Lee & Retherford earn trips to Paris in Olympic Qualifier

Updated: May 13, 2024

Photos: Spencer Lee (left) and Zain Retherford completed USA’s six-man freestyle squad at the final Olympic Qualifier, May 9-12 in Istanbul, Turkey. Lee won the 57-kilo weight class, while Retherford battled back to claim third at 65 kilos. (Photos by Justin Hoch)

America’s wrestling lineup is set for this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris. Both Spencer Lee and Zain Retherford qualified their weight classes in men’s freestyle at the final Olympic Qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey, where wrestlers had to finish in the top three in a weight class.

Lee, the former three-time NCAA champ and two-time Hodge Trophy winner from Iowa, outscored four opponents by a 42-11 margin to dominate the 57-kilogram weight class.

Spencer Lee was very effective with his trap-arm gut wrench to win all four matches at 57 kilos. (Justin Hoch photo)

Meanwhile, Retherford, who also won three NCAA titles and a pair of Hodge Trophies during his days at Penn State, came back to claim third place at 65 kilos by winning his final four bouts.

Lee and Retherford also gives Team USA a full men’s and women’s freestyle squad in Paris, joining the four other men and six women, who won last month’s Olympic Trials at weight classes that had already qualified for this year’s Games that take place in August.

Zain Retherford won six of seven bouts in Turkey, including a 2-2 criteria win over India’s Sujeet Sujeet. (Justin Hoch photo)

Unfortunately, Team USA will only send three of six weight classes in Greco-Roman wrestling to Paris, as three Americans — Dalton Roberts (60k), Ellis Coleman (67k) and Kamal Bey (77k) — failed to finish in the top three at their weights at the Olympic Qualifier in Turkey. Bey, who lost his first match, came back to win three in repechage before losing in the Olympic Qualifier bout.

Kamal Bey (right) came up one victory short of qualifying the 77-kilogram weight class in Greco-Roman. (Richard Immel photo)

America is one of three countries with six men’s freestyle wrestlers, joining Azebaijan and Russia (whose wrestlers will compete as Individual Neutral Athletes). Japan is the only other country to qualify all six weight classes in women’s freestyle.

The following is Team USA’s 2024 Olympic Team by style and what two dates each wrestler is scheduled to compete this summer:

            Men’s Freestyle

            • 57k/125.5 pounds – Spencer Lee (Aug. 8-9)

            • 65k/143.5 pounds – Zain Retherford (Aug. 10-11)

            • 74k/163 pounds – Kyle Dake (Aug. 9-10)

            • 86k/189 pounds – Aaron Brooks (Aug. 8-9)

            • 97k/213.5 pounds – Kyle Snyder (Aug. 10-11)

            • 125k/275.5 pounds – Mason Parris (Aug. 9-10)

            Women’s Freestyle

            • 50k/110 pounds – Sarah Hildebrandt (Aug. 6-7)

            53k/116.5 pounds – Dominique Parrish (Aug. 7-8)

            • 57k/125.5 pounds – Helen Maroulis (Aug. 8-9)

            • 62k/136.5 pounds – Kayla Miracle (Aug. 9-10)

            • 68k/149.5 pounds – Amit Elor (Aug. 5-6)

            • 76k/167.6 pounds – Kennedy Blades (Aug. 10-11)


            • 87k/191.5 pounds – Payton Jacobson (Aug. 7-8)

            • 97k/213.5 pounds – Joe Rau (Aug. 6-7)

            • 130k/286.5 pounds – Adam Coon (Aug. 5-6)

Match-by-Match Highlights of the 2024 Olympic Games Qualifier

May 9-12, Istanbul, Turkey

Men’s Freestyle

57 kg/125.5 pounds – Spencer Lee (Iowa City, Iowa/Hawkeye WC/Titan Mercury WC), Finalist / Qualified

Round/32 – won by TF over WIN Ben Tarik (Morocco), 10-0 — Lee cut the corner for a takedown 14 seconds into the match, then used four leg lace turns over the next nine seconds to dominate the bout in short order.

Round/16 – dec. Wanhao Zou (China), 10-9 — Trailing 6-1 midway through the first period after giving up two takedowns to the No. 1 seed, Lee used a single leg takedown to cut the margin to 6-4 before turning the hold into three turns of a leg lace to lead 10-6 at the break. Zou scored three points in final 18 seconds on a stepout and takedown with 12 seconds left.

Quarterfinal – won by TF over Vladimir Egorov (Macedonia), 12-2 — Lee used an arm drag and a trap-arm gut to lead 4-0 before Egorov earned a two exposure points. Lee dropped to the leg and laced Egorov three times for the technical fall as the final points came with 1:07 left in the first period.

Olympic Qualifier – won by TF over Rakhat Kalzhan (Kazakhstan), 10-0 — Lee needed just 10 seconds to score his only takedown, then used a trap-arm gut for four turns; the final one coming 26 seconds later.

65 kg / 143.5 pounds – Zain Retherford (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC/Titan Mercury WC), Bronze Medalist / Qualified

Round/32 – pinned Stefan Coman (Romania), 4:38 – Retherford was leading 9-2 when his third takedown of the match put the Romanian on his back with 1:24 left, before the American earned the fall two seconds later. Coman actually led 2-1 before Retherford scored on a double to lead 3-2 before adding a snatch single with 2:13 left.

Round/16 – won by TF over Ibrahim Guzan (Yemen), 11-0 — Retherford scored two takedowns and was able to use a form of a leg turn to add a trio of two-point exposure holds; the final one coming with 38 seconds left in the first period.

Quarterfinal – lost to Tulga Tumur Ochir (Mongolia), 7-2 — With Retherford leading 2-2 criteria, Ochir used a single leg that put the American on his back to take a 6-2 lead with 28 seconds left. The final point came when an American challenge was denied.

Repechage 1 – pinned Alibeg Alibegov (Bahrain), 2:37 — After using a pair of leg turks to earn four exposure point and take a 10-2 lead with 36 seconds left in the first period, Retherford slipped in a half for the fall 11 seconds later.

Repechage 2 – dec. Abdulmazhid Kudiev (Tajikistan), 5-2 — Retherford opened with a stepout, then added a single and double leg takedown to lead 5-0 with 30 seconds into the second frame. Kudiev scored a double-leg takedown with eight seconds left.

Bronze Medal – dec. Sujeet Sujeet (India), 2-2 — Retherford scored the criteria deciding takedown with 1:45 left after Sujeet countered a Retherford single midway through the first period.

Olympic Qualifier – dec. Niurgun Skriabin (Individual Neutral Athlete), 7-0 — Retherford clinched his first Olympic spot; first by scoring a single to lead 3-0 with 10 seconds left in the first; then countered a single by Skriabin for another takedown, then used that advantage and a leg turn to add two more exposure points with 215 left.


60 kg/132 pounds – Dalton Roberts (Fountain, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP), Eliminated

Round/32 – lost to Viktor Petryk (Ukraine), 11-6 — Roberts found himself in a 7-0 hole when the Ukrainian took advantage of a passivity call against the American and then used a front headlock to turn the American three times. Roberts eventually cut the margin to 7-3 off a takedown and passivity point, but then swapped four points for two when Petryk initiated the action on an arm throw with a minute left. Roberts was eliminated when Petryk lost his next match.

67 kg/147.5 pounds – Ellis Coleman (Fountain, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP), Eliminated

Round/32 – dec. Aliaksandr Liavonchyk (Individual Neutral Athlete), 1-1 — Both points came after their opponent was called for passivity with Coleman earning the second one with 2:21 left in the bout.

Round/16 – lost to Andreas Vetsch (Switzerland), 8-1 — Coleman used a passivity point to lead 1-0 in the first period before Vetsch scored three takedowns in the second period, including a duck-under with 1:09 left that gave the Swiss wrestler a 6-1 lead. Coleman, who wrestled in the 2012 Olympics at age 20, was eliminated when Vetsch lost his next match.

77 kg/169.5 pounds – Kamal Bey (Colorado Springs, Colorado/U.S. Army WCAP), Bronze Medal / True 4th

Round/32 – lost by TF to Sergei Kutuzov (Individual Neutral Athlete), 8-0 — The match ended just before the end of the first period when the Russian scored a takedown and earned four penalty points when Bey twice was called for a leg foul.

Repchage 1 – won by TF over Tsimur Berdyieu (Individual Neutral Athlete), 9-1 — Bey ended the bout with two seconds left in the first period, when he caught Berdyieu in a bear hug to the back for four points. Earlier, Berdyieu earned a passivity point, but was able to counter a lift in par terre and reverse Berdyieu to his back.

Repchage 2 – dec. Per Albin Olofsson (Sweden), 7-1 — After the Swede held criteria, when a passivity point against Bey tied the bout 1-1, the American exploded with six points in the final 34 seconds, including a four-point bear hug takedown.

Bronze Medal – dec. Iuri Lomadze (Georgia), 5-4 – Bey was put down in passivity, but countered a throw by the Georgian, who was also called for a leg foul. Lomadze scored a duck-under in the final seconds.

Olympic Qualifier – lost to Zoltan Levai (Hungary), 3-0 — The 2022 World silver medalist ended Bey’s Olympic dream when he scored a pair of passivity points against Bey – one in each period – as well as a first-period stepout.