Takeaways from the 2024 Olympic wrestling trials: 13 athletes punch tickets to Paris

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The U.S. wrestling team for the 2024 Paris Olympics is just about set.

After a grueling two days of competition at the Bryce Jordan Center on the campus of Penn State, 18 wrestlers emerged from the Olympic wrestling trials with a victory in their respective weight classes and styles. And in doing so, the vast majority of them − 13 of the 18 − officially punched their tickets to Paris later this summer. The other five will now represent Team USA and try to earn their spots at an Olympic qualifying tournament in May.

Many of the names who qualified Saturday will be familiar to casual Olympic fans, from Helen Maroulis to Kyle Snyder and Kyle Dake. But others might be new, including a pair of dominant youngsters who bested their veteran opponents in the women's tournament.

Here are the key takeaways and things to know from the Olympic wrestling trials, with an eye toward Paris.

Kennedy Blades, Amit Elor leading next wave

Two of the most dominant performances of the trials came courtesy of two 20-year-old women who had never made an Olympic team: Kennedy Blades and Amit Elor.

Elor has taken the global wrestling stage by storm, winning a combined eight world titles in various age divisions over the past three years. She looked in complete control in 6-0 and 2-1 wins over Forrest Molinari at 68 kilograms.

Perhaps the more surprising result came at 76 kg, where Blades upset reigning Olympic silver medalist Adeline Gray in convincing fashion, with an 11-6 victory in the opener followed by an 8-3 win to claim her spot on the Olympic team. Blades said it was a surreal moment, given their history; she said Gray actually coached her at her first trip to the Pan-American Games, when Blades was a teenager.

"Now we're both wrestling for an Olympic spot. It's awesome," Blades said. "This younger generation did look up to the older generation. Now as they start to probably retire and stuff, and we're catching up, they're just setting a great example for us."

While veterans Sarah Hildebrandt, Kayla Miracle and Helen Maroulis still give the U.S. women's Olympic team an experienced feel, they know more young talent is coming. Hildebrandt faced Audrey Jimenez, a high-schooler who won the Arizona boys' state wrestling championships earlier this year, in her weight class final, for example.

"It's just a really beautiful cycle," said Hildebrandt, 30. "You're seeing the depth of women's wrestling in the States grow."

Is this the end for Jordan Burroughs?

Jordan Burroughs prepares to wrestle Jason Nolf in a 74 kilogram challenge round championship bout during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at the Bryce Jordan Center April 19, 2024, in State College. Nolf won by decision, 3-0.
Jordan Burroughs prepares to wrestle Jason Nolf in a 74 kilogram challenge round championship bout during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at the Bryce Jordan Center April 19, 2024, in State College. Nolf won by decision, 3-0.

Burroughs, the six-time world champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist, told multiple news outlets in stories published this month that he would retire either after the 2024 Paris Games or Olympic trials. But when Jason Nolf knocked him out of the 74-kilogram challenge tournament Friday night, Burroughs did not speak with reporters or otherwise confirm his decision. Nor did he leave his shoes on the mat − the universal wrestling sign for retirement − like fellow U.S. star J'den Cox had hours earlier.

While the official announcement might be pending, Burroughs likely knows he is at the end of the road. He has five children, including a two-month-old boy, Badge. And in a sport where 20-somethings usually reign, he's a few months shy of his 36th birthday and would be 40 by the time the 2028 Olympics roll around.

Kyle Snyder joins rare club

On a night where reigning gold medalist David Taylor's stunning loss drew headlines, Kyle Snyder managed to win comfortably over his opponent, Isaac Trumble. In fact, he didn't concede a point.

Still just 28, Snyder has been a consistent force at 97 kg, winning nine Olympic and world medals in that weight class since 2015. He will now be making his third trip to the Olympics, looking to add to the gold medal he won in Rio de Janeiro and the silver he won in Tokyo. According to USA Wrestling, he is just the 11th American wrestler to qualify for three Games.

"The first time you do it, you're real happy. Now it's almost just an expectation (I have) of myself," Snyder said. "And then the real fun starts."

Parris is heading to Paris

The heavyweight wrestler who will represent Team USA in Paris is none other than Mason Parris, the reigning world bronze medalist who recently wrapped up an outstanding collegiate career at Michigan.

He celebrated his back-to-back 7-0 wins over Hayden Zillmer by donning a "Parris to Paris" hat like his family. When asked where the hats came from, he said he had no clue. His parents just handed him one when he stepped off the mat.

"It's destiny, you know?" Parris said. "I'm 24 years old. 2024. Parris in Paris."

Seeds have advantage

The Olympic wrestling trials unfold in a bracket-style format, but in 14 of the 18 weight classes, at least one athlete got an automatic bye to the semifinals or finals − which appears to offer a huge advantage. The athletes with byes get to rest for most or all of the trials' first day. And they don't have to weigh in multiple times, relieving some of the pressure that cutting weight can bring.

At this year's trials, however, there was more parity than one would think. Five athletes worked their way up what's called the challenge tournament, then beat an athlete who had a bye − most notably Aaron Brooks, who beat Taylor.

"It's pros and cons to both," he said, when asked if wrestling in the challenge tournament helped him build momentum or provided any other advantage. "I wouldn't pick one. Just wherever you're at, use what you've got."

Still work to do

While a winner was crowned in every weight class, three Greco-Roman athletes and two in men's freestyle have another step to take. They'll have to compete at a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in Istanbul, Turkey from May 9-12, when the last slots in the Paris 2024 field will be at stake.

Spencer Lee, who beat defending Olympic bronze medalist Thomas Gilman in his final Saturday, views the event as another opportunity to build international experience.

"I see it as a blessing," he said, "and I'll get ready for the Olympics after I go win that tournament."

Complete Olympic wrestling trials results

  • *57 kg: Spencer Lee def. Thomas Gilman

  • *65 kg: Zain Retherford def. Nick Lee

  • 74 kg: Kyle Dake def. Jason Nolf

  • 86 kg: Aaron Brooks def. David Taylor

  • 97 kg: Kyle Snyder def. Isaac Trumble

  • 125 kg: Mason Parris def. Hayden Zillmer

Women's freestyle

  • 50 kg: Sarah Hildebrandt def. Audrey Jimenez

  • 53 kg: Dominique Parrish def. Haley Augello

  • 57 kg: Helen Maroulis def. Jacarra Winchester

  • 62 kg: Kayla Miracle def. Macey Kilty

  • 68 kg: Amit Elor def. Forrest Molinari

  • 76 kg: Kennedy Blades def. Adeline Gray


  • *60 kg: Dalton Roberts def. Ildar Hafizov

  • *67 kg: Ellis Coleman def. Alejandro Sancho

  • *77 kg: Kamal Bey def. Aliaksandr Kikinou

  • 87 kg: Payton Jacobson def. Spencer Woods

  • 97 kg: Josef Rau def. Alan Vera

  • 130 kg: Adam Coon def. Cohlton Schultz

Contact Tom Schad at or on social media @Tom_Schad.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Olympic wrestling trials: Takeaways, results as 2024 Paris Games near