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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Retherford Qualifies for the 2024 Olympic Games After Four Repechage Wins

    The final piece of the US men’s freestyle Olympic wrestling team came together earlier Sunday as Zain Retherford punched his ticket to Paris with a 7-0 win over Niurgun Skriabin (Belarus). With Retherford’s Olympic quota, the entire men’s freestyle team has qualified for the 2024 Olympic Games. The women’s freestyle team has all six going, as well. 

    Retherford had to make the Olympic team in the most difficult way possible. With his back against the wall on Sunday, he posted four straight wins in less than three hours. 

    While Retherford’s first match was the one with the least amount of drama. Retherford started his scoring barrage with a head pinch attempt from his feet which gave him four points; however, the American fans collectively held their breath for a few seconds as Retherford was in danger of giving up a fall for a few seconds. Later in the opening period, Retherford ducked under a takedown attempt from Alibeg Alibegov (Bahrain) to extend his lead to 6-2. His punishing leg ride accounted for a couple of sets of exposure points, capped off by a fall. 

    Retherford’s second match was a 5-2 win over Abdulmazhid Kudeiv (Tajikistan). The former Penn State star got on the scoreboard quickly with a single leg he walked out of bounds for a step-out point. With time expiring in the first period, Retherford stayed on the offensive and claimed a takedown to take a 3-0 lead at the break. 

    Retherford iced the match with another takedown via the double leg early in the second period. In the closing seconds, Kudiev got a takedown, but it wasn’t enough. 

    Up next for Retherford was India’s Sujeet Kalkal. As you navigated through potential repechage matches, Kalkal appeared to be the most difficult matchup for Retherford. Like Retherford, Kalkal lost to Tulga Tumur Ochir (Mongolia) by a five-point margin. 

    As expected, the Kakal matchup was the most challenging for Retherford. The two-time Hodge Trophy winner appeared to be on his way to a takedown in the opening stanza; however, Kalkal worked his magic to reverse the favor and got a takedown of his own. It accounted for the only scoring of the first period. 

    Retherford struck with a takedown of his own when he threw by a Kalkal attempt. That put him ahead on criteria, though the scoreboard showed the pair knotted at two points a piece. Retherford was able to play defense for the last 1:43 of the match and got his hand raised. The win gave him a bronze medal, but it wasn’t what Retherford was worried about. He’d have to beat a fellow bronze medalist to ensure he was headed to Paris. 

    After a slow start against Skriabin, the Belarussian was put on the shot clock. He couldn’t score within the allotted 30 seconds so Retherford seized a 1-0 lead. Retherford continued to pressure Skriabin and missed out on an initial attack or two, but was able to pick an ankle of his weary opponent for a takedown and a 3-0 lead. 

    After the break, Skriabin took an errant shot which was stymied by Retherford for another takedown. From that point, Retherford battered Skriabin from par terre. One turn from Retherford put him up 7-0, which is how the match would end. 

    Four hard-fought wins later, Retherford was headed to Paris.

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