Bellator President Scott Coker has not been afraid to try anything since signing on with the promotion in 2014. One of his unique ideas was signing a trio of Olympic hopeful wrestlers who would debut upon completion of their wrestling careers. This weekend, the three signees, Aaron Pico, Ed Ruth and Tyrell Fortune will take to the mats to attempt to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team. The two-day tournament which takes place April 9-10 will air live and free on NBCSports.com. The Saturday and Sunday finals will air on NBCSN.
The following is a breakdown of the Bellator signings’ path to making the team and some of the biggest potential roadblocks.
Aaron Pico (65 kg)
After only one season of high school wrestling, Pico signed with the Zinkin Entertainment management team. The move essentially constituted turning professional and thus eliminated the option of wrestling in high school or college. Less than a year later, he signed with Bellator.
So far in his career, Pico has claimed a Cadet World Championship and picked up a pair of Junior World medals. This past year on the senior level, he has picked up bronze medals at the Alexander Medved International and the Bill Farrell International.
Pico, who is still only 19 years old, earned a spot in the trials with a four place finish at the U.S. Nationals. He reached the semifinals with a 10-3 victory over two-time NCAA champion Kellen Russell. In the next round, Pico was forced to the consolation bracket by four-time NCAA champion Logan Stieber.
The trials bracket will also include a trio of 2015 world team members. Since the Olympics features fewer weight classes than the world championships, Brent Metcalf, Reece Humphrey and world bronze medalist James Green will all compete for the single spot at 65 kg. Metcalf and Humphrey both hold recent victories over Pico.
2015 World Team member – Brent Metcalf
2015 World Team member – Reece Humphrey
2015 World Team member – James Green
2015 Bill Farrell International champion – Jordan Oliver
2015 U.S. Nationals/Olympic Trials Qualifier champion – Jimmy Kennedy
2015 U.S. Nationals/Olympic Trials Qualifier runner-up – Logan Stieber
2015 U.S. Nationals/Olympic Trials Qualifier fourth place – Aaron Pico
2015 U.S. Nationals/Olympic Trials Qualifier fifth place – Kellen Russell
2015 U.S. Nationals/Olympic Trials Qualifier sixth place – Frank Molinaro
2015 U.S. Nationals/Olympic Trials Qualifier seventh place – Jason Chamberlain
2016 Dave Schultz Memorial champion – Jayson Ness
2016 NCAA Div. I champion – Dean Heil
2016 NCAA Div. I champion – Zain Retherford
2016 Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier champion – Bernard Futrell