With the Olympics being pushed back a year, wrestling fans get to enjoy the sport year-round in 2021. This past weekend was the US Olympic trials and several Penn State alum took to the mat to fight for a spot on the United States’ team.
Aaron Brooks, Carter Starocci, Greg Kerkvliet, Vincenzo Joseph, Nick Lee, Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal, David Taylor, and Frank Molinaro were amongst the Nittany Lion legends fighting for a chance. The night was full of exciting matchups and big names from the world of wrestling - Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Dake, Kyle Snyder, and Gabe Dean, just to name a few.
Former Hawkeye, Thomas Gilman has been training at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club (NLWC) since April 2020. He was the first from the club to earn his spot on the Olympic team with a perfect 4-0 record in the trials at 57kg. He defeated Vitali Arujau in the finals and even pinned him in their first bout. All the finals matchups were the best of three series. Gilman used a ride out in the second matchup to secure the win.
Coming off a 2021 NCAA title, Nick Lee placed third at the trials, beating former teammate Zain Retherford in the third-place match at 65kg. This win and his 4-1 run at the trials earned him a spot on the US National Team. Legendary Nittany Lion and 2016 Olympian, Frank Molinaro, went 1-1 in the trials and retired after his loss by leaving his shoes on the mat in front of a roaring crowd.
Jason Nolf also earned a third-place title and a spot on the US National Team at 74 kg. He beat Evan Wick from Wisconsin to take his spot and finished 2-1 at the trials.
At 86kg, “Magic Man” David Taylor met the electric and former PSU great Bo Nickal in the finals. Taylor dominated both matches to win the best of three series. In both, he went ahead with a lead and refused to let Nickal score. Taylor’s impenetrable defense earned him his spot at 86kg. Nickal’s second-place finish got him a spot on the US National Team.
Ohio State superstar Kyle Snyder made the move to NLWC in October 2019 after his 2016 Olympic gold win. He met former teammate, Kollin Moore in the finals and won two strong victories with a near-perfect technical performance. He’ll get a shot at another gold medal this summer.
The final Olympic qualifier from NLWC, is another 2016 Olympic gold-medalist, Helen Maroulis. She went 2-1 in the tournament and wrestled a heart-wrenching final series against her longtime friend Jenna Burket. Maroulis won the first bout and Burket claimed the second winning a late takedown to force a third bout. Maroulis caught Burket early in the third bout and notched the fall in just 24 seconds to send her back to the Olympics.
Although not a part of NLWC, arguably the face of wrestling in recent years, Jordan Burroughs, lost to Kyle Dake in a sweep no one saw coming and ends Burroughs’ reign over the 74kg weight class. Burroughs is an Olympic Gold medalist, four-time World Champion, three-time Pan American Games Gold medalist, four-time Pan American champion, and four-time US Open National Champion. On Sunday, the day after the trials ended, he tweeted, “This road has been long and difficult. I’m gonna take some time away to reflect and rebuild. This isn’t the end for me. Thanks to everyone for their support. Congratulations to all this year’s Olympians.”
The 2021 Olympic Games are set to start on Friday, July 23, and end on Sunday, August 8. All wrestling is scheduled to take place the last week, starting on August 1 and ending on August 7.
NLWC Trials Recap by Weight Class
57 kg: Thomas Gilman- First place, member 2020 US Olympic Team/US National Team
65 kg: Nick Lee- Third place, member US National Team
Zain Retherford- DNP
Frank Molinaro - DNP
74 kg: Jason Nolf - Third place, member US National Team)
Vincenzo Joseph - DNP
86 kg: David Taylor - First place, member 2020 US Olympic Team/US National Team
Bo Nickal - Second place, member US National Team
Aaron Brooks - DNP
Carter Starocci - DNP
97 kg: Kyle Snyder - First place, member 2020 US Olympic Team/US National Team
125 kg: Greg Kerkvliet - DNP
57 kg: Helen Maroulis - First place, member 2020 US Olympic Team/US National Team
62 kg: Jennifer Page - Fourth Place
77 kg: Mason Manville – DNP