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Aaron Brooks tops wrestling gold medalist David Taylor, makes Paris – NBC 6 South Florida

Aaron Brooks defeated reigning 86-kilogram gold medalist David Taylor in back-to-back matches at the U.S. Olympic wrestling trials on Saturday night to claim a spot on the roster for the Paris Olympics.

Brooks defeated Taylor 4-1 earlier in the day, his first loss to an American wrestler in seven years. It gave Brooks the opportunity to defeat the Tokyo gold medalist and former Penn State athlete.

Brooks capitalized with a 3-1 victory in the pair’s second match after a stalemate was broken with a Brooks takedown in the first period.

After the match, the two shared a moment in the middle of the mat.

“I told him I love him,” Brooks said. “He’s one of the first guys who made (Penn State wrestling) what it is.”

Brooks avenged his losses to Taylor in last year’s World Cup qualifier, when Brooks dropped two consecutive matches to be swept. Since early March, Brooks has won a Big Ten title, his fourth NCAA title, the Hodge Trophy and a spot in the Olympics.

The trials were held at Penn State’s basketball arena, the Bryce Jordan Center, where the Nittany Lions’ powerhouse wrestling team also occasionally holds matches.

A total of 18 wrestlers were part of the U.S. wrestling team on Saturday, with 13 of those wrestlers qualifying directly for the Olympic tournament in Paris. The champions in five classes, 57kg and 65kg in the men’s freestyle and 60kg, 67kg and 77kg in Greco-Roman, will travel to Istanbul for a world qualifying tournament for the Olympic Games in May.

Kyle Snyder didn’t give up a point in his championship series against Isaac Trumble and reached his third Olympic Games with 5-0 and 4-0 victories.

The 2016 gold medalist was given a bye to the best-of-three finals to face Trumble, who won the 97-kilogram challenger event.

“I mean, it’s different,” said the 28-year-old Snyder, who attended Ohio State and trained with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club. “For example, the first time you do it you are very happy, now it is almost an expectation of myself and then the real fun starts when you are part of the team and compete for Olympic gold medals.”

Zain Retherford didn’t even know five months ago whether he would compete for an Olympic spot.

But on Saturday he defeated Nittany Lion Wrestling Club teammate Nick Lee 2-1 and 5-0 in back-to-back matches at 65 kg to earn a spot on the U.S. National Team and advance to an international qualifying tournament.

“I had accepted a job in New York City. My family was supposed to move there in January, but I just had a tug on my heart, I couldn’t explain it, to compete,” Retherford said after his second victory over Lee.

Retherford accepted a position at the financial firm ABR Dynamic Funds, but was given the flexibility he needed to compete. He will need some more time off after his performance on Saturday.

The next step for Retherford is the Olympic qualifying tournament in Istanbul, which starts on May 9. He must finish in the top two to earn a trip to Paris.

Spencer Lee pinned Tokyo bronze medalist Thomas Gilman in their second match at 57kg to clinch a spot on the US team and also advance to world qualifying in Istanbul.

Lee’s journey was far from easy. He has had several injuries.

The former Iowa Hawkeye tore his right ACL as a senior in high school in 2017 before tearing it again in 2019. Lee then won a national title in 2021 despite tearing his left ACL at the Big Ten championships just a few weeks earlier. .

The knee problems seemed to have subsided in 2024, at least enough for Lee to keep his boots on.

“If the Iowa Hawkeye program didn’t support me, to be honest, I would be looking at retiring,” Lee said. “I’ve had such a hard time staying healthy and competing as best as I can.”

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Zach Allen is a student at Penn State’s John Curley Center for Sports Journalism.

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