Bo Nickal and Zain Retherford each took one more step forward in their pursuit of qualifying for the 2019 Wrestling World Championships.
Both former Penn State wrestlers won their respective brackets at the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament this weekend in Raleigh, N.C. They will both wrestle at Final X: Rutgers on June 8 in a best-of-three series to determine which wrestlers will represent the United States in the freestyle tournament in Kazakhstan this fall.
After placing first at the US Open two weeks ago, Nickal had an automatic bid to the 92 kg. finals of the Challenge Tournament and needed to win only two bouts to clinch his spot at Final X. Nickal swept 2018 197-pound NCAA Champion Mike Macchiavello in the best-of-three finals, winning via first-period technical fall and decision. He will face defending world champion J’den Cox at Final X.
Retherford had a bit tougher path to the finals, winning four bouts in total. He beat fellow Nittany Lion Frank Molinaro 6-1 in the semifinals, before knocking out two-time NCAA champion Jordan Oliver with a pair of tight 7-6 decisions. After winning the 65 kg. bracket Sunday, Retherford will face two-time NCAA champion Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell, who he previously lost to in the finals of the US Open.
Nickal and Retherford will now join David Taylor in competing for a spot on the World team next month. Taylor will face Pat Downey, who won the 86 kg. bracket this weekend. All three match-ups will be among those that take place at the Rutgers Athletic Center, while the other half will be decided the following week at Final X: Nebraska.
The Nittany Lion Wrestling Club sent a total of seven wrestlers to the tournament this weekend. Former Penn State wrestler Jason Nolf also made the best-of-three finals, but fell to Isaiah Martinez in the third bout and finished with a 4-2 record. Mark Hall won his first two bouts before falling to familiar foe Zahid Valencia, 5-0, in the finals of the Challenge Tournament bracket.
While wrestling for Titan Mercury Wrestling Club, Nico Megaludis, who wrestled at Penn State from 2011-16, won his first two matches before losing to teammate Tyler Graff in the Challenge Tournament finals.
Incoming freshman Aaron Brooks won his two best-of-three finals bouts to earn a spot on the Junior World team.