Joe Rau breaks through to officially make U.S. Olympic Team

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.— The third time was the charm for Joe Rau.

Rau, the 33-year-old Chicago native, broke through and won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Wrestling on Saturday. He bested Alan Vera, two matches to one, in the championship series to become the Olympic rep at 97 kilograms in Greco-Roman.

This result was a long time coming for Rau, who has been a mainstay on the U.S. Greco scene for many years.

The three-time Senior World Team member had come tantalizingly close to the Olympics the last two cycles, so much that his journey might be considered cruel to some who aren’t aware of the trials he’s navigated.

In 2016, Rau won the Trials in Iowa City, but did not qualify the weight class for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In the next cycle, Rau qualified the U.S. for the 87-kg greco competition at the Olympics in Tokyo but did not win the Trials, losing a controversial finals series to John Stefanowicz.

It all came together for Rau this weekend.

With 97-kg already qualified, Rau just needed to finish first. On Friday, he won three matches to reach the best-of-three finals: 7-0 over Big Game’s Brandon Marshall, 5-1 over Ohio RTC’s David Orndorff, and 5-3 over Sunkist Kids’ Nicholas Boykin.

On Saturday, he actually dropped his first match to Alan Vera, a 7-1 decision wherein Rau held a 1-1 criteria lead until Vera scored six unanswered in the final minute to win. But he roared back with decisive results, 6-0 and 8-0, to punch his ticket to Paris.

For so many years, Rau was on the doorstep of the Olympics. This year, at long last, he’ll finally get his shot.

Here’s a weight-by-weight rundown of what happened in Session IV on Saturday:

60 kg— After Saturday’s best-of-three finals, Dalton Roberts and Ildar Hafizov have now wrestled 17 times in their Senior-level careers. Roberts now carries a 10-7 advantage after winning the championship series, two matches to one, to win the Olympic Trials. Roberts won the first match, 2-0; Hafizov erupted for a 10-1 technical fall win in the second; then Roberts muscled out a 3-2 win in the third winner-take-all match. Now Roberts must earn an Olympic bid at the World Olympic Games Qualifier in Turkey next month.

67 kg— Ellis Coleman made the 2012 Olympic Team at 20 years old. On Saturday, 12 years later, he won the Trials again. After dropping the first match 1-1, Coleman won the next two, 2-2 and 3-2, to beat Alejandro Sancho in the best-of-three series. Now 32 years old, Coleman must qualify for the Olympics next month in Turkey if he wants to compete in Paris.

77 kg— Kamal Bey brought the fireworks to sweep Aliaksandr Kikinou, two matches to none, and secure his spot atop the podium here on Saturday. He used a pair of 4-point moves in a 9-1 technical fall in the first match, then another 4-pointer in a 6-0 win in the second match. Like both Roberts and Coleman, Bey still has to qualify for the Olympics in Turkey next month.

87 kg— How’s this for a story? Back in December, Payton Jacobson wrestled at the U.S. Senior Nationals at 77 kilograms. He bumped up to 87-kg — 10 kilos is about 22 pounds, for reference — and stormed to the Olympic roster as the 7-seed this week. In the challenge tournament, he beat second-seeded Richard Carlson, 4-0; third-seeded Danny Braunagel, 6-0; and defeating 2020 Olympian John Stefanowicz, 1-1. In the best-of-three finals on Saturday, he beat Spencer Woods, two matches to one, taking the first match, 8-2, and the third match, 3-1, to punch his ticket to Paris.

97 kg— See above.

130 kg— Adam Coon navigated the challenge tournament on Friday and then punched his ticket to Paris on Saturday, downing Cohlton Schultz, two matches to one, in the best-of-three finals. After Schultz took the first match, 3-1, Coon battled back to win 1-1 and 6-1 to earn a spot on the Olympic Team. In an interesting twist, Michigan can claim both of the U.S. Olympic heavyweights, with Coon making the Greco team and Mason Parris making the men’s freestyle team.

2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Wrestling | April 19-20, Bryce Jordan Center, State College, Pa.

Best-of-Three Championship Series Matchups


60 kg
Round 1: Dalton Roberts (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Ildar Hafizov (U.S. Army WCAP), 2-0
Round 2: Ildar Hafizov (U.S. Army WCAP) tech. fall Dalton Roberts (U.S. Army WCAP), 10-1
Round 3: Dalton Roberts (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Ildar Hafizov (U.S. Army WCAP), 3-2
Dalton Roberts wins series, 2-1

67 kg
Round 1: Alejandro Sancho (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Ellis Coleman (U.S. Army WCAP), 1-1
Round 2: Ellis Coleman (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Alejandro Sancho (U.S. Army WCAP), 2-0
Round 3: Ellis Coleman (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Alejandro Sancho (U.S. Army WCAP), 3-2
Ellis Coleman wins series, 2-1

77 kg
Round 1: Kamal Bey (U.S. Army WCAP) tech. fall Aliaksandr Kikinou (New York AC), 9-1
Round 2: Kamal Bey (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Aliaksandr Kikinou (New York AC), 6-0
Kamal Bey wins series, 2-0

87 kg
Round 1: Payton Jacobson (Northern Michigan/Sunkist Kids WC) dec. Spencer Woods (U.S. Army WCAP), 8-1
Round 2: Spencer Woods (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Payton Jacobson (Northern Michigan/Sunkist Kids WC), 5-2
Round 3: Payton Jacobson (Northern Michigan/Sunkist Kids WC) dec. Spencer Woods (U.S. Army WCAP), 3-1
Payton Jacobson wins series, 2-1

97 kg
Round 1: Alan Vera (New York AC) dec. Josef Rau (Titan Mercury WC), 7-1
Round 2: Josef Rau (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Alan Vera (New York AC), 6-0
Round 3: Josef Rau (Titan Mercury WC) tech. fall Alan Vera (New York AC), 8-0
Josef Rau wins series, 2-1

130 kg
Round 1: Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kid WC) dec. Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC/New York AC), 3-1
Round 2: Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC/New York AC) dec. Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kid WC), 1-1
Round 3: Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC/New York AC) dec. Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kid WC), 6-1
Adam Coon wins series, 2-1

You can watch the replays of every round from the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Wrestling on Peacock. You can see all the results on Trackwrestling.

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