Zain Retherford Will Represent Pennsylvania Wrestling at World Championships

LINCOLN, Neb – Pennsylvania Wrestling will be represented at the UWW Senior World Championships in Paris, France come August 2017. 2-time NCAA National Champion Zain Retherford (Benton Area/Penn State) qualified for his first Senior Freestyle World Team in Lincoln, Nebraska with an impressive performance against his former coach and training partner Frank Molinaro.

Retherford, a 2-time PIAA State Champion, needed to go through the Challenge Tournament in order to meet Molinaro in the best-of-three finals. With fellow Pennsylvania Wrestler and 2017 U.S. Open Champion Jordan Oliver (Easton Area) ruled out for failing a drug test following the U.S. Open Molinaro was ruled the Champion and automatically advanced into the Championship best-of-three finals. At the U.S. Open Retherford fell to Oliver in the semifinals while Molinaro lost in the finals. 

His Freestyle experience is extensive and he owns several significant wins in his career.

His biggest victory came in 2012 when he qualified for his first ever age-level World Team. Competing in Azerbaijan at the Cadet World Freestyle Championships Retherford tore through the 63 kg/138 lbs. field en route to the World Championship. 

After his Cadet World Championship Retherford was unable to crack the Junior World Team. In 2013, 2014 and 2015 Retherford finished as the Junior World Team Trials runner-up in all three attempts. The last two years Retherford fell to rival Aaron Pico (California) in the best-of-three finals. 

A year earlier Retherford competed in the 2016 Olympic Team Trials at 65 kg/143 lbs. and surprised many when he finished as the third best wrestler in the Nation. At the Olympic Trials Retherford defeated 2017 World Team teammate James Green in addition to 2017 World Team Trials runner-up Jimmy Kennedy. It was the same weight where his Penn State assistant coach Frank Molinaro downed Aaron Pico in the best-of-three finals to punch his ticket to Rio.

Zain entered as the top seed in the 65 kg Challenge Tournament and blew through the field winning three straight matches all by technical superiority with a point margin of (35-2). No one was surprised that Zain advanced into the Championship best-of-three series with Molinaro.

The two were obviously familiar with each other having spent several years training together at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club in Happy Valley. During their time training Retherford stated “we learned a lot from each other…Frank’s a gamer and he doesn’t stop wrestling.” In the first match, after pulling ahead (6-4) in the second period, Molinaro never stopped battling scoring a quick takedown with under (0:14) seconds left in the bout to go ahead on criteria. Retherford’s corner threw the challenge brick but it was upheld and Molinaro won it (7-6).

In match #2 Zain bounced back as the two each went hard at each other in the first period. Molinaro was placed on the shot clock and was unable to score giving Retherford the (1-0) advantage to end the first period. To start the second period Zain connected on a single leg to go up (3-0) and added one more point for a push-out. Retherford tied the best-of-three series as he connected on a quick ankle pick on the restart to win the match (6-0).

With a World Team berth on the line the two Nittany Lions squared off in a third and decisive match. This time around Molinaro scored first scoring a two point takedown from a chest lock position as he attempted to expose Retherford. The Zain Train responded in a big way with (0:14) seconds left in the period as he connected on a single leg and as the two were scrambling Molinaro grabbed onto and held Retherford’s singlet. Cael Sanderson threw the challenge brick and as a result Zain was awarded two more points for the violation with Molinaro receiving a caution.

In the second period a very physical Frank Molinaro attacked Retherford who (1:10) into the period scored on a push-out to go up (5-2) in the match. Molinaro once again had a chest wrap which allowed him to score two exposure points but Retherford never stopped wrestling rolling through and scoring two points of his own to go up (7-4). That is how the bout would end as a bloody Zain Retherford celebrated making his first Senior Level World Team.

Retherford was tired of losing in the World Team Trials – Junior or Senior level. “I came up short so many times. I think this (U.S.) Trials is one of the toughest Tournaments in the World, so if you win this you’re pretty prepared.”

Retherford’s Nittany Lion teammate and 2017 NCAA National Champion Jason Nolf competed at 70 kg and was the fourth seed in the Challenge Tournament after finishing fourth in the U.S. Open. In the semi finals Jason jumped out to a (6-0) lead on Jimmy Kennedy who made the jump up from 65 kg. Kennedy responded with a blast double that awarded him four points to end the first period. In the second period Kennedy went ahead on criteria with two more points and secured the win with (o:08) seconds left in the bout picking up two more to go ahead (8-6). Nolf was able to rebound winning three straight to finish in true-second of the Challenge Tournament.

Former UNC wrestler and Pennsylvania native Evan Henderson (Kiski Prep) was fourth in the Challenge Tournament at 65 kg while 4-time undefeated PIAA State Champion Chance Marsteller (Kennard Dale) finished fourth in the Challenge Tournament at 74 kg. 

Full results can be found on the FloArena.


Championship Series Best-of-Three Finals


65 kg/143 lbs.

Zain Retherford, Benton, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC) dec. Frank Molinaro, Blacksburg, Va. (Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC), two matches to one

Bout One – Molinaro dec. Retherford, 7-6

Bout Two – Retherford dec. Molinaro, 6-0

Bout Three – Retherford dec. Molinaro, 7-4



Challenge Tournament Results


57 kg/125.5 lbs.

1st – Thomas Gilman, Iowa City, Iowa (Hawkeye WC) dec. Nathan Tomasello, Parma, Ohio (Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC), 6-2
3rd – Tyler Graff, New Brunswick, N.J. (Titan Mercury WC) tech. fall Frank Perrelli, Charlottesville, Va. (Titan Mercury WC/Cavalier RTC), 10-0 2:31


61 kg/134 lbs.

1st – Kendric Maple, West Lafayette, Ind. (Titan Mercury WC/Boilermaker RTC) dec. Brandon Wright, Indianapolis, Ind. (RNO/IPWA), 10-4
3rd – Cody Brewer, Evanston, Ill. (Titan Mercury WC/Chicago RTC) pin Chris Dardanes, Iowa City, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC), 0:39


65 kg/143 lbs.

1st – Zain Retherford, Benton, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC) tech. fall B.J. Futrell, Philadelphia, Pa. (Titan Mercury WC/Pennsylvania RTC), 10-0, 3:50
3rd. – Nick Dardanes, Iowa City, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC) dec. Evan Henderson, Chapel Hill, N.C. (Titan Mercury WC), 4-3


70 kg/154 lbs.

1st- Jimmy Kennedy, Ann Arbor, Mich. (New York AC/Cliff Keen WC) dec. Nazar Kulchytskyy, Madison, Wis. (Titan Mercury WC), 7-0
3rd – Jason Nolf, Yatesboro, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC) dec. Chase Pami, Philadelphia, Pa. (Sunkist Kids/Pennsylvania RTC), 8-0

True Second

Jason Nolf (Nittany Lion Wrestling Club) VPO1 Nazar Kulchytskyy (TMWC), 7-2


74 kg/163 lbs.

1st – Kyle Dake, Ithaca, N.Y. (Titan Mercury WC/Finger Lakes RTC) dec. Alex Dieringer, Stillwater, Okla. (Titan Mercury WC), 2-1
3rd – Isaiah Martinez, Leemore, Calif. (Illinois RTC) dec. Chance Marsteller, New Park, Pa. (Dark Knights), 9-6


86 kg/189 lbs.

1st- David Taylor, State College, Pa. (Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC) dec. Nick Heflin, Bordentown, N.J. (Princeton WC), 13-9
3rd – Richard Perry, Philadelphia, Pa. (New York AC/Pennsylvania RTC) pin Austin Trotman (TMWC), 4:59


97 kg/213 lbs.

1st- Kyven Gadson, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids) tech. fall Micah Burak, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Titan Mercury WC/OTC), 10-0, 3:53
3rd – Hayden Zillmer, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm) dec. Nathan Burak, Iowa City, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC), 3-3


125 kg/275 lbs.

1st- Dom Bradley, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids) dec. Tony Nelson, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm), 8-1
3rd – Bobby Telford, Iowa City, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC) dec. Nathan Butler, Leavenworth, Kan. (Stanford-California RTC), 7-0


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