Although he actually lost a match this time, Zain Retherford won his second major title over the weekend. The rising senior, who won his second NCAA title in March to finish off another undefeated season, secured a place on the United States World Team by finishing first in the Trials at 65 kg.
While wrestling freestyle, as opposed to the normal folkstyle used at the collegiate level, Retherford faced former Nittany Lion wrestler and coach Frank Molinaro, who placed fourth last summer at the Olympics, in the finals. In the best of three series, Molinaro won the first bout 7-6 before Retherford, who was competing as a member of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, notched back-to-back wins by scores of 6-0 and 7-4 respectively to secure his place on the World Team. After placing third in the Trials last summer, Retherford, the 2017 Hodge Trophy winner, outscored his opponents 35-2 en route to the finals.
Normally a 149-pounder, Retherford had to cut about six pounds from his in-season weight in order to meet the 65 kg. weight class, which is roughly equivalent to 143 lbs., and compete in the freestyle tournament.
The only other returning college wrestler to earn a spot on the Senior World Team was fellow rising senior and Ohio State heavyweight Kyle Snyder, who became the youngest wrestler to win gold at the Olympics and Worlds last summer. The two Big Ten foes will travel to Paris, France from August 21st-26th for the tournament, alongside the rest of the U.S. team, which includes former Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs and four-time NCAA Champion Logan Stieber, who Retherford upset as a true freshman in 2013.
In the Junior Team Trials, Retherford’s teammate Mark Hall, the reigning NCAA Champion at 174 lbs., also earned a spot to wrestle internationally by beating Iowa’s Alex Marinelli 10-0 in the finals at 74 kg. The Junior Team will compete in Tampere, Finland from August 1st-6th.
Molinaro was one of two former Nittany Lion greats to drop tough decisions in the finals. After winning the first bout in the 86 kg. finals, 2014 graduate David Taylor dropped his last to matches to J’den Cox, a three-time national champion at Missouri, to finish second.