OTTAWA, CANADA -- Anthony Ashnault is one step closer to his ultimate goal.
After winning the 70-kilogram gold medal at the Pan-American Championships on Monday, the South Plainfield native and 2019 NCAA Champion at Rutgers secured a spot to compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials next month.
The trials will take place from April 4-5 at Penn State. Seventy kilograms, which is a little more than 154 pounds, is not used at the Olympics, so Ashnault will most likely tryout at 65 kilograms, which is just over 143 pounds. Ashnault, the Scarlet Knights first-ever four-time All-American, started out his college career at 141 pounds before winning a title at 149.
At the Pan-American Championships, the 25-year-old went 4-0 with three pins in the round-robin event. He was named the most Outstanding Wrestler.
In the first round, Ashnault pinned Barbados’ Ranico Howard in only 21 seconds. He then went on to win by fall again over Brandon Diaz Ramirez from Mexico in 2:44. Next, Ashnault topped Cruiz Manning of Canada by technical fall, 12-2, before pinning Hugo De Lima Viana De Souza of Brazil in the final in just 51 seconds.
Ashnault also took first place at the Pan-Am Championships last year.
Team USA won six of its finals en route to an overall first place finish atop the standings with a total of 205 points.
This past May, the three-time Big Ten champ, Rutgers’ all-time wins leader, and four-time undefeated New Jersey high school state champion, suffered a knee injury in a match with James Green, who is from Willingboro, at the World Team Trials in North Carolina. This was Ashnault’s first wrestling tournament since.
“My goal is to still continue to the senior level. My focus has been on getting better. I’m still aiming for it. I’ll have to beat some of the better guys in the weight class,” Ashnault told TAPinto South Plainfield last month after his NCAA title banner was unveiled at the RAC in Piscataway. “I’m ready to go right now.”
Joining Ashnault at the Olympic Team Trials will be fellow NCAA champion and Scarlet Knight Nick Suriano, who is expected to grapple at 57 kilograms. Like Ashnault, Suriano was also a four-time undefeated New Jersey high school first place finisher. Suriano qualified for the Trials after taking fourth place at the Senior National Tournament in December.
Ashnault couldn’t partake in that event sinee was cleared from his knee injury too soon beforehand.
The 2020 Summer Olympics runs from July 24-August 9 in Tokyo, Japan.
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.