Penn State Wrestling

Former Penn State wrestler John Hanrahan still setting marks

Former Penn State wrestler John Hanrahan celebrates on the podium after winning the 85-kilogram weight class of the Freestyle Veteran’s Category E World Championships in Poland.
Former Penn State wrestler John Hanrahan celebrates on the podium after winning the 85-kilogram weight class of the Freestyle Veteran’s Category E World Championships in Poland. Photo provided

When Penn State wrestling fans hear the name John Hanrahan, they know who you’re speaking about.

For some that might not know who Hanrahan is, let’s just say he is a historic figure in the Nittany Lion program.

Hanrahan was the first wrestler in program history to eclipse the 100-win mark. He wrestled for famed coach Richard Lorenzo, who the wrestling room is named after.

At the beginning of October, Hanrahan again made history. This time for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.

Hanrahan won the Category E 85-kilogram weight class veteran freestyle world championship in Poland. The crown was the first veteran title for the club.

“I think it may inspire some other guys to get into that arena.,” Hanrahan said of being able to make history. “It’s a way to reflect back on how much Penn State wrestling meant to me in my younger years. I’m glad I’m able to share something with them still in that wrestling arena. I can kind of dedicate it back to the Nittany Lion experience that I had.”

What’s stunning is he accomplished the feat at 56 years old.

Hanrahan currently resides in Atlanta, Ga., where he runs his own wrestling club and is a trainer. He attributes his success to constantly keeping in shape, whether its in the wrestling room or with his training business.

He said he trained for the world championships 13 to 14 times a week. With all that training, one would think the body would break down.

“I think of wrestling almost like a martial arts practitioner,” Hanrahan explained. “For me, I’ve always found that you do an activity that you love it’s going to keep you in good shape. I’ve been lucky my body has been held together really well. It’s something that’s been in my blood since I started in second grade.”

The victory was such a big hit that it earned national attention for Hanrahan. He was named the USA Wrestling Athlete of the Week by

He was dominant in his gold medal run. He didn’t allow a single point, beating his opponents 27-0.

In the finals, Hanrahan went up against 10-time world champion in South Africa’s Willem Jacobus Putter. He topped him 2-0 thanks to a counter takedown early in the first period.

Wrestling, though, hasn’t consumed Hanrahan’s entire life.

After he graduated from Penn State in 1982, he wrestled at the Olympic level for two years but was constantly stuck behind Mark and Dave Schultz and Lee Kemp. After the 1984 Olympic team trials, Hanrahan began a modeling career where he appeared in television commercials and ads around the globe.

Hanrahan said he didn’t get back into competitive wrestling again until 1996.

“I really wanted to challenge him one more time,” Hanrahan said of Dave Schultz. “I had gone done to Foxcatcher and trained with him just about five weeks before Dave was murdered. I beat some young national champs in those trials but I finished just outside the top 8 but it kind of shocked my body and got it back into wrestling really at that high level. I never really wanted to lose it since those trials.”

Hanrahan has wrestled competitively ever since those 1996 Olympic team trials. He said he’s competed in open tournaments where he has gone up against wrestlers half his age. In 2015, he won freestyle and greco-roman national titles. He sounds like he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“I think I’m going to train for one more cycle,” he said with a laugh about defending his world title. “I haven’t told my wife yet but I think I’ll have her blessing.”

Nate Cobler: 814-231-4609, @ncoblercdt