Resident Athlete Program

Resident Athlete (R.A.) Program

The NLWC Coaching staff comprised of Cael Sanderson, Cody Sanderson, Casey Cunningham, Jake Varner, Mark McKnight, and Jimmy Kennedy select elite wrestlers who have Olympic aspirations to live in Central PA and train at the NLWC’s Olympic Regional Training Center.  This program is designed to provide the coaching, training environment and financial support necessary for these athletes to compete for Olympic and World Championships. NLWC Wrestlers have enjoyed tremendous success at both national and international levels!

Some Highlights from the Past Few Seasons (Includes R.A.’s and Collegians who Wrestled Under the NLWC Banner at Select Tournaments)


At the 2018 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, David Taylor dominated the 86 kg weight class and won a World Title. Also competing at the World Championships, Franklin Gomez(wrestling for Puerto Rico) won his first match but lost his second match to the eventual gold medalist and fell short of placing. Bekzod Abdurakhmonov(wrestling for Uzbekistan) won a bronze medal at the World Championships and joined the NLWC that same month. At the conclusion of the 2018 calendar year, David Taylor, was recognized by the international governing body of wrestling as the top pound for pound freestyle wrestler in the world in 2018. Also at the conclusion of 2018, NLWC Coach Casey Cunningham was recognized by USA Wrestling as the U.S. Freestyle Coach of the year.


In March, 2019, Bekzod Abdurakhmonov earned a silver at the Dan Kolov International Tournament in Ruse, Bulgaria. Josh Rodriguez and Riley Lefever also competed but fell short of placing in Bulgaria. At the 2019 World Cup Championships held in Yakutsk, Russia, in March, Zain Retherford went undefeated and led the U.S team to a bronze medal. The month of April was a big month for the NLWC with Penn State stars Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal, and Nick Nevills joining the Club, and former Resident Athlete and 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist, Jaime Espinal, returning to the Club. At the Pan American Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina in April, both Josh Rodriguez and David Taylor captured gold medals with Jaime Espinal earning silver and Franklin Gomez bronze. Davidwas also awarded the OW award at the Pan American Championships. At the U.S. Open National Championships in Las Vegas in late April, Bo Nickal captured gold, Zain Retherford and Roman Bravo-Young (Junior Freestyle) silver, Jason Nolf bronze, Mason Manville (Greco) bronze, Ben Provisor (Greco) bronze, Geno Morelli fifth, Jarod Verkleeren (Greco) fifth, and Riley Lefever sixth. In early May, Mark Hall and Nick Nevillscaptured gold at the Last Chance World Team Trials Qualifier Tournament. The U.S. World Team Trials Challenge Tournament and took place in Raleigh, NC in May with Zain Retherford, Ben Provisor (Greco), and Bo Nickal all winning gold in the final best of three series, Jason Nolf and Mason Manvillle (Greco) finishing with silver in the final best of three series, Roman Bravo-Young (Junior) and Mark Hall earning silver in the Challenge Tournament, and Josh Rodriguez and Riley Lefever earning bronze in the challenge tournament. In June, Brady Berge won the U23 World Team Trials Tournament in Akron, OH, with seven straight technical falls. In the Final X held in June at Rutgers University, Zain Retherford defeated Yianni Diakomihalis two matches to none to win the U.S. World Team spot, and during the same weekend, Roman Bravo-Young won the Junior Pan American Championships while also earning the OW award. Zain’s second match at Final X had a controversial ending. After a grievance was filed which ended in arbitration, Zain had to wrestle the second match again, this time winning by a score of 2-1. At the Grand Prix of Spain in July, Josh Rodriguez and Franklin Gomez both captured gold medals, and also in July in Fargo, ND, Bo Nickal won a special wrestle-off two matches to none to win a spot on the U.S. U23 World Team. Zain Retherford, Bekzod Abdurakhmonov, Franklin Gomez, and Jaime Espinal all competed at the 2019 Senior World Championships. In fall, 2019, Bo Nickal captured a U23 World Title. Also in fall, 2019, 3X NCAA Champion, 2015 and 2017 World Gold Medalist, and 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist Kyle Snyder joined the NLWC Program. In late November at the Bill Farrell International, Kyle Snyder won gold and Jason Nolf silver. And at the final competition in 2019, the U.S. Senior Nationals, Nick Lee earned a bronze, Nick Nevills a fourth place finish, and Aaron Brooks a sixth place finish.


Former Penn State HWT NCAA Champion Anthon Cassar joined the program in January. Also in January, Zain Retherford and Kyle Snyder earned bronze in Italy at the Matteo Pellicone International Tournament in Italy. In March at the Pan American Championships in Ottawa, Canada, Jason Nolf and Kyle Snyder captured gold medals and Franklin Gomez a silver. The following week at the Pan American Olympic Qualifier Tournament, David Taylor won gold, Franklin Gomez reached the finals, and Zain Retherford earned bronze. In winning his semi-final match at this tournament, Franklin Gomez qualified for his third Olympic Games. Also noteworthy at the Pan American Olympic Qualifier tournament, Jane Valencia (who also joined the NLWC in 2020) made history by becoming he first-ever Mexican women’s wrestler to qualify for the Olympic Games. The COVID-19 Pandemic brought all competition to a half immediately following the Pan Am tournament. However, in late spring, the NLWC welcomed two new wrestlers to the Club: Iowa’s 3X All-American and 2017 World silver medalist Thomas Gilman and Penn State’s 3X NCAA finalist and 2X Champion Vincenzo Joseph.  And then in the fall, Jennifer Page, a U.S. Open National Champion in both 2014 and 2017 a junior world bronze medalist in 2013, joined the NLWC Program.  


March, 2021-NCAA Championships.  Penn State had four National Champions…Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Carter Starocci, and Aaron Brooks!  Outside of their college practices, these outstanding young wrestlers also have international freestyle goals and regularly train at NLWC Olympic RTC practices.  

 April, 2021-U.S. Olympic Trials.  The NLWC had fifteen wrestlers compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials at Fort Worth, Texas, in early April.  Helen Maroulis (training with the NLWC at that time), Thomas Gilman, David Taylor, and Kyle Snyder all won spots on the U.S. Men’s Freestyle Olympic Team.  Of the six men’s freestyle Olympic weight classes contested, NLWC wrestlers won three of them.  And in one of those weights, two NLWC wrestlers met in the finals.  In addition to the Olympians, the NLWC also had three wrestlers (by placing in the top three in their weight classes) become members of the 2021 U.S. National Team:  Bo Nickal, Nick Lee, and Jason Nolf.

 August, 2021-Toyko Olympics.  At the Tokyo Olympics, the biggest stage in wrestling, the NLWC was represented by six wrestlers.  David Taylor won an Olympic gold medal; Kyle Snyder won an Olympic silver medal; Thomas Gilman and Bekzod Abdurakhmonov both won Olympic bronze medals; Franklin Gomez became a  3X Olympian; and Jane Valencia made history by becoming Mexico’s first women’s wrestling Olympian.  Their performance was historic.   In men’s freestyle, NLWC wrestlers earned medals in four of the six weight classes.  Team USA also had a spectacular Olympic performance, winning nine total medals with three being gold medals.  

 Aug, 2021-Jr World Championships.  Collegian Beau Bartlett continued the August run of success by winning a Bronze medal at the Junior World Championships in Ufa, Russia.   

 Sept, 2021-Sr World Championship.  The NLWC had five wrestlers compete at the Sr. World Championships, in Oslo, Norway.  Thomas Gilman won a World Gold Medal, while David Taylor and Kyle Snyder both won World Silver Medals.  Jane Valencia and Alejandra Bonilla also competed but fell short of the medal rounds.  


NLWC Highlights from January to Early Spring.  Snyder Gold, Nolf Silver at Yariguin in Russia.  Gilman, Nolf, Snyder Win in Texas Bout at Ballpark.  Zain Gold, Rodriguez Bronze, Page-Rogers Bronze, & Franciso 4th in Bulgaria.  Snyder Wins Rudis+ Super Match against J’den Cox.  Page-Rogers Silver at Women’s National Championships.  Nolf Gold, Rodriguez Silver at Men’s National Championships.  Facundo Gold & OW, Howard Bronze, Steen 7th at U20 Freestyle National Championships.  Gilman Gold, Snyder Gold, Gomez Silver, Valencia Silver at Pan American Championships.    

Nick Lee Joins NLWC Resident Athlete Program.  The NLWC is excited to announce that Nick Lee has joined the Club’s Resident Athlete Program.  Nick posted a 22-0 record in NCAA action last season, winning his 2nd NCAA championship at 141 lbs. and becoming Penn State’s first-ever five-time All-American.  An outstanding competitor on the mat and a tremendous person off of the mat, Nick is an outstanding addition to the Club’s program!  

Morgan McIntosh Begins Training with the NLWC as part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program.  Former Penn State 3X All-American and NCAA finalist Morgan McIntosh joined the U.S. Army and became a Green Beret after his graduation from Penn State.  Also an outstanding freestyle competitor, Morgan is now back on the mat and training with the NLWC as a member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program.  

Current NLWC Resident Athletes

Current NLWC wrestlers are Bekzod Abdurakhmonov, Anthony Cassar, Jordan Conaway, Ceron Francisco, Thomas Gilman, Franklin Gomez, Nick Lee, Bo Nickal, Jason Nolf, Jennifer Page-Rogers, Zain Retherford, Josh Rodriguez, Kyle Snyder, David Taylor, and Jane Valencia.  Morgan McIntosh is also training with the NLWC as part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program.  These wrestlers are some of the top athletes in the world, and the NLWC is very proud to be represented by these fine young men and women, both on and off of the mat!

NLWC Resident Athletes

Josh Rodriguez (61 kg/134 lbs)

From Guadalupe, California, Josh attended North Dakota State University before joining the R.A. program in late summer, 2017.  During the 2018-19 season, he won a Pan American gold medal, earned bronze at the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament, and won a gold medal at the Grand Prix of Spain.  Josh battled some injuries but came back strong this past season, winning a silver medal at U.S. Open National Championships.  Josh is a hard worker, outstanding teammate, and tough competitor.   His success in the 2022 season has shown that when healthy, he is one of the top 61 kg wrestlers in the U.S. and the world.  

Thomas Gilman (57kg/125.5lbs)

Thomas, a 3X All-American for the University of Iowa has had tremendous international success.  He was a 2017 World Silver Medalist, placed 5th at the 2018 World Championships, earned a Bronze Medal at the Tokyo Olympics, and won gold at the 2021 World Championships.   Thomas will compete at the 2022 World Championships in September.  He joined the NLWC in Spring, 2020.  A ferocious competitor and outstanding leader, Thomas has been a great addition to the NLWC Program.  

Jordan Conaway (61 kg/134 lbs)

A 2X All-American while competing for Penn State, Jordan joined the NLWC Resident Athlete Program in the summer of 2016.  In addition to being a top competitor, Jordan’s outstanding technique, positive attitude, and work ethic have made him an excellent addition to the Club’s Regional Training Center practices, and his contributions as a training partner have played a pivotal role in the success of the other NLWC lightweights.  


Zain Retherford (70 kg/154 lbs)

Zain joined the R.A. Program in April, 2018 after completing his collegiate career as a 3X NCAA Champion with 94 straight wins.  Zain also won two Hodge Trophies as the nation’s most dominant wrestler and won the NCAA Most Dominant Award three straight years.  During the 2018-19 season, Zain went undefeated at the World Cup Championships, finished 2nd at the U.S. Open National Championships, won the World Team Trials Challenge tournament, won the Final X, and represented team U.S.A. at the 2019 World Championships.  Zain has had an outstanding 2022 season, winning the 70 kg spot on the U.S. World Team.  He will compete at the World Championships in September.  An tremendous person, student (who is currently earning his MBA), and wrestler, Zain sets an outstanding example for the Club’s younger wresters to follow.  

Franklin Gomez (74 kg/163 lbs)

A NCAA Champion and All-American for Michigan State, Franklin has been with the Resident Athlete Program for many years.  Representing his native Puerto Rico, Franklin earned a silver medal at the 2011 World Championships, was a 2012 Olympian, competed at the 2013 and 2014 World Championships, and also competed at both the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games to become a rare 3X Olympian.  Franklin will also wrestle at the World Championships in September.  Franklin has been a model wrestler, teammate, and person, and as the Club’s longest tenured Resident Athlete, he has contributed greatly to the Club’s culture that has led to the success of all of the wrestlers in the program.  

Bekzod Abdurakhmonov (79kg/174 lbs)

A native of Uzbekistan, Bekzod joined the NLWC Resident Athlete Program in the fall of 2018.  He was a 2014 World Bronze Medalist, a 2016 Asian Gold Medalist, a bronze medal match finalist at the 2016 Olympic Games, a bronze medalist at the 2018 World Championships, and won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.  Bekzod will also compete at the World Championships in September.   Bekzod is an outstanding wrestler and person, and his technique and style of wrestling as a training partner has also helped the Club’s other middleweight wrestlers compete on the world stage.  

Jason Nolf (74kg/163lbs)

Jason had a spectacular career at Penn state where he won 3 NCAA titles before joining the NLWC Program in April, 2019.  He earned a bronze in the 2019 U.S. Open National Championships and won the World Team Trials Challenge tournament.  Jason has had an outstanding 2022 season, dominating his weight class at both the U.S. Open National Championships and the U.S. World Team Trials.   He fell just short of making the 2022 U.S. World Team when he dropped a very close best of three series to returning World Champion Kyle Dake at the Final X.  Jason is a fierce competitor and his success in both domestic and foreign tournaments in the past year has shown that he is fully capable of winning World and Olympic medals.  

David Taylor (86 kg/189 lbs)

At Penn State, David was a 4X All-American, a 2X NCAA Champion, and a 2X Hodge Award winner, recognized as the most dominant wrestler in the country.   During the 2017-18 season, David was virtually unstoppable in every competition he entered, including the 2018 World Championships where he dominated the 86 kg weight class on his way to a World Title.  And at the conclusion of the season, the international governing body of wrestling recognized David as the 2018 top freestyle wrestler in the World!  David started off the 2019 season right where he had left off in the 2018 season before suffering an injury in late spring, 2019.  Returning to competition in March, 2020 David won the U.S. Olympic Trials and at the Tokyo Olympics, he won an Olympic Gold Medal.   He then followed this with a silver at the 2021 World Championships.  David will be competing at the 2022 World Championships in September.   David’s personality, attitude, and success on the wrestling mat have contributed greatly to the success of the entire NLWC program.   

Bo Nickal (92kg/202lbs)

Bo joined the R.A. Program in spring, 2019 after an outstanding career at Penn State where he was a 3X NCAA Champion and earned the Hodge Trophy as the nation’s most dominant collegiate wrestler during the 2018-19 season.  Bo transitioned to freestyle without missing a beat.  He won the 2019 U.S. Open National Tournament and followed that by winning the world team trials best of three final.  After dropping two close bouts to the returning world champion in the Final X series, Bo challenged for the U23 World Team spot which he won.  Bo then went on to capture the 2019 U23 World Title!  Bo looked outstanding in 2021 as he reached the finals of the Olympic Trials and made the U.S. National team.  In addition to wrestling, Bo has also begun to compete in MMA and is off to a very successful start in the Octagon.  

Kyle Snyder (97kg/213.4lbs)

Kyle joined the NLWC Program in fall, 2019.  A 3X NCAA Champion for Ohio State, Kyle made U.S. history by becoming the youngest American to win a World title (2015) at 19 years old and the youngest American to win an Olympic gold medal (2016) at 20 years old.  Kyle has now won 2015 World Gold, 2016 Olympic Gold, 2017 World Gold, 2018 World Silver, 2019 World Bronze, 2020 Olympic Silver, and 2021 World Silver Medals!  Kyle is considered one of the top pound for pound wrestlers in the world, and combined with his positive attitude and work ethic, he is an outstanding representative of the NLWC program.  Kyle will soon be competing at the 2022 World Championships in September.  

Anthony Cassar (125kg/275lbs)

Anthony, a former Penn Stater, joined the NLWC program in January, 2020 after a phenomenal collegiate career where he won an NCAA title in 2019.  Anthony had a lot of freestyle success early in his collegiate career but had some injury setbacks.  He is working hard and looks forward to returning to full strength.  When healthy, he will once again be in the hunt for National, World, and Olympic medals.  

Ceron Francisco (125 kg/275 lbs.)

Ceron joined the NLWC Program in fall, 2021.  From Fayetteville, NC, Ceron was a 2X All-American for Concordia.  Ceron has been making the adjustment to freestyle, and has continually improved since his arrival in Happy Valley, finishing 4th at a top International Tournament in Bulgaria this past spring.   Ceron brings a great attitude and a strong desire to become an Olympic and World Medalist to the NLWC program.  As his freestyle technique continues to improve, the sky is the limit for Ceron’s potential wrestling success.  

Nick Lee (65 kg/143 lbs.)

Nick Lee joined the Club’s Resident Athlete Program in Spring, 2022, after posting a 22-0 record in NCAA action in the 2021-22 Season, where he won his 2nd NCAA championship at 141 lbs. and became Penn State’s first-ever five-time All-American.  A tremendous student and person off of the mat, Nick trains hard and competes at an exciting and relentless and exciting pace.  The NLWC is very excited to have him join Club’s program!  

Morgan McIntosh (92 kg/202 lbs.)

As a 3X NCAA All-American and NCAA finalist, Morgan was an outstanding collegiate wrestler at Penn State.  After his graduation from PSU, he joined the U.S. Army and became a Green Beret, the elite special forces unit of the U.S. Army.  An outstanding freestyle competitor, Morgan is now back on the mat and training with the NLWC as a member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP).   Tough as nails and an excellent wrestler, Morgan is set to make an impact on the U.S. and World freestyle scenes.   

Jane Valencia (57 kg/125 lbs.)

Jane joined the NLWC Program in fall, 2020.  A dedicated competitor, Jane made rapid progress in international women’s freestyle.  At the 2020 Pan Am. Olympic Qualifier, she made history by becoming the first-ever Mexican women’s wrestler to qualify for an Olympic Games.  Although falling short of a medal, Jane’s story is inspiring as she successfully juggled family, medical school, and wrestling on her Olympic quest.  Jane decided to continue competing after Tokyo and continues to wrestle well, winning a silver medal in a tough weight class at the 2022 Pan American Championships.   Jane will be wrestling at the World Championships in September.  

Jennifer Page-Rogers (62 kg/136 lbs.)

After much success at the junior level where she was a world bronze medalist, Jennifer started off strong at the senior level winning U.S. Open National titles in both 2014 and 2017.  She had to overcome some injuries, but came back better than ever with another U.S. Open National championship in 2020, and at the 2021 Olympic Trials, she had a strong showing with a 4-1 record, finishing 3rd in the challenge tournament.  Jennifer has had a very good 2022 season, winning the U.S. World Team Trials and recently falling just short in a  very close best-of-three series to the returning world silver medalist in a 2022 U.S. World Team wrestle-off.  Jennifer joined the NLWC Program in fall, 2020.  

NLWC Coaching Staff

Jake Varner

A former NLWC Resident Athlete, Jake had an outstanding competitive career.  He reached the NCAA finals 4 times, winning 2 titles, earned a 2011 World Bronze Medal, and won a 2012 Olympic Gold Medal.  Jake joined the NLWC coaching staff in 2016, and also performs many other duties for the Club.  In addition, Jake serves as the Penn State Wrestling team’s volunteer coach.  Jake had played a significant role in the success of both the NLWC and Penn State Wrestling programs.  

Mark McKnight

A former All-American for Penn State, Mark was a top senior level wrestler for many years, reaching the 2012 Olympic Trial semi-finals and winning a 2013 Pan American Gold Medal.   After finishing his competitive career, Mark transitioned into a coaching position with the NLWC.  An outstanding youth coach, Mark also directions the Club’s scholastic programs and assists with the Club’s golf tournament, clinics, youth tournament, and various fundraising initiatives.  Mark has also played a significant role in the development of the Club’s senior level wrestlers.  

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