Olympic wrestler Frank Molinaro retires at Trials by leaving shoes on mat

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Frank Molinaro, a Cinderfella of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials, took off his shoes and placed them on the center of the mat after being eliminated from Olympic contention at the Trials for Tokyo on Friday, the sport’s symbolic act of retirement.

Molinaro, 32, first retired in March 2020, after the Tokyo Games were postponed to 2021, but made a surprise return for the Olympic Trials in Fort Worth, Texas.

He won his first match over Evan Henderson 10-1, then lost to Yianni Diakomihalis 10-0 in the 65kg freestyle challenge tournament quarterfinals on Friday.

Molinaro, an assistant coach at Arizona State, fully committed to Trials after the Pac-12 Championships ended Feb. 28. He said he had to lose 28 pounds, including 15 pounds in the last week, to make weight.

He hoped to compete at one last Olympic Trials at his alma mater, Penn State, but the Trials were moved from that location, the originally planned 2020 host site, to Fort Worth, announced earlier in February.

“I didn’t want to retire in my basement over Covid,” Molinaro said. “I think I would have regretted it more if I didn’t try.

“I’m happy with my career. I reached all my goals. No regrets.”

MORE: Olympic Wrestling Trials broadcast schedule

Molinaro’s plans post-second retirement?

“I’m going straight to Buffalo Wild Wings after this tournament and eating 50 buffalo wings,” he said.

In 2016, Molinaro made a stunning run as the No. 9 seed at Trials, knocking off top seed Brent Metcalf in the quarterfinals. He lost the opening match in the best-of-three finals to 19-year-old Bellator MMA signee Aaron Pico, then rallied to win the tournament.

Molinaro still needed to qualify for the Olympics, though. He failed at both international qualifiers but received an Olympic spot after several spots were reallocated due to meldonium doping violations. The initially banned athletes were later reinstated, but the U.S. was allowed to keep its spot.

In Rio, Molinaro was famously bitten by Andriy Kvyatkovskyy of Ukraine in a repechage match that he won. Molinaro then lost the following bronze-medal match to world champion Frank Chamizo of Italy.

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