FROM PENN STATE ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS
Frank Molinaro, a current Penn State assistant wrestling coach and one of the greatest wrestlers in Penn State history, has earned a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team. Molinaro, representing the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, is the United States’ 65kg member by virtue of winning the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials this past weekend, held in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday and Sunday.
Molinaro blazed through the challenge bracket, rolling to a 3-0 record. The Barnegat, N.J., native downed Kellen Russell 14-1 in the first round and then took down top-seeded Brent Metcalf 3-3 on criteria in round two. Molinaro followed that up with a 5-5 criteria win over Logan Stieber in the semifinals to set up a best-of-three championship series with Aaron Pico Saturday night. Molinaro dropped the first match in the three bout series 4-2 and then won the second 4-3. Molinaro used a four-point move to down Pico 4-4 on criteria in the final match to earn his spot on the 2016 United States Olympic Wrestling Team. The United States still needs to qualify Molinaro’s weight for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, meaning the Lion coach will head to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on April 22-24 with the goal of finishing in the top two at his weight to earn the United States (and himself) a spot in the field in Rio. If necessary, a final last-chance qualifier is set for Istanbul, Turkey, on May 6-8.
Molinaro is one of only nine four-time All-Americans in Penn State history. The 2012 NCAA champion at 149 pounds, Molinaro left Penn State with a 121-29 career record, 10th all-time at Penn State.
Nittany Lion sophomore Zain Retherford (Benton, Pa.) took third at 65kg and earned a spot on the U.S. National Team. Retherford went 5-1 on Saturday in Iowa City, including a 5-1 first round win 2015 World Team Trials champion James Green. After a close 8-6 loss to Stieber, Retherford rebounded with four straight wins to take the Bronze and a spot on the national squad. Retherford won the 149-pound NCAA title this year, rolling through the field at Madison Square Garden. Retherford, a two-time All-American with two years to wrestle, went 34-0 this year and was named the 2016 NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler and InterMat’s National Wrestler of the Year.
Former Lion all-time great David Taylor also earned a spot on the U.S. National Team. Taylor, wrestling at 86kg, went 3-1 to take the Bronze and earn a spot on the national squad. Taylor posted a 10-0 tech fall over top-seed Jake Herbert and downed Keith Gavin for third place. 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner, representing the NLWC, also grabbed a spot on the U.S. National Team after a second place finish at 97kg. Varner won the challenge bracket with a 3-0 mark and advanced to the championship series again Kyle Snyder. After winning the first of three bouts against Snyder, Varner dropped the next two to take Silver.
Penn State senior Nico Megaludis (Murrysville, Pa.) also competed at the event, wrestling at 57kg. Megaludis dropped two close matches in his first Olympic Team Trials. The Lion senior became Penn State’s ninth four-time All-American this year and won his first NCAA national championship at 125 pounds. Megaludis wrapped up one of Penn State’s most storied careers with a 119-19 record, 11th all-time at the school.
Rounding out the former Penn State or NLWC competitors at the event were former Lion all-time great Ed Ruth (Sunkist), who went 1-1 at 86kg before injury defaulting; former All-American Dan Vallimont (NYAAC), who went 1-2 at 74kg, and Eric Thompson, who went 1-2 at 125kg representing the NLWC.