The Zain Train is rolling into Kazakhstan — as of right now.
Former Penn State wrestler Zain Retherford qualified for his second World team by sweeping Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis at Final X: Rutgers on Saturday, although his win is under dispute at the moment and could be reversed.
Wrestling for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, Retherford avenged a loss to Diakomihalis in the US Open finals by winning bouts 10-4 and 6-6 on criteria.
After a strong showing by Retherford in his first match, a bit of controversy surrounded his second win. Diakomihalis appeared to have won the bout after leading 8-6 at the end of the final period, but coaches in Retherford’s corner (read: rules magician Cael Sanderson) challenged a call from a minute earlier. The call ended up being overturned, which took two of Diakomihalis’ points off the board and gave Retherford a disputed win and World team berth.
Many believed the call came too late and unnecessarily changed the entire course of the bout. What’s more, the wrestling world missed out on a winner-take-all match between two of the sport’s most entertaining athletes.
Cornell coach Rob Koll said he is protesting the match, so stay tuned if there’s one more rematch between Retherford and Diakomihalis. If not, Retherford will compete for the United States at the World Wrestling Championships this September in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. If he medals, he’ll clinch a berth in the finals of next year’s Olympic trials, which are expected to be held at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Former Penn State wrestler Bo Nickal also wrestled Saturday, but he missed out on the opportunity to compete at Worlds. He lost in straight sets to reigning World champion J’den Cox in the 92 kg series. A third Nittany Lion David Taylor was set to wrestle at Final X: Rutgers as well, but he withdrew due to an injury sustained last month.