“It’s the farthest I’ve ever driven to go see her wrestle,” Doug Francis said about the 750-mile trip he’ll make this weekend to see his daughter, Victoria, compete at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, TX. If all goes well, an even longer trip may be in store for the proud father.
Victoria Francis is one of the nearly 200 young women and men who will be vying for a spot on the United States Olympic wrestling team in Fort Worth on April 2 and 3, with just 15 receiving the privilege of representing their country in the 2021 Tokoyo Olympics.
Of the 15 spots, six go to women, who compete at 50, 53, 57, 62, 68 and 76 kilograms at the Olympic level. Francis is one of the world’s best at a “tweener” weight, placing fifth at 72 kilograms in the 2019 World Championships.
Originally, Francis was planning to compete at 68 kilos, but a year-long delay of the trials due to COVID-19 and a test run at that weight, she opted to go back to 76 kilos, where she was the runner-up behind Adeline Gray in 2016.
Either way, Francis had a world champion waiting for her in the Olympic trials, with Gray a five-time world champion including a win in 2019, waiting at 76 kilos and 2019 world champ Tamyra Mesah-Stock already in the finals at 68 kilograms.
Gray has a free pass to the finals thanks to her world championship and will face one of the 14 women competing to dethrone the former Olympian in a best-of-three final.
Of those 14, Francis is seeded second, with 2019 NAIA and Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association national champion Dymond Guilford the only one ranked higher.
The two top seeds have faced off twice recently, with Guilford winning 4-2 and 10-0. This, however, will be Guilford’s first trip to the Olympic trials, giving Francis an edge in experience.
NBC Olympics will present exclusive live coverage of every match of the US Olympic Team Trials. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 3, NBCSN will present exclusive live coverage of the championship series, where 18 champions will be crowned across all weight classes in men’s freestyle, women’s freestyle, and Greco-Roman disciplines.
NBCSN’s live coverage begins with the challenge tournament finals on Friday, April 2, at 6:30 p.m. NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app will live stream all television coverage and provide exclusive coverage of select matches on Saturday evening.
NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, will present more than 40 hours of live exclusive Trials coverage, getting underway with challenge tournament finals on Friday, April 2, at 10 a.m. and continuing at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, 12 hours of exclusive challenge tournament finals coverage will begin at noon.
In addition to her own matches, Francis will also have an eye on two other wrestlers. A coach at Life University in Georgia, Francis will be rooting for two of her athletes, Peyton Prussin (the eighth seed at 53 kilograms) and Jordan Nelson (the ninth seed at 76 kilograms), at least until Nelson becomes an opponent.
Regardless of how this weekend’s tournament shakes out, Francis has proven that she’s not only one of the top wrestlers in the country, but she’s also a role model and advocate for the sport she loves. A glance at her social media shows that she tirelessly promotes wrestling and equality, striving to help promote opportunities in the sport, and beyond, that she herself may not have been given.
The motto of the Tokyo Olympics is “United by Emotion” and is meant to emphasize the power of sport to bring together people from diverse backgrounds to connect and celebrate in a way that reaches beyond their differences.
If that’s the goal, then Francis is already a champion, whether she makes it to Japan or not.