Key Names To Watch At The U.S. Olympic Team Trials For Wrestling

by Alex Abrams

Adeline Gray celebrates her win over Kennedy Blades in the 76 kg. bout at the 2023 Beat the Streets Final X Wrestling event on June 10, 2023 in Newark, N.J. (Photo by Getty Images)
  • Stream: Watch live on Peacock
  • Date: April 19-20, 2024
  • Time: 10:00 a.m. - 3:45 p.m. ET; 6:30 p.m. - 10 p.m. ET

Follow along the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Wrestling, a part of Making Team USA, presented by Xfinity, the storytelling and hard-earned journey of Team USA athletes who are competing to earn their spots to the Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024.

Penn State has emerged as the dominant program in college wrestling, and the hometown fans should have plenty to cheer for when the country’s top wrestlers arrive on campus for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Wrestling on April 19-20.

Aaron Brooks and Carter Starocci, each coming off their fourth NCAA title this spring, are among the former Nittany Lions set to compete for Olympic berths this week in the familiar confines of the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania.

The Olympic trials will determine the roster of Americans wrestlers who’ll compete in men’s freestyle, women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling at the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

Each weight class will consist of a challenger tournament, with the winner moving on to a best-of-three championship series against an automatic qualifier. In the all-or-nothing format, only the winner moves on.

Team USA has already clinched Olympic quotas in 13 of the 18 wrestling events, including all six women’s events. The trials winners from non-qualified classes will move on to a world qualification tournament in May to try to secure their Olympic berths.

Several Olympic and world champions are set to take the mat in State College, where they’ll meet fields loaded with promising young talent and several wrestlers who could be primed for a breakthrough in Paris. Here are nine wrestlers from different weight classes and with different backgrounds to keep an eye on at the Olympic trials.

(L-R) David Taylor and Aaron Brooks compete during the men's freestyle 86 kg. match at the 2023 Beat the Streets Final X Wrestling event on June 10, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Getty Images)

Aaron Brooks (86 kg.) and Carter Starocci (74 kg.)

Prior to this year, only five wrestlers had won four NCAA titles. The two Penn State teammates added their names to that list in March, and in the process they became the first to do so for the Nittany Lions. Brooks, a native of Hagerstown, Maryland, wasn’t slowed down after moving up in weight class from 184 pounds to 197 pounds. He finished his senior season with a 22-0 record and was awarded the Dan Hodge Trophy, college wrestling’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Starocci, meanwhile, insisted he was “fully healthy” a few weeks after sustaining an injury to his right knee on Feb. 25. He then went out and proved it by winning his fourth national title despite entering nationals as the No. 9 seed at 174 pounds because of his injury. After amassing a combined record of 47-0 during his sophomore and junior seasons, Starocci, or Erie, Pennsylvania, lost only two matches as a senior — both because of forfeits after he injured his knee.

Mason Parris (125 kg.)

Quite a number of people have mentioned that it would be fitting for Parris to qualify for the Paris Olympics because of his last name. The 24-year-old from Lawrenceburg, Indiana, completed a historic collegiate career at Michigan last year, and now he’s looking to take the next step internationally after earning the bronze medal at 125 kg. at the 2023 world championships. Parris capped off a perfect 33-0 senior season at Michigan by winning the NCAA heavyweight title and becoming the first wrestler in school history to win the Hodge Trophy. He left Ann Arbor with a 124-18 career record. He’s since won gold medals at both the 2023 Pan American Games and the 2024 Pan American Championships.

David Taylor (86 kg.)

One of the most decorated wrestlers in Penn State history, Taylor will have a homecourt advantage when he steps onto the mat in State College. He won a pair of national championships with the Nittany Lions (2012 and 2014) and twice received the Hodge Trophy as the nation’s best college wrestler. The 33-year-old from Graham, Ohio, has dominated the 86 kg. freestyle weight class over the past few years. In 2021, he made his Olympic debut in Tokyo and won the gold medal when he beat his rival, Iranian Hassan Yazdani. Taylor has also won three world titles in the weight class, including the last two.

Helen Maroulis celebrates after defeating Khongorzul Boldsaikhan (Mongolia) during the women's freestyle 57 kg. bronze-medal match at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 5, 2021 in Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Getty Images)

Amit Elor (68 kg.)

Elor, who comes from a family of wrestlers, was ineligible to compete at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials because she was too young by one day. Now age 20, the native of Walnut Creek, California, is a rising star who has proven herself against older opponents. She became the youngest American wrestler to win an Olympic or world title when she captured the gold medal at 72 kg. at the 2022 world championships. She defended her world title in September before moving down in weight class to 68 kg. Elor’s performance at February’s Pan American Olympic Qualifiers in Mexico earned the U.S. its Olympic quota in her new class.

Adeline Gray (76 kg.)

Gray has regained her dominant form since giving birth to twins on July 23, 2022. A six-time world champion, she returned to the mat 14 months after becoming a mother and earned a bronze medal at 76 kg. at the 2023 world championships. In doing so, the Denver native tied an American record with her ninth medal at worlds. Gray, 33, is now looking to qualify for her third Olympics and win the gold medal that has eluded her. She earned a silver medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and finished seventh at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.

Helen Maroulis (57 kg.)

Maroulis has made a comeback that’s perfect for Hollywood. In fact, she was the focus of the 2023 documentary “Helen Believe.” Maroulis broke through at the 2016 Games when she stunned Japanese legend Saori Yoshida in the final and became the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling. However, the native of Rockville, Maryland, was then forced to retire and be institutionalized because of health issues caused by concussions. Maroulis came back to earn a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, and a few months later claimed her third world title. More recently Maroulis, 32, proved she’s still a medal contender by earning a bronze medal in the 57 kg. weight class at the 2023 world championships.

Cohlton Schultz competes at the Pan American Games Santiago 2023 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by USA Wrestling)

Cohlton Schultz (130 kg.)

Oct. 17 is officially known as Cohlton Schultz Day in his hometown of Parker, Colorado. The Arizona State junior has only added to his legacy as he attempts to qualify for the Olympics at 130 kg. In February, the heavyweight became one of the first Americans to earn a Paris 2024 quota in Greco-Roman with a 2-1 victory over Venezuela’s Moises Perez Hellburg at the Pan American Olympic Qualifiers in Mexico. The 23-year-old Schultz used wrestling to help him deal with the death of his younger sister, Sammie, who was killed in a car crash in July 2020 — as he was looking to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Alan Vera (97 kg.)

Vera admitted he had to make the difficult decision to defect to the U.S. from his native Cuba in 2016. After missing out on a chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, he went up in weight class to 97 kg. It was a move that has created quite a bit of buzz. Vera earned a silver medal at the Pan American Championships in February. A few days later, he secured a Paris 2024 quota with a dominant win over Venezuela’s Luillys Perez Mora at the Pan American Olympic Qualifiers in Mexico.