Iowa City, IA — The Minnesota Storm advanced four athletes to the finals of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials this weekend in Iowa City, Iowa. Both Andy Bisek (above) and Joe Rau were victorious in the finals, effectively extending the Minnesota Training Center’s record streak of representing the United States in every Olympics since 1968. Jake Clark (85 kg/187 lbs) and Pat Smith (66 kg/145 lbs) also advanced to the finals at their respective weights.
Bisek (75 kg/165 lbs) was the only Greco Roman athlete to enter the Olympic Team Trials with a bye to the finals. It was an advantage that he had earned by finishing with medals in both the 2014 and 2015 World Championships. His opponent, Geordan Speiller, worked his way through the challenge bracket to face Bisek in the finals. Speiller came into the event with significant wins under his belt this season, including a win over reigning world champion, Peter Bacsi, of Hungary. Speiller’s style lends him to pursue high-scoring, high-amplitude techniques while Bisek is known remain solid in all positions and force his position throughout a match.
In each match of the best of three format, Bisek controlled the pace, scored in parterre position and was able to secure the win with strong pummeling on the feet. Speiller let a few attempts fly near the end, but was never able to close the gap.
Joe Rau dropped his first match versus Caylor Williams of the U.S. Army, but showed tremendous poise and grit, battling his way back to win the next two matches in the best of three format, walking away as champion of the Olympic Team Trials. Rau will take a short break, then refocus on qualifying his weight class to compete in Rio through the final qualifying series events to take place in Uzbekistan and, if necessary, Turkey.
Pat Smith opened his finals series with a 2-0 win over Ravaughn Perkins. In his second bout, he fell 2-2, losing by criteria, in a match that was plagued with controversial calls. In the third and deciding match, Perkins secured the win.
Jake Clark, competing in his fourth U.S. Olympic Team Trials, advanced to the finals with technical falls in his quarter and semifinal bouts. In the finals he fell to returning Olympian, Ben Provisor. In defeat, Jake received a standing ovation from the crowd as he left the arena. It was a clear demonstration of gratitud
e and respect for Clark’s impressive career, but perhaps especially for the brand of class and dignity that he managed to display in a moment of difficult defeat. He embraced Provisor at the center of the mat, acknowledged the crowd, and exited the arena in a way that many coaches hope their athletes will emulate. He was all class. Much like he’s been throughout his career.
With 18 qualifiers, 4 finalists, and 2 champions, the Minnesota Storm put together an impressive tournament in Iowa City. Rau and Bisek will be busy all summer as they look ahead to the Olympic Games in Rio.
Rau’s thoughts immediately after his big win: