"It's a comfortable position," said JMJC member Travis Stevens, who is ranked No. 1 nationally in the 81kg weight class. "I feel pretty confident and comfortable going on the mat and competing with anybody, especially with Jason as my coach."
"I'm very excited to be No. 1," added Katie Mocco, the top-ranked woman in the 78kg division. "You're protected in a way. You can make a mistake and lose, and you can still come back and win."
Liggett could have had that safety net had he stayed in the men's 60kg division, where he was ranked No. 1 nationally. But the 2007 Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School graduate moved up to the 66kg division this season, where he is currently ranked No. 4.
"It was getting hard (to stay at 60kg), and I figured I'm only 18 and 66kg is where I'd wind up anyway," said Liggett. "So, why not make the change now?"
While being ranked No. 1 adds a safety net, it doesn't take the pressure off the athletes. Still, Stevens and Mocco feel confident going into the Olympic team trials.
"I've faced every one (of the top eight) before at least once and some of them as much as five times before," said Stevens, a Washington state native. "As long as they haven't picked up anything new in terms of moves, I should know everything about them."
"I don't expect there to be any huge surprises," said Mocco, a New Jersey native. "I definitely have my work cut out for me, but I know what I have to do."
The others have their work cut out for them if their rankings don't change, but those JMJC athletes on the cusp of the top spot " including Nick Kossor (No. 2, 60kg), Carrie Chandler (No. 2, 57kg) and Justin Flores (No. 2, 66kg) " know all it takes is a good series of performances to earn them a berth on the Olympic team.