and does her riding and running on Twin Cities trails.