Reflecting On Penn State’s Record Showing In Rio
Penn State set a school record for Olympians at the 2016 Rio Games with 25 Nittany Lions — including players and coaches — taking part in the world’s grandest sporting competition over the past two weeks.
Not only did Penn State boast the second-most participants in the Big Ten, but it also passed a landmark of total Olympians in school history with 108. In fact, the university finished in a tie with Indiana for the eighth-highest medal count among all colleges. Penn Staters from three countries (U.S., Mexico, and Ireland), across eight sports turned in impressive showings in their respective events. Eight Nittany Lions made it to the podium in five different events, and all medal winners represented Team USA.
Miles Chamley-Watson brought home the first medal, a bronze in men’s team foil. Fellow fencer Monica Aksamit captured bronze as well, this time in women’s team saber. Former track and field standout Joe Kovacs won Penn State’s lone silver medal in men’s shot put. Finally, two women’s volleyball greats — Christa Harmotto Dietzen and Alisha Glass — took bronze in the indoor competition, while men’s volleyball alums Matt Anderson, Aaron Russell, and Max Holt were instrumental in leading the U.S. to bronze.
Nicole Fawcett and Megan Hodge Easy were alternates for Team USA women’s volleyball. Carlos Guerra and the Mexican men’s volleyball team didn’t make it out of preliminary play after losing each of its first five matches in Pool A. Ali Krieger, Alyssa Naeher, and the U.S. women’s soccer squad was bounced by Sweden in a heartbreaking 1-1 quarterfinals loss on penalty kicks, halting their quest for an Olympic three-peat on the Mané Garrincha Stadium pitch. Swimmer Shane Ryan, who took a year off from Penn State to focus on training with Ireland, finished eighth in the men’s 100-meter backstroke semifinals and came in 40th and 43rd place in the 100-meter and 50-meter freestyle opening heats, respectively.
Frank Molinaro, a four-time All-American wrestler and the 2011-12 undefeated National Champion at 149 pounds, finished just shy of a medal in the men’s freestyle 65 kilogram weight class after falling to Italy’s Frank Chamizo. Molinaro was bizarrely on the receiving end of a bite from his competitor — Ukraine’s Andriy Kvyatkovskyy. The current Penn State assistant coach regrouped in his repéchage to reach the bronze medal match.
Matt Baranoski failed to make it to the second round of Keirin cycling, while Bobby Lea came in eighth place in the individual pursuit of Omnium cycling with a time of 4:23.94 — just 8.96 seconds off the Olympic record set by Denmark’s Lasse Norman Hansen.
Katarzyna Trzopek and the U.S. women’s epee team came in fifth place thanks to a 22-18 win over South Korea. After receiving an opening-round bye, Mexico’s Daniel Gomez-Tanamachi fell to Italian fencer Giorgio Avola 15-5 in the men’s individual foil competition.
Darrell Hill came in 23rd place in men’s shot-put qualifying with a heave of 19.56 meters. Kovacs would go on to finish second in the world with a 21.78 meter toss that was 0.74 short of fellow American Ryan Crouser’s Olympic record of 22.52.
A pair of former Nittany Lions served as assistant coaches in Rio, as Ivan Contreras worked with Guerra and the Mexican men’s volleyball team, while Tom Hovasse helped coach the Japanese women’s basketball squad.