UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – For the past two years ahead of every workout the growing list of Zain Retherford’s accomplishments were plastered on the wall in the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex.
As part of the Nittany Lions’ lengthy wall of NCAA champions, the two-time winner’s photo hangs above the mats, next to the one of Jason Nolf and ahead of Bo Nickal. That plaque will eventually be a permanent reminder of one of the all-time best college wrestlers who in turn has become a force at Penn State, amassing record after record while the 149 pounder looks to add a third NCAA title and a fourth All-America honoree to his resume by the end of the weekend.
“That’s pretty darn special,” Cael Sanderson said Monday. “He’s got a great mentality and he takes it one match at a time and he’s focused on just being the best he can be. I don’t think he’s worried about his legacy, or at least I hope not. You’ve heard him talk the past four years and he’s as down to earth as they get.”
There’s no reason to think the senior who hasn’t lost since his true freshman season – a streak that when NCAA’s begin Thursday in Cleveland will span 1,455 days, one redshirt season and 89 matches – won’t cap his career atop the podium yet again. He’s won everything under the sun in college, including the NCAA’s Most Dominant Wrestler award in both 2016 and 2017, was last year’s recipient of the Hodge Trophy and is already the 2018 Big Ten Wrester of the Year.