Joe Rau makes 2024 Olympic team

Joe Rau has made the 2024 U.S. Olympic team as the representative at 97kg in Greco-Roman wrestling. The former Elmhurst national champion and three-time All-American defeated Alan Vera two matches to one in the final series at the Bryce Jordan Center in Pennsylvania on Saturday night. Rau had lost both of his matches with Vera prior to the trials and also lost the first match of the finals 7-1, putting him on the precipice of missing a chance to wrestle in Paris. He proceeded to win the second match 6-0 to set up the deciding match. Rau got off to a quick start in round three and ultimately ended the match with an 8-0 technical superiority victory. View his trials clinching match here on Youtube.

Vera was waiting in the finals for Rau after qualifying the weight for Paris at the Pan Am Olympic qualifier. Rau was the top seed in the challenge tournament that began on Friday morning. He opened the Trials with a 7-0 victory over Brandon Marshall (see more about Marshall’s return to wrestling after a seven year hiatus that included med school). In the quarterfinals, Rau won 5-1 over former Utah Valley and Ohio State wrestler Tate Orndorff before taking on another former Buckeye Nicholas Boykin in the finals. He prevailed 5-3 to get his shot at Vera.

This was not the first time Rau won the Olympic Trials, but it will be his first trip to the Olympics. In 2016, he won the trials at 98kg, but the United States had not yet qualified the weight. He traveled to the final Olympic qualifying tournament but came up short. In 2021, he was again in the trials finals, this time at 87kg. He had a bye in to the finals but lost a pair of matches to John Stefanowicz. After the bouts, one of which featured a controversial call, Rau left his shoes on the mat, signifying his retirement from wrestling.

He found his way back to the sport and even wrestled some freestyle along the way before returning to his best style. In 2023, Rau earned a spot on the world team and competed in the UWW World Championships for the third time, having also made the team in 2014 and 2019. He heads to Paris this summer to compete for an Olympic medal for the first time. Other top names likely to be in the bracket include 2023 world champion Gabriel Rosillo of Cuba and 10x world and Olympic medalist Artur Aleksanyan of Armenia. Rau will begin his Olympic tournament on Tuesday, August 6th in the Grand Palais Éphémère.

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