By Markos Tsegaye

Three members of the Minnesota Storm earned a spot in the 2023 Final X after qualifying at the World Team Trials. The event features the two best wrestlers of each weight class matching up in a best-of-three series to earn a spot on the United States World Team. 

Patrick Smith, Christian DuLaney and Ryan Epps will travel to Newark, NJ, to represent the Storm in the event on June 10 at the Prudential Center. After earning qualification, the wrestlers are looking forward to capitalizing on the opportunity. 

Courtesy of USA Wrestling

While Epps didn’t have much time to prepare for the physicality he would see at the World Team Trials, he said his mental preparation allowed him to put on a good showing. He now looks forward to knocking off his opponent, Spencer Woods, and earning a spot on the World Team. 

“Just kind of doing the same thing I have been doing and believing in my training,” Epps said. “I know some of the things he [Woods] does, I just have to work towards my technique and not worry so much about what he does.”

Epps said he’s going into the Prudential Center with a lot of confidence and trust in the work he has been doing. 

“To have a chance to be representing the United States at the World Championships would be a pretty big accomplishment in my career,” Epps said. 

Courtesy of USA Wrestling

DuLaney is proud of his work to earn a Final X spot but understands that there’s more work to be done. His opponent, Joe Rau, placed first in his weight category at the Pan-American Championships in May. 

“He’s [Rau] a good opponent, he’s been on the World Team before but I’m good as well,” DuLaney said. “I’ve watched some of his matches and I wrestled him a few years ago.”

DuLaney is dialing in on certain aspects of his preparation but not much has changed in that regard. He spent most of the Storm’s practice session on May 30 working with Epps on par terre.

Courtesy of USA Wrestling

After losing in the US Open, Smith said earning a Final X spot was good for his psyche. He said he was proud of his response to the setback he suffered. 

“To be able to get in a good headspace and be able to go out and compete in the way that I know I can was good,” Smith said. “Chandler’s got us in the right spot, it’s a cool opportunity for us and I think we’re very, very ready.” 

Smith said he’s been focused on wrestling a clean match against his opponent at Final X, Justus Scott, and understanding what Scott will bring to the matchup. He said something that’s missing from his career is a satisfactory performance at the World Championships. 

“Those opportunities aren’t guaranteed, it’s a long process and I’d just be really grateful to get another opportunity to represent the US at the World Championships,” Smith said.” 

Much of Smith’s practice session on May 30 was spent with Justin LaValle, his longtime friend and state Greco-Roman coach for Minnesota. Smith said LaValle helped in offering him different looks. 


To watch the Storm in action at the 2023 Final X, a livestream will be made available on FloWrestling. 


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