Breaking Down The Men's Pan Ams Team Trials

USA Weightlifting will be holding their Olympic Trials at Senior Nationals in Salt Lake City on Sunday May 8th. The final two sessions of Nationals are devoted to the men's Pan Ams trials and the women's Olympic trials. Since the men haven't earned any spots to Rio yet, their trials will be aimed at selecting a team for Pan Ams in June.

The U.S men's team ranking just wasn't high enough in the past 2 years of World Championships to earn any. There was an unprecedented amount of positive doping results through the testing of the World Anti-Doping Agency at the 2015 World Championships in Houston, and if sanctions are upheld, it is theoretically possible that the U.S. might earn spots if they are taken from other countries, but as of now, we don't have any.

We still do have the chance to earn a single spot through the Continental Qualification Event (Pan Am Championships) this June in Cartagena, Colombia. USAW has specified 3 paths to determine who gets to go to the Olympics. Paths 1 & 2 have to do with assigning Olympic team slots earned through placement at the last two World Championships (of which we have none). Path 3 specifies that in this situation, should we earn a spot at the 2016 Pan Am Championships, it will be given to the athlete that places highest at that event, and therefore earns us the most team points. So as of now, any male athlete with visions of competing in the 2016 Olympic Games needs to be on the Pan Am team. Even if we end up getting more Olympic spots due to doping sanctions, the athlete that gains the spot through Pan Ams is likely to keep it.

This means getting onto the Pan Am team has taken on a great deal of importance. USAW has projected each athletes placement at Pan Ams within their own weight class by comparing their best total with the average of the totals of the top 25 athletes in their weight class at the last 2 World Championships. The team will be 8 athletes and 2 alternates.

The Current Pan Am Team

Alex Lee (69)
Kendrick Farris (94)
Colin Burns (94)
James Tatum (85)
Caine Wilkes (105+)
Travis Cooper (77)
Anthony Pomponio (85)
Leo Hernandez (77)
Wes Kitts (105)
C.J. Cummings (69)

Without any Olympic spots as of yet, the trials session at Senior Nationals has become a Pan Ams Qualification trial. Any athlete that wishes to be on the Pan Am team must score a total high enough to bump an athlete off of this list. Rules stipulate that the U.S. cannot bring more than 2 athletes in any particular weight class.

The Contenders

All 10 athletes currently ranked on the team will be attending trials in an effort to respond to any total achieved by one of the other lifters who could threaten their placement on the Pan Am team. Here are the 6 other contenders:

Angelo Bianco (77)
D'Angelo Osorio (105)
Norik Vardanian (94)
Donovan Ford (105)
Spencer Moorman (105)
Cameron Swart (105+)

Angelo Bianco (77)

Angelo wins my tough spot award. His current total of 323kg@77kg actually ranks higher than C.J. Cummings, however the presence of Leo Hernandez and Travis Cooper in his weight class makes his life difficult, because the U.S. cannot bring a third 77. Angelo's 327 total as a slightly heavy 85kg lifter at the IWF Grand Prix in Kazan this past March isn't high enough to bump either 85 off the list either. So he has two athletes in each weight class he has competed in above him. His best chance of making the team would be for him to beat Leo Hernandez's 327 at the trials.

D'Angelo Osorio (105)

D'Angelo is just on the outside looking in. D'Angelo is projected to place in the same position at Pan Ams as C.J. Cummings (24th), but loses the tiebreak (% of the next higher total on the list). The good news is that Wes Kitts is the only 105 ranked on the team, so D'Angelo needs to put 4kg onto his total and make a 363 to bump C.J. off of the team.

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Norik Vardanian (94)

On paper Norik looks to have a steep hill to climb Both the 2nd and 3rd ranked athletes on the list are in his weight class, but do not count Norik out. In December he put up a 373 total at the President's Cup in Grozny setting American record in the snatch (171) and total along the way, which would place him above both Farris and Burns, bumping Burns off the team. He recently posted an incredible looking 173kg snatch on social media as well.

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Donovan Ford (105)

The wildcard 105, Donovan put up a 370 total at the 2015 Senior Nationals in Dallas, and a 363 weighing 108kg at the IWF Grand Prix in Kazan. Either of which would place him on the team with the current rankings.

Spencer Moorman (105)

The fourth 105 at the Pan Am trials, is also just on the outside with a 366 total from 2015 Senior Nationals. The 105s are absolutely going to be putting it all out there at trials with Kitts, Osorio, Ford and Moorman all with a legitimate chance at making the Pan Am team. It looks fairly clear that of the 4, the two that total the highest at trials in May should be on the team.

Cameron Swart (105+)

Out of Houston, Cameron Swart has a posted 385 entry total going into trials. Swart is only the second superheavy that will be attending trials, and as one of the last athletes that will hit the platform he will know exactly what numbers he would need to hit in order to take one of the 10 spots. Cameron has an excellent chance of making the team. A 374 total projects to place 23rd in the projections, which would be enough to bump C.J. Cummings off of the team.

The action is sure to be amazing. The 94s and 105s are sure to be the classes to watch, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the American record snatch in either class fall at trials in May.

Reporting contributed by Neil Kanterman. Neil is a masters athlete that found weightlifting through CrossFit on the far side of 40 years old.  He coaches with Danny Camargo of Team Oly Concepts in South Florida when he isn't seeing patients as a Pediatric Ophthalmologist, and is the 2016 National Masters Champion in the 45-49 year old 105kg class.

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