Frank Molinaro (Barnegat, N.J.)

In the century-plus that Penn State has fielded a wrestling team, the Nittany Lions have crowned 48 national champions and 227 All-Americans.

The Nittany Lions’ 48 national champions are fifth-most of any Division I wrestling program.

And though not settling has become the modus operandi for Cael Sanderson, who often pushes his wrestlers to strive for more, it was a tradition around long before Sanderson — and one that will be on display this weekend.

The Olympic Trials get underway Friday in Fort Worth, Texas, where the top finisher in each of the six men's freestyle Olympic weights will represent the United States at the 2021 games in Tokyo.

There are 11 wrestlers currently or formerly affiliated with Penn State or the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club vying for spots on this year's Olympic team.

Though Penn State has crowned national champions at a relatively high rate, only six former Nittany Lion wrestlers have competed at the Olympics, while former wrestler Greg Elinsky was an alternate in 1992.

Penn State's first Olympic wrestler is also the only one to ever compete for the Nittany Lions and win an Olympic medal — when Katsutoshi Naito won the bronze medal at the featherweight division in 1924 representing Japan.

Naito was the first of two Nittany Lions to represent Japan in the Olympics, though it would be another 64 years before anyone from any country represented Penn State on the Olympic stage.

The first American Nittany Lion to compete at the Olympics was former three-time All-American and two-time conference champion Ken Chertow, who represented the United States in 1988 but didn't place.

In 1996, a Nittany Lion competed on the biggest stage in sports for the second time in three Olympics.

Four-time All-American and former national champion Sanshiro "Sunny" Abe competed for Japan in the 1996 games, taking ninth place at 57 kilograms and becoming the second former Nittany Lion of Japanese descent to take the mat at the Olympics.

While Elinsky was an Olympic alternate in 1992, it wouldn't be until 2000 when an American who once donned a Penn State singlet competed at the Olympics.


One-time Nittany Lion teammates Cary Kolat and Kerry McCoy reunited in 2000 in Sydney for the Olympic games — marking the first time two former Nittany Lions were ever on the same Olympic team.

Kolat, now the head coach at Navy, spent two years at Penn State going 60-6 and winning a Big Ten title as a sophomore, while finishing second and third at the NCAA Tournament, respectively, in his time in State College.

McCoy, who has often joked he was referred to as "the other Cary" during his overlapping time with Kolat, was a two-time NCAA champion and three-time Big Ten champion during his days competing at Rec Hall.

Kolat, competing at 63 kilos, failed to place in his sole Olympic bid while McCoy took fifth place at heavyweight in 2000 en route to making history.

McCoy made his fair share of history in his time at Penn State, winning 89 consecutive matches — a streak that stood for nearly two decades. He was also Penn State's first-ever Hodge Trophy winner.

But in 2004, McCoy became the first and only former Nittany Lion to compete in more than one Olympic games — once again wrestling at heavyweight in 2004 in Athens, Greece, where he finished in seventh place.

McCoy could potentially have company soon, however.

Penn State's most recent Olympian came in 2016 when former four-time All-American and national champion Frank Molinaro represented the United States at 65 kilos in Rio de Janeiro, finishing in fifth place.

Molinaro, who initially retired from competition last March and is now an assistant coach at Arizona State, is lacing his shoes back up one more time as the No. 7 seed at 65 kilos at this weekend's Olympic Trials.

If Molinaro makes the team, he'd join McCoy as the only other two-time Olympian in program history.

When the Trials kick off this weekend, a former Penn Stater or Nittany Lion Wrestling Club member will be the top seed in four of the six weights.

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