TeamUSA Olympic Wrestling Results
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TeamUSA Olympic Wrestling Results

Women’s Freestyle earns its first Olympic Gold, Men’s Freestyle regroups in a big way after the unthinkable.

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TeamUSA Olympic Wrestling Results
Tony Rotundo/WrestlersAreWarriors.com

Day 1, 8/14: Greco-Roman 59KG, 75KG

The first day of wrestling competition didn’t go as well as I would have liked, but my sails (and that of many American fans) had not been completely deflated by the performance.

World No. 19 Jesse Thielke opened the tournament as expected based on his draw, quickly dispatching El Mahadi Messaoudi of Morocco 8-0 in just under two minutes. In his fateful quarterfinal, Thielke faced a formidable World No. 2 Rovshan Bayramov of Azerbaijan. The Azeri is a 3x Olympian, with a wealth of World/Olympic medals. Bayramov was a World Silver medalist in 2006 and 2015 as well as the Olympic Silver in 2008 and 2012. He captured a 2011 World Gold and a 2009 World Bronze. Around the two-minute mark, Thielke was put down in par terre due to passivity. Bayramov took advantage and scored a 2pt gut-wrench to start the scoring. As the sequence continued, Bayramov hit two more 2pt gut-wrenches and took a commanding 6-0 lead. A USA challenge call came in immediately after; it appeared as if Thielke was signaling that Bayramov’s lock had slipped below the hips (which would have stopped the sequence at that instance). Unfortunately, the officials rescored the sequence 4pts AZE, plus 1pt for the failed challenge, Thielke falling by 9-0 Tech Fall. When Bayramov lost to breakout World No. 12 Shinobu Ota of Japan in the semi-finals, Thielke was eliminated with a 1-1 record, good for 9th-place at 59KG.

Greco-Roman team leader, World No. 5 Andy Bisek also advanced in his first round match to make it into the quarterfinals at 75KG, beating Yurisandy Hernandez Rios of Cuba in a tight 1-0 match. Bisek met the rather-unheralded World No. 17 Bozo Starcevic of Croatia in his next match. Starcevic was 5th at the 2014 World Championships, but upset World No. 1 (at 80KG) Selcuk Cebi of Turkey in the very first-round of the tournament. Cebi, a returning World Champion from 2015, moved down to 75KG from the non-Olympic 80KG and was upset in a 2-1 match to the Croatian. Cebi is an overall 3x World Champion (2009, ‘10, ‘15) across two weight-classes, as well as a World Silver (‘11) and Bronze (‘14). Starcevic then set his sights on Bisek, who he beat in the quarters 2-0, scoring exposure on a gutwrench after Bisek was put down in forced par terre. When Starcevic lost in the semi-finals to eventual Olympic Champion Roman Vlasov (Russia), Bisek was eliminated. Bisek went 1-1, 12th-place at 75KG.


Day 2, 8/15: Greco-Roman 85KG, 130KG

Day 2 would not prove any better for TeamUSA.

Ben Provisor found himself in a scrap with 2015 World Silver, World No. 4 Rustam Assakalov of Uzbekistan (by way of Russia). The shorter Provisor was not swayed, pushing-and-pulling his opponent all over the mat. A counter by Assakalov left the score at 1-0 for Uzbekistan after a period. 48-seconds into the second-and-final period, Provisor’s non-stop handfighting earned him a caution-1pt for passivity against Assakalov. However, Provisor was unable to score for the second time in par terre. At 4:35 elapsed, Provisor was hit with passivity and gave up his own caution-1pt. Assakalov would capitalize on his opportunity in par terre, scoring a shallow 4pt throw to take a 6-1 lead, one he would not give up. Assakalov, who was undoubtedly gassed by this point, backed straight out-of-bounds and gave up a caution-2pt for fleeing the mat. With time expiring, the referee attempted to call another caution-2pt against Assakalov, but the call was not confirmed. A last second duck-under attempt looked good, but Provisor didn’t have enough time nor gas to complete the move to score the necessary 4pts to win the match. Assakalov would win 6-3. In the next round, Assakalov would lose a 2-1 match to Viktor Lorincz of Hungary (2x World Bronze, 2015 World 5th), eliminating Ben Provisor. Provisor went 0-1, 12th-place.

The “Beard” Robby Smith came out on the Olympic mats on a high-note, scoring a 2pt arm-throw to start the scoring in the first period of his match against World No. 15 Sabah Shariati of Azerbaijan (by way of Iran). However, when Shariati put Smith down in par terre, he scored four gut-wrenches to takeover the match with a commanding 8-2 lead, the same score at the end of the match. When Shariati lost 5-1 in the next round to the 2015 World Champion, World No. 1 Riza Kayaalp of Turkey, Smith was eliminated from competition. Shariati eventually earned himself an Olympic Bronze medal by the end of the day. Smith matched Provisor, 0-1 and 12th-place.


Day 3, 8/16: Greco-Roman 66KG, 98KG

The day that happened to coincide with my birthday gave TeamUSA a reprieve from any more losses from the wrestling mats, but also hint to two weights left un-qualified.


Day 4, 8/17: Women’s Freestyle 48KG, 58KG, 69KG

Haley Augello started the day right, dominating 2015 World Bronze, World No. 12 Jessica Blaszka 7-0 in the round of 16. This set up a fateful match against 3x-defending World Champion Eri Tosaka of Japan (Tosaka also has a 2012 World Silver medal) in the Olympic quarterfinals. After Augello conceded the first passivity point, the score was 1-0 for Tosaka through the first period. In the second period, Augello was able to score on a leg-attack, leading 2-1. However, when she looked to turn Tosaka with a high-gut, she gave up position and Tosaka capitalized in a big way, scoring back-to-back 2pt exposures before transitioning into a leglace for another 2pt turn. It was all Japan from there, and the score would finish 11-2. When Tosaka beat Sun Yunan in the semi-finals, 8-3, Augello was pulled back into repechage.

World No. 4 and 2x-World Medalist Zhuldyz Eshimova of Kazahkstan met her there, the winner earning a bid into the bronze medal match. In a controversial match, Augello found herself down 3-0 after giving up a takedown and caution-1pt for passivity. In the second period, she would finally score on a double-leg takedown, but could not score again, eventually falling 3-2. Augello went 1-2, 9th at the Olympic Games.


Day 5, 8/18: Women’s Freestyle 53KG, 63KG, 75KG

And on the 5th day, Helen Maroulis answered a nation’s prayers. In one of the most anticipated days for TeamUSA, three World Champions took the mat and looked to right the ship.

At 53KG, one of the best wrestlers in the World, Helen Maroulis, came out on fire. In her first round match, she met 2008 World Bronze, World No. 8 Yuliya Khalvadzhy-Blahinya of Ukraine. Maroulis opened the match with a good front-headlock and worked her counter-offense, earning herself a takedown on the edge to lead the match 2-0. Before a minute had elapsed, Maroulis earned another takedown, using a snap-by to give herself an angle to score a go-behind. Khalvadzhy then nearly caught Maroulis with a head-and-arm. After an official’s conference, the sequence was scored 1 Red (UKR) for correct-throw, 1 Blue for the reversal. This left the score at 5-1 USA. A pushout earned Maroulis yet another point. In the second period, Maroulis scored on a beautiful knee-pull straight into an underhook/ cross-knee pick straight to Khalvadzhy’s back, good for 4pts. A leglace scored the final 2pt exposure, giving Maroulis the 12-1 Technical Fall victory. In the round of 16, Maroulis had World No. 4, 2x Asian Champion Zhong Xuechun of China. Mid-way through the 1st period, Zhong was hit with passivity and Maroulis was awarded a caution-1pt. After a sloppy shot from Zhong, Maroulis transitioned right into a go-behind, back tripping Zhong down to the mat to earn a 2pt takedown. Leading 3-0 with :30s left in the first period, Maroulis snapped Zhong to a standing front-headlock right into her patented inside-trip for another 2pt takedown. With less than :05s in the half, Maroulis hit an armdrag right into a double-leg, scoring yet another 2pt takedown to lead 7-0 after a period. She would only need one more minute to close the match, earning another takedown before a 1pt pushout, tech-falling Zhong 10-0. Into the quarterfinals, Maroulis met World No. 5, 2014 World Bronze Jong Myong-Suk of People’s Republic of Korea. Two minutes into the match, the scoring started via a caution-1pt against Jong for passivity. Jong would answer quickly, garnering a go-behind takedown to take a 2-1 lead into the second period. With Maroulis on the attack, Jong would score again on a relentless single-leg attack on the edge, lead 4-1 PRK. With 1:30 left in the match, Maroulis continued to push her pace, going back to her front-headlock. With about a minute left, she would score on a go-behind to a double to tighten the score to 4-3. Maroulis willed herself to another attack, scoring a huge takedown on the edge to take a 5-4 lead with :15s left. When Jong pushed in too much to attempt to score, Maroulis scored another takedown to ice the match 7-4. In the semi-final bout, Maroulis faced 2015 World Silver, World No. 2 Sofia Mattsson of Sweden. It was a match all of the wrestling community looked forward to, and it’s safe to assume Maroulis got ready for this scrap. She wasted no time, hitting her inside-trip in the first :20s to take a 2-0 lead on the Swedish champion. Mattsson and Maroulis would find themselves in stalemated front-headlocks often in the match, a sign of their parity. Mattsson got in deep on a single-leg but Maroulis continued to fight it, conceding nothing at the end of a period. Both would continue their break-neck pace in the second period. 4:00 elapsed in the match, Maroulis countered a Mattsson leg-attack to a takedown, extending the lead to 4-0 USA. Around the 5:00 mark in the match, Maroulis would out-step another Mattsson attack, right into her footpick straight to Mattsson’s back, earning the FALL over the World No. 2 in 5:24.

Her date with destiny would pit Maroulis against 13x World and 3x-defending Olympic Champion, World No .1 Saori Yoshida of Japan. After a period, Yoshida led 1-0 on a caution-1pt, but the story is the huge exchange between Maroulis and Yoshida, in which Maroulis displayed masterful single-leg defense, stopping Yoshida from scoring a takedown.

Maroulis would find herself earning a takedown of her own, off a go-behind when Yoshida attempted a mis-timed head-and-arm throw. Leading 2-1 with around two minutes to go, Maroulis continued to keep immense pressure on the legend, eventually driving her out-of-bounds for a 1pt pushout (the pushout was then confirmed as a 2pt takedown). As time expired the lead would stay 4-1, as Helen Maroulis became the first USA Gold in Women’s Freestyle Wrestling in history. Maroulis was also the first American Olympic finalist since 2004. She defeated World Nos. 8, 4, 5, 2, and 1 en route to her Olympic Gold Medal, the first medal for USAWrestling in the Rio Olympics.


In her first match of the Games, 2012 World Champion Elena Pirozhkova took the Olympic mat against World No. 8 Taybe Yusein of Bulgaria, the woman she beat for her 2012 World title. Yusein has also earned three other World medals in the past.

Early in the first period, Pirozhkova countered a sloppy attempt by Yusein, using an armdrag to earn a 2pt go-behind takedown to open the scoring. Yusein showed her mettle, though, when she tied the score with a takedown of her own with time expiring in the first half. The score was 2-2 with Bulgaria holding criteria. Within :30s of the start of the period, Yusein countered one of Pirozhkova’s attacks, earning another takedown to take the outright lead 4-2. When Yusein looked to re-shot on Pirozhkova again, the American continued to wrestle, crotch-lifting Yusein four-straight times to lead 10-4 via multiple 2pt exposures. When Yusein recovered position and earned a 1pt reversal, the score was 10-5 USA. With :30s left in the match, Pirozhkova conceded another 2pt takedown, but was well aware of the score. She weathered Yusein’s final sprint to hold on for a 10-7 win. In the quarterfinals, Pirozhkova was tested by defending-World Champion, World No. 2 Soronzonbold Battsetseg. Soronzonbold also captured an Olympic Bronze medal in London. Two minutes into the match, Pirozhkova was awarded a caution-1pt when Soronzonbold failed to score on the :30s shot-clock. Pirozhkova took the 1-0 lead into the 2nd period, but gave up a snatch single-leg :30s into the period. Not deterred, Pirozhkova kept her poise. Soronzonbold shot off one of Pirozhkova’s fakes, looking for a low single-attack, but Pirozhkova counter-attacked right into a go-behind, pancaking Soronzonbold right to her back for a 2pt exposure, regaining the lead at 3-2. She would not surrender another point, advancing into the semi-finals. Pirozhkova faced World No. 4 Maria Mamashuk of Belarus in the Olympic semis. Mamashuk was the 2016 European Champion at 69KG, before dropping to her usual weight-class of 63KG for the Games. Nearly two minutes into the match, Pirozhkova earned a caution-1pt when Mamashuk was hit with passivity. With :30s left in the period, Mamashuk got in deep on a leg-attack and Pirozhkova nearly hit a counter chest-wrap for 2pts, but was not awarded the exposure points. Mamashuk continued to wrestle and earned a 2pt takedown before the half, leading 2-1. Early in the second period, Pirozhkova nearly scored a takedown off an armdrag, but Mamashuk again continued to wrestle through the position, earning a 1pt pushout for herself to lead the American 3-1 with two minutes left to wrestle. In the final minute, Mamashuk was hit with passivity again. With :16s left, Pirozhkova pulled within one point off another caution-1pt, but it would not be enough. She fell in the semis in a 3-2 bout, dropping into the Bronze medal match. She would face off against World No. 13 Yekaterina Larionova of Kazakhstan, a 2013 World Bronze.

In fact, Larionova captured the “other” bronze that year, as Pirozhkova herself won a 2013 World Bronze in the same weight-class. Larionova would be hit with passivity first, with Pirozhkova earning a caution-1pt mid-way through the first period. With short-time in the frame, Larionova attempted an inside-footpick that Pirozhkova adeptly maneuvered out, right into a go-behind to extend her lead to 3-0 at the half. In the next period, Larionova drove in with double-underhooks, throwing Pirozhkova right to her back for 4pts before pinning Pirozhkova for an Olympic Bronze medal. Elena finished with a 2-2 record, 5th at the Olympic Games.

Returning, 2x-defending World Champion Adeline Gray took the mat against World No. 7 Andrea Olaya Gutierrez of Columbia. A minute into the action, Gray arm-dragged Olaya down to the mat for a takedown, immediately transitioning into an armbar. After a minute or so of working for the fall, Gray pinned Olaya to get into the quarter-finals. There, Gray met World No. 3, 3x World Bronze Vasilisa Marzaliuk of Belarus. Gray beat Marzaliuk at 2015 Worlds second round, 6-0. After the first period, Gray led 1-0 on a caution-1pt passivity point. With a minute left in the match, Gray was hit with passivity herself, and Marzaliuk was able to score a pushout 1pt, though Gray still had criteria, match score 1-1. With time elapsing, Marzaliuk scored a 2pt exposure off a chest-wrap from a whizzer-kick, taking the match 4-1 after a failed USA challenge. When Marzaliuk lost to Canada’s Wiebe in semi-finals, the American champion was eliminated from competition. Adeline finished 1-1, 7th at her first Olympic Games.


Day 6, 8/19: Men’s Freestyle 57KG, 74KG

A solid pair started Men’s Freestyle competition for the USA, as Daniel Dennis joined Jordan Burroughs in his anticipated return to the Olympic Stage. Burroughs, among three other World titles, came into the tournament as the defending Olympic Champion at 74KG.

Daniel Dennis had a tough out in the first-round, drawing Bulgaria’s Vladimir Dubov, a 2x World Medalist (2013 World Silver at 60KG, 2015 World Bronze at 61KG). Early in the first period, Dubov countered an elbow-pass by Dennis with a huge double-leg, right into gut-wrenches. 1:29 into the match, the score was 10-0 Bulgaria. After a meaningless challenge from USA, Dubov defeated Dennis 11-0 Technical Fall. Dubov would continue to advance, beating Romania’s Ivan Guidea, World No. 16 and 2016 Euro Championship Bronze, 2-0. In the fateful semi-final, Dubov picked up a 4-0 lead over defending World Champion Vladimir Khinchegashvili of Georgia, but couldn’t effectively manage his gas-tank, as he got stormed to lose 8-4 to the World Champ. The loss eliminated Daniel Dennis, who went 0-1 on the day, 19th at the Olympics.

Defending World and Olympic Champion Jordan Burroughs took the mat against a familiar foe, one Augusto Midana of Guinea-Bissau. Midana, a 3x Olympian, is known to US fans for being the man to injure Burroughs in the first round of the 2014 World Championships (Burroughs would still win that match, though suffering a knee injury that would require surgery post-competition). In a tense but awkward match, the champ found himself up 8-2 after a period, on the back of multiple leg attacks and a couple 1pt pushouts. Burroughs would coast to an 8-3 win. In the quarterfinals, Burroughs would have a rematch of his 2015 World semi-final against Anuiar Geduev of Russia, the clear World No. 2 heading into the Games. Like their previous match, this was a barn-burner. The match was marred by blood-stoppages (due to Jordan Burroughs’s cut ear) and warnings from the referee. About 2:00 elapsed in the match, Geduev was awarded a caution-1pt after Burroughs was hit with passivity. Into the second period, Geduev earned a 1pt pushout after Geduev shot Burroughs off the mat. Trailing 2-0 on the scoreboard, the American champion could not find his angles. Geduev eventually got in on a deep shot, lifting Burroughs high on the edge for another 1pt score (either a step-out or correct-hold point). Score 3-0 RUS, Burroughs kicked into high-gear, looking to take the match in short-time. He would earn a takedown with time elapsing, but it was inconsequential, as Jordan Burroughs lost 3-2 to rival Anuiar Geduev of Russia in the Olympic quarterfinals.

“Three takedowns in the first.” That’s how 6x World/Olympic Champion John W. Smith summarized the match against World No. 10 Bekzod Abdurakhmanov of Uzbekistan in the repechage rounds. A win would secure, for either man, a Bronze medal match. Abdurakhmanov, a 2014 World Bronze at 70KG, scored three takedowns on Burroughs to take a commanding 6-0 lead after a period. He continued to press the action, as Burroughs uncharacteristically failed to get any serious offense going. Though he scored a 1pt pushout to get himself on the board for USA, Abdurakhmanov scored two more takedowns in the second period to drive the score to 10-1. After a failed USA challenge, Bekzod Abdurakhmanov officially tech-falled the American champion, eliminating Burroughs from competition. Jordan went 1-2 in his second Olympic campaign, placing 9th.


Day 7, 8/20: Men’s Freestyle 86KG, 125KG

After the shock of yet another American stud falling in the Olympic tournament, TeamUSA looked to its heavyweights to put us back on rails. The young J’Den Cox answered, alongside veteran Tervel Dlagnev. Both men found themselves in the Olympic semi-finals at their respective weights, earning themselves at least a medal-match.

J’Den Cox continued to show his worth on the senior level. In his first round bout, Cox met World No. 17 Amarhajy Mahamedau of Azerbaijan. Cox scored off a shot-counter, arm-dragging his opponent before finishing on a double that went out of bounds. A questionable 2pts were awarded in USA’s favor, but the AZE corner did not challenge. Cox would continue to score, though, earning a beautiful double-leg to lead 4-0. Early in the second, Cox would concede a 1pt stepout that occurred in the middle of defending a leg-attack. Cox answered, nearly getting a leg-attack of his own but scoring just a 1pt stepout. With 2:00 left in the match, Cox artfully hit a stand-up (folkstyle) from the tripod position to defend a very close near-takedown by Mahamedau. Cox scored another takedown to put the match surely out of reach, winning 7-1 in his Olympic debut. In the quarters, Cox met a familiar foe in Iran’s 2015 World Bronze, Alireza Karimi Machiani. Cox beat Karimi at the Freestyle World Cup earlier this summer, 6-2. Cox started the scoring with a 1pt pushout. At the close of the period, Karimi evened the score with a pushout of his own. Within :20s of the second period, Cox was able to score a 2pt takedown on a second-attack to take over the lead at 3-1. Mid-way through the period, Cox faked and forced Karimi to bite everso slightly, getting to his left-handed single leg and going one way and the other to double off, scoring another takedown to add cushioning to his lead, now 5-1 USA, a lead he would not concede.

In the Olympic semi-final, Cox met a formidable foe in Selim Yasar of Turkey (by way of Russia). Yasar entered the Games as the World No. 4, 2014 World Bronze and 2015 World Silver. For the avid fan, this match would be the cause of much controversy, surrounding the topic of criteria. 1:44 into the match, J’den was put on the shot-clock for passivity. To note, Yasar was being pretty offensive, initiating a few exchanges on good attacks that hadn’t scored. Soon after, the shot-clock elapsed and Yasar was awarded a caution-1pt. At the next restart, J’den got in on a leg-attack and was in very deep before Yasar was able to mount a solid defense, drawing a stalemate. Yasar took the 1-0* lead into the second period and was predictably hit with a passivity warning 3:27 into the bout. Soon after, Cox got in on another leg-attack, to which Yasar rubber-kneed, but not without giving up a pushout at the end of the sequence. Now, here is where the controversy starts. Colloquially “tied” 1-1*, J’den Cox was technically down with 2:09 to go on the clock. This is due to separation criteria:

The specific criteria was least amount of cautions, 0-1 in the favor of Yasar. Simply, USA was losing despite the 1pt pushout.

J’den Cox appeared to have misunderstood the circumstances in context of the rules, in part (it is speculated) because he is part deaf. However, any wrestler can attest to being in “the zone” and not being able to hear regardless of their hearing ability. Coach Bill Zadick confirmed in an interview with NBC’s Shane Sparks that he was indeed screaming to Cox that he was losing.


Upon rewatching the match, I believe J’den either thought he had earned a 2pt takedown or 1pt pushout near the 4:59 mark in the match. The body language appears to show that Cox thought he was winning after this point, despite staying on the offense prior to this sequence. Nonetheless, a would-be takedown ended after the whistle to end the match, and Yasar was deemed the victor 1-1*. After a failed challenge by USA, Yasar took the match 2-1.

In the Bronze medal match, Cox showed his poise against 2x World Silver and World Bronze Reineris Salas-Perez of Cuba, World No. 3. After a tight first-period, Cox led 1-0 on a caution-1pt. In that first period, Cox got in on two attacks, the second of which Salas-Perez twice nearly completed a counter crotch-lift which forced the American to defend. Salas-Perez was put on the shot-clock around 2:00 elapsed in the match. In the ensuing :30s, a huge exchange occurred, as Salas-Perez shot in on a well-timed leg-attack to which J’den defended and immediately re-shot off of, arm-dragging Salas-Perez into a standing single. The 3x World medalist showed his savvy, as he whizzer-kicked right into a cross-footblock anklepick that nearly took the American down. Cox, however, showed his own savvy, immediately re-engaging on a double-leg before he was again forced to defend, this time a very close chest-wrap by Salas. The sequence was stalemated and Cox was awarded a caution-1pt as the shot-clock against Salas had expired without anyone scoring. Leading 1-0* into the second frame, Cox was hit with his first passivity warning at 4:08 elapsed in the match. He continued to press the fight against the decorated Cuban, getting in on the legs multiple times but not enough to score. This trend would continue, but Cox was put on the shot-clock with 1:05 left in the match. If Cox failed to score, he would be losing based on last-score criteria. As it happened in the first, the :30s shot-clock elapsed, but the sequence continued well after (indeed, for nearly a full minute altogether). J’den’s non-stop pressure eventually got him to a low-single that Salas-Perez sprawled clear of after they moved into an Iranian position (“Iranian” the wrestling move), immediately re-attacking with a go-behind. Luckily, J’den continued to wrestle and hit a switch into a double-leg that he eventually locked his hands completely around. When he elevated and tipped Salas-Perez to his hip, no score was initially given and the sequence was stalemated with :06s left on the clock, Salas-Perez now leading 1-1 based on criteria. The sequence was immediately challenged by Coach Bill Zadick. After deliberation and a twice-over of the instant-replay, the judges reversed the call to 2pts for a USA takedown. The challenge would be the end of the match, as the Cuban corner and athlete attempted to call their own challenge, stating that the :30s shot-clock had elapsed already. Unfortunately, the continuous action meant the referees were in the right (at least by my logic) to allow action to continue. Salas-Perez would, officially, withdraw from the match, vacating the mat-area after the score was changed to 3-0 USA. J’Den Cox, in his first Olympic/World level campaign, earned an Olympic Bronze medal, 3-1 on the day.

Tervel Dlagnev, long-time heavyweight for USA as well as consistently top-5 in the World, entered the day with the pride of the country on his back. Wrestling at the Olympic Trials through injury, Dlagnev started the day hot, making it out of a draw the pitted him against World No. 5, returning World Silver medalist Jamalladin Magomedov of Azerbaijan.

Two minutes into the match, Magomedov was awarded a caution-1pt when Dlagnev failed to score on the shot-clock. The World Silver took the 1-0 lead into the second period. Off the whistle, Dlagnev looked for an inside-anklepick, but Magomedov countered and looked to crunch Dlagnev (a la a near-side cradle/ go-behind) all the way off the mat. The referee awarded a 2pt takedown as the action went out of bounds, score 3-0 AZE. Near the 4-minute mark, Dlagnev was taken down center mat and Magomedov took a commanding 5-0 lead. Dlagnev came alive, then. He set-up his low-single perfectly, scoring a takedown right into a leg-lace to tighten the score at 5-4 AZE. In the final :10s, Dlagnev hit another beautiful low-single to Magomedov’s other (perhaps, injured) leg for takedown, completing the comeback and winning 6-5. In the quarter-finals, Dlagnev faced World No. 11 Robert Baran of Poland.

Throughout this match, there were subtle instances in which one could see Dlagnev’s body tense against the Polish wrestler’s collar-tie, which put pressure on the assumed-injured back of the American heavyweight. If he was hurt though, Dlagnev put the pain aside one last time. He scored while on the shot-clock around two minutes into the match on another slick low-single takedown to lead 2-0 at the half. He would score after three-straight relentless attacks earned him a 1pt pushout with two minutes left in the match. Dlagnev kept his poise, conceding a takedown that would be inconsequential, winning 3-2 to earn himself yet another medal match.

After beating Poland, Dlagnev faced a familiar adversary in Iran’s Komeil Ghasemi. Ghasemi, a 2014 World Silver and ranked World No. 6, beat Dlagnev in the 2012 Olympic Bronze medal match. Appearing to be injured, Dlagnev gave up a go-behind early in the match and Ghasemi capitalized, scoring four-straight 2pt exposures to take the semi-final match by 10-0 tech-fall. In Dlagnev’s 6th World/Olympic Bronze medal match, the American stepped on the mat in a complete expression of pride. Clearly hurt, Dlagnev looked to go to his low single, to which the World No. 1, Geno Petriashvili (who earned Bronze medals at 2013 and 2015 Worlds), countered to score a go-behind. Four gut-wrenches would close out the match, Dlagnev falling again by 10-0 TF. Tervel finished 2-2 at the Olympic Games, 5th in the final standings.


Day 8, 8/21: Men’s Freestyle 65KG, 97KG

On the final day of wrestling, TeamUSA looked toward a tough duo to propel them in two of the deepest weight-classes in the world. A hurting nation needed redemption from its other Gold medal favorite, the young Kyle Snyder, in light of Jordan Burroughs’s early departure from the tournament.

Frank Molinaro again rose to the occasion for the USA in a big way, as he had this entire summer. First round, Molinaro drew Russian-expatriate Magomedmurad Gadhiev of Poland, World No. 2 at 70KG. Gadhiev, who has had wars with World No. 1 at 70KG and World Champion Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov in the past, was no walk-over by any means.

In the first period, Molinaro was hit with passivity first, conceding the caution-1pt around 1:50 elapsed in the match. On the reset, Molinaro immediately hit his left-handed high-crotch, lifting and returning the European Champion to take the 2*-1 lead. At 4:06 elapsed, Molinaro was hit with passivity again, giving up another caution-1pt to Gadhiev when the shot-clock elapsed, score 2**-2 with Molinaro winning on Higher Value criteria. The rest of the match would be intense, as both Molinaro and Gadhiev attacked and re-attacked non-stop to the end of the match, as Gadhiev sought the winning score and Molinaro sought to avoid a passivity. Molinaro advanced on tie-breaking criteria.

In the quarterfinals, Molinaro was pitted against World No. 5, 2010 World Silver and 2012 Olympic Champion Togrul Asgarov of Azerbaijan. Molinaro was put on the shot-clock first yet again, and Asgarov took advantage of Molinaro’s pressure to score a 2pt takedown. Asgarov would score another 2pt takedown and 1pt pushout to lead 5-0 at the end of the first period. Early in the second, another sequence was initiated by Molinaro who found himself deep on an Iranian-finish, before Asgarov’s takedown defense took the action to the edge of the mat (the “zone” of the mat). When Molinaro sprawled out of bounds, he gave up another 1pt pushout, to trail 6-0 to the Olympic champion. While the American continued to attack non-stop, Asgarov’s savvy continued to masterfully defend and counter all Molinaro had to throw at him. Four more 1pt pushouts and a caution later, Molinaro fell 10-0. When Asgarov beat defending World Champion Frank Chamizo in the semi-finals, Molinaro was pulled back into the repechage.

Molinaro would, once again in his short career as the international USA representative, have to become extremely combative against an opponent more intent on trying to eye-poke, bite, punch, or gouge than wrestle. Molinaro’s poise and composure was put to the test in every way as he had a scrap against Andrey Kviatkovski of Ukraine, ranked World No. 19 at 70KG. In the opening minute, Molinaro scored a 2pt takedown on his go-to high-c. A 1pt pushout gave Molinaro a 3-0 lead at the half. Signs of chippiness started to show by this point. Early in the second period, Kviatkovski got in on a well-timed leg-attack. As the action continued, Kviatkovski looked to roll-through, but in reality just twisted the hell out of Molinaro’s ankle. After a short break for an official’s conference as well as injury time for Molinaro, the score was 3-1 USA after Ukraine was given a point (erroneously, perhaps a correct-hold call). It is clear at the start of the second period that Molinaro was picking up what Kviatkovski laid down. Gorilla Hulk was in full-effect. After Molinaro got to a leg and scored a 1pt pushout for USA, Kviatkovski answered with a deep leg-attack that converted to 2pts and scored again with a 2pt gut-wrench, taking the lead 5-4. Molinaro answered yet again, scoring a 2pt takedown to regain the lead 6-5. Around 4:45 elapsed, Kviatkovski clearly bit Molinaro from the bottom. The officials would not do anything in response and the match continued. It would be no matter, as Molinaro scored the match-icing takedown before coasting to an 8-5 victory. The anger would finally boil over after Molinaro knew the match was in hand. He bared his teeth after a final-second headbutt from the Ukranian wrestler. In his first out as the World/Olympic representative, Molinaro earned himself a Bronze medal match.

There, Molinaro met his highest test to date: 2015 World Champion Frank Chamizo of Italy (by way of Cuba). The biggest difference in this match was the pace Chamizo was able to employ to keep his attacks going. It nonetheless came down to the wire. After a few short-exchanges, Molinaro was put on the shot-clock two minutes into the match. Chamizo would be awarded the caution-1pt, but Molinaro immediately scored big lift to a takedown, taking a 2-1 lead into the break at the half. Coming out of the break, Chamizo turned his motor on and started to press the action. In a short-offense position, it appeared Molinaro scored a 2pt counter-exposure as Chamizo was in on the legs. While Molinaro wanted to challenge, Coaches Cody Sanderson and Bruce Burnett did not throw the challenge indicator. At 4:02 elapsed, Molinaro was hit with another shot-clock passivity period. With less than 1:30 left to wrestle, Chamizo was awarded another caution-1pt, but Molinaro led 2-2 via Higher Value criteria (his 2pt takedown). Both men would redline their engines looking for a score-- Chamizo winning the battle of wills to earn the 2pt takedown, taking a commanding 4-2 lead with about a minute left to wrestle for an Olympic Bronze medal. In the closing seconds, Molinaro was in deep on a leg-attack that very nearly was completed for a takedown, but Chamizo kept himself elevated to avoid giving up the 2pts. It would eventually be scored a 1pt pushout for Molinaro, who would settle for 5th at his first Olympic Games falling 4-3 in the Bronze medal match. He went 2-2 on the day.


Reigning World Champion Kyle Snyder took a World No. 4 ranking into the Olympic tournament.

First round, Snyder met Javier Cortina Lacerra, World No. 19 and 2014 World Bronze, of Cuba. Snyder’s pressure almost cost him, as Cortina went for a back-arch that went out of bounds, good for 1pt. Snyder was not fazed as he scored a 2pt takedown to get on the board and take the lead, 2-1. Before the first period ended, Snyder tacked on another point for a pushout to lead 3-1. Right out of the gates, Cortina countered a Snyder attack for a 2pt counter-exposure, but Snyder continued to wrestle to earn a 1pt reversal, score 4-3 USA. Another pushout made it 5-3. After Cortina was warned with passivity, Snyder countered and scored 2pts on a go-behind. A pushout and takedown iced the match for the defending World Champion, 10-3.

In his quarterfinal bout, Snyder faced Albert Saritov of Romania (by way of Russia). Saritov, 2011 World Bronze at 84KG, was ranked World No. 15 prior to the Games. After a steady first period, Snyder led 3-0 on the back of a pushout and takedown. Early in the second period, Snyder scored a huge 4pt move when he bodylocked Saritov straight to the back to go up 7-0. Snyder would coast, taking the shut-out 7-0 victory into the semi-finals.

Awaiting the Champion in his semi-final would be a familiar foe, Elizbar Odikadze of Georgia, who Snyder beat 3-3 in a nail-biter at the World Cup earlier in the summer. Right out the gate, Odikadze hit Snyder with a nice arm-throw which was confirmed for 4pts. Snyder would find himself in a 4-0 hole after a period. In a weird exchange at the start of the second, Snyder earned his first point via 1pt pushout. Two more pushouts made the score 4-3 GEO. With less than two minutes to wrestle, Odikadze began to fade. Snyder took advantage and again got to the leg, but this time he finished the takedown to take the lead 5-4. A pushout and a takedown later, Snyder would take complete control of the match, 8-4. When Odikadze had taken one too many times to get back to the center, he gave up caution-1pt for stalling. Snyder would win 9-4 to advance to the Gold medal match.

In the Gold medal final, Khetag Gazyumov of Azerbaijan, World No. 3 and 8x World/Olympic medalist dating back to the 2008 Beijing Games. He only missed medaling in 2011 and is the 2010 World Champion. Gazyumov beat Snyder in a 2-1 match earlier this year at the German Grand Prix. Around 1:50 into the match, Snyder was able to get in on the leg of the decorated Gazyumov and walked his opponent out of bounds for what would be the deciding 1pt pushout. A minute into the second period, Snyder was awarded a caution-1pt when Gazyumov failed to score on the shot-clock. Leading 2-0, Snyder was put on the clock and gave up a caution-1pt of his own to bring the match to 2-1 with less than a minute. Try as he might, Gazyumov could not mount any serious offense as Snyder earned the Olympic Gold medal.


In summary, TeamUSA had a decent performance overall. As a full squad, 14 of 18 weight-classes were qualified to the Olympics. Of the fourteen wrestlers competing, six eventually found themselves in a medal-match (meaning six wrestlers came home rightfully Top-5 in the World). We earned a total of 3 medals (Gold, Gold, Bronze). Greco-Roman placed 27th on the back of Jesse Thielke’s 9th-place finish. Women’s Freestyle finished 6th and Men’s Freestyle 3rd. MFS matched its performance in London.


(Special thanks to Tony Rotundo of WrestlersAreWarriors.com for the excellent coverage and photography of TeamUSA at the Olympics; all rankings are based on UnitedWorldWrestling August Rankings)

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