April 22, 2013
LAS VEGAS -
The Army wrestling program was strongly represented at this past weekend's Las Vegas/ASICS U.S. Open as Black Knight assistant coaches Enock Francois and Dan Mitcheff both qualified for the World Team Trials following top-seven showings.
The World Team Trials will be hosted by Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla., over the weekend of June 21-23.
"Upon assuming the role as head coach, one of my top priorities was to find a young, intelligent and motivated coaching staff whose values aligned with the West Point Way and the vision of Army wrestling," said Army head coach Joe Heskett. "I was seeking three coaches, two of which still had the desire to be the World's best, but could delicately balance building a top program. Coach Francois and coach Mitcheff competed masterfully this weekend, proving to the nation that they are legitimate title contenders for a 2016 Olympic spot."
Fellow Army assistant coach Paul Young, who was a standout wrestler at Indiana University before joining the Black Knights' staff, provided tremendous help in the training of both Francois and Mitcheff over the past year. He was extremely proud of what his colleagues achieved last weekend.
"It is rare two have a pair of Olympic hopefuls on one coaching staff," said Young. "These are very exciting times for Army wrestling."
Francois entered last weekend's tournament unseeded, but made it into the U.S. Open after posting a perfect 2-0 mark in Thursday's qualifying tournament. He then set the tone on Friday with a victory over former NCAA champion and second-ranked Max Askren.
Francois went on to beat a second former NCAA champion when he downed Cam Simaz in two straight periods. He ended up finishing seventh in his weight class to qualify for the World Team Trials.
"I felt like I competed well last weekend," said Francois. "I went into the tournament with a mindset of knowing I was going to win. While I fell short of that goal, I was able to secure a qualification position to wrestle in the World Team Trials, which I am very optimistic about. I made my fair share of mistakes this past weekend, but that only means I have a ton of room for growth and improvement. I am excited to keep learning. If this competition proved one thing to me, it's reaffirming the fact that I know I can win, and I can win now."
Mitcheff began the tournament as the eighth-seeded wrestler at 60kg. He moved up from 55kg, and had only wrestled in two previous tournaments at the heavier weight, which is considered to be one of the deepest in the country.
"The transition from the 55kg to the 60kg weight class was not easy for me last year," said Mitcheff. "At that time, I wasn't 100 percent sure if moving up a weight class was the best thing for me. After an unsuccessful attempt to make weight at 55kg at a tournament, I decided to move up a weight class. I didn't have the success I hoped after I moved up a weight, but my mind was at ease because I knew I could fully commit to training at the new weight class."
Mitcheff quickly opened peoples' eyes with his last second loss to Olympic bronze medalist Coleman Scott. He went on to have an outstanding tournament from an execution standpoint and placed sixth, which sends him to the World Team Trials.
"I felt great at the tournament," said Mitcheff of his performance last weekend. "I felt 100 percent confident and comfortable at 60kg after my first match. My next bout was against an Olympic bronze medalist, and I thought I wrestled very well. I was ahead in the third period, but wasn't able to secure the win. Although it took some time for me to feel fully comfortable wrestling at 60kg, I'm happy that I moved up."
Both Francois and Mitcheff represent the West Point Wrestling Club, which was founded in 2011 shortly after Heskett's arrival. Francois serves as head coach of the WPWC, which runs a youth club out of Army's wrestling room.
"Establishing the WPWC was a top priority when I arrived here," noted Heskett. "This weekend the West Point Wrestling Club was mentioned a lot over the loud speaker as both Enock and Dan were winning big-time matches."
Those interested in joining the West Point Wrestling Club are encouraged to log onto www.westpointwrestlingclub.org.