12 Former PA Wrestlers Qualify for Olympic Trials

For many of the United State’s most talented wrestlers it has been a long four years of training, waiting, and competing. A few are college coaches who still have some unfinished business to take care of. Some have graduated in the past four years and since been eyeing Olympic medals in addition to their NCAA medals. For others, their collegiate careers are still in progress and a spot on the Olympic Team is a more distant goal. Regardless of where competitors may be in their wrestling careers, the time has finally come to see which wrestlers will represent the United States of America in the 2012 Olympic Games to be held in London, England. There has been more promotion and excitement surrounding the 2012 Olympic Trials than in previous Olympic years, and just recently, NBC announced the Olympic Trials will be televised on a one-day tape-delay schedule with a record 67.5 hours of coverage.

The U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team will be decided during the weekend of April 21-22 in Iowa City, IA (for complete information click here). Twelve former Pennsylvania wrestlers have qualified to participate in the 2012 Trials, 11 in the Men’s Freestyle Division and 1 in the Men’s Greco-Roman Division. Below is a look at each PA wrestler.

Men’s Freestyle

55 kg/121 LBS

Former PA State Champion Mark McKnight earned his spot by finishing third at the 2011 Olympic Trials Qualifier. McKnight graduated from Chartiers Valley High School where he was a PIAA Class AAA State Champion at 119 LBS his senior season. McKnight went on to the University of Buffalo where he was a NCAA Division I National qualifier each of his first two seasons. McKnight transfered to Penn State his junior year and once again qualified for the NCAA Division I National Tournament but fell one match shy of earning All-American status. Finally during his final season at Penn State McKnight earned All-American honors finishing fourth at 125 LBS in 2008. McKnight will be competing for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club at the 2012 Olympic Trials.

60 kg/132 LBS

Three former Pennsylvania State Champions will be competing in the 60 kg Freestyle Division. Oddly enough there are many similarities between all three wrestlers. Former 3x PIAA State AAA Champion and NCAA Division I National Champion Coleman Scott will be joined by his former high school teammate Drew Headlee at the Olympic Trials. The Greene County natives won PA State titles at 103 LBS and 112 LBS respectively in 2002.  Scott was a 3x State Champion for Waynesburg Central High School earning titles in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Coleman Scott, competing for the Gator Wrestling Club, earned his spot by finishing as true third in the 2011 World Team Trials.

Also from Waynesburg Central, Headlee was a PIAA Class AAA State Champion in 2002 at 112 LBS his junior season, but senior season he failed to qualify for the State Tournament. Coleman Scott took his talents to Oklahoma State University where he was a NCAA Champion in 2008 at 133 LBS. During his sophomore season of 2006 Scott was a NCAA 5th place finisher and a NCAA runner-up his junior year in 2007. Headlee went on to Pittsburgh and had a successful collegate career winning two (EWL) titles and earning NCAA Division I All-American honors his senior season in 2005. Drew Headlee, competing for the Sunkist Kids, earned his spot recently by winning the 2012 Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier.

Oklahoma State University junior and 2011 NCAA Division I Champion and 2012 runner-up Jordan Oliver was selected as a wildcard for the 2012 Olympic Trials. Oliver was a 3x Pennsylvania State AAA Champion for Easton Area, earning the Outstanding Wrestler Award his junior season, and winning a Fargo Freestyle Division Junior National title in 2007. During the off-season of 2009 Oliver earned a Bronze medal in the 60 kg weight class at the FILA Junior World Championships in Turkey. Jordan Oliver will be competing for the Gator Wrestling Club at the 2012 Olympic Trials.

66 kg/145.5 LBS

A Pennsylvania wrestling legend who won four WPIAL Championships and four PA State Championships for Jefferson-Morgan High School in the late 80’s early 90’s, Cary Kolat has once again returned to USA Wrestling. Kolat previously earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in 2000 where he placed 9th in Sydney, Australia. The 38 year old Kolat was undefeated during his high school career amassing 137 wins with no defeats. Kolat attended Penn State University in his first 2 seasons of college  and was a NCAA Division I runner-up in his freshman season for the Nittany Lions. His sophomore year Kolat finished 3rd at the NCAA Division I Nationals after being upset in the semi-finals. Kolat than transfered to Lock Haven University and won the NCAA Championship in his final two seasons. Kolat ended his collegate career with a record of 111-7. Cary then solidified his spot in the U.S. Wrestling circle, competing in 13 International events, placing 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the World Championships between 1997-1999. Kolat is currently an assistant wrestling coach at the University of North Carolina. Cary Kolat, wrestling for the North Carolina Regional Training Center, earned his spot in the 2012 Olympic Trials by being a previous Olympic Team member and by winning the 2012 Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier in March of this year.

84 kg/185 LBS

Four of the eleven PA wrestlers competing at the 2012 Olympic Team Trials will be in the 84 kg bracket. Leading the way is previous World Silver medalist, 2x NCAA Division I Champion and Pennsylvania State Champion Jake Herbert. The North Allegheny High School graduate was a 2x POWERade Champion and PA State Champion his senior season. At Northwestern University Herbert claimed two NCAA titles, was a 4x All-American, a 3x Big Ten Champion, and a Hodge Trophy winner his senior season. Jake Herbert, who will compete for the New York Athletic Club, earned his spot in the 2012 Olympic Trials by finishing runner-up to Cael Sanderson at the 2011 World Team Trials.

Former 174 LBS NCAA Division I Champion at the University of Pittsburgh Keith Gavin wil join Herbert as an experienced freestyle competitor. At Lackawanna Trial High School Gavin was a PIAA Class AA State 7th place finisher his junior season and a 3rd place medal winner his senior year. Keith Gavin, who wrestles for the Lehigh Valley Athletic Club, has competed and medaled in multiple International events since ending his collegate career and earned his 2012 Olympic Team Trials spot by finishing true third at the 2011 World Team Trials.

Two current Penn State University wrestlers who both have NCAA Division I National Championships to their names were recently selected as wildcard participates in the 2012 Olympic Team Trials. Nittany Lion junior Quentin Wright was a 2x PIAA Class AAA State Champion from Bald Eagle Area High School and is currently a 3x NCAA All-American, finishing 6th his true-freshman season, winning the 184 LBS title his redshirt sophomore season and finishing as the runner-up this past season. Wright, who is competing for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, has competed at the National Freestyle level, most notably earning a FILA Junior Freestyle National Championship in 2008.

Wrght’s teammate and recently crowned NCAA Division I National Champion Ed Ruth was one of the last wildcard selections for the 2012 Olympic Team Trials. Ruth is a red-shirt sophomore at Penn State where he was a NCAA 3rd place finisher last season and a NCAA Champion at 174 LBS last month. Ruth, who spent three years at Susquehanna Township High School, was a PIAA State Medal winner before transferring to Blair Academy his senior season and earning a National Prep Championship. Competing for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, this will be largely the first time Ruth has competed in freestyle on a National level.

120 kg/211.5 LBS

A name most people may associate with professional (fake) wrestling these days is former Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle. Angle was a 1987 PIAA Class AAA State Champion at heavyweight for Mount Lebanon High School. At Clarion University Angle captured two NCAA Division I National Championships, in 1990 and 1992, both at heavyweight. Angle then USA Wrestling history as he went on to win a freestyle World Championship in 1995 and an Olympic Gold Medal in 1996. Angle is one of only four wrestlers to win the “Grand Slam” of wrestling, capturing a State title, an NCAA title, a World Championship, and a Olympic Gold Medal. Kurt Angle then entered the world of professional wrestling, signing contrats with the “World Wrestling Federation” (WWF) and later the “World Wrestling Entertainment” (WWE) and currently with “Total Nonstop Action Wrestling” (TNA). It is uncertain whether or not Angle will actually compete in the trials. Angle has been quoted as recently as last week saying he anticipates competing in the 2012 Olympic Trials despite recently suffering a hamstring injury.

120 kg/264.5 LBS

Former Easton Area wrestler Justin Grant surprised many when he qualified for the 2012 Olympic Team Trials by finishing 2nd at thee Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier late last month. While at Easton, Grant participated in wrestling and football, not beginning his wrestling career until his junior year of high school. In his senior year Grant qualified for the PIAA State Class AAA Tournament and placed 5th. Grant went on to Kutztown University for a year before transferring to Bloomsburg University where he wrestles. Justin Grant will be competing for the Husky Wrestling Club at the 2012 Olympic Trials.

Men’s Greco-Roman

120 kg/264.5 LBS

Former Pennsylvania District 9 heavyweight wrestler Tim Taylor from Clearfield Area High School will be the only PA representative in the Men’s Greco-Roman Division Olympic Team Trials. Taylor was a 2x PIAA State AAA medal winner placing fifth at heavyweight in both 1999 and 2000. Taylor was a 3x Pennsylvania State Class AAA Qualifier and a 2x Northwest Regional Champion at Clearfield. Taylor was also a 2x Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling State Champion in 1995 & 1996. Taylor has since competed primarily in Greco-Roman, winning an Armed Forces Championship in 2006, finishing as the runner-up in the 2008 Olympic Team Trials, and placing 2nd at the 2011 World Team Trials. Tim Taylor will be wrestling for Army at the 2012 Olympic Team Trials.

For a complete list of qualified participants click here.

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