The final day of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro featured wrestling action at 65 kg and 97 kg. For a recap of the morning session, go here.
Toghrul Asgarov (AZE) earned a chance for his second consecutive Olympic gold medal when he got past defending world champion Frank Chamizo (ITA) in the semi-finals. His opponent, 2014 world champion Soslan Ramonov (RUS) got revenge on the man who pinned him in the world semi-finals a year ago, Ikhtiyor Navruzov (UZB), hammering him 18-7 to book his spot in the final.
The gold medal match had all the makings of a classic encounter between two men who have won at wrestling’s highest levels before. Instead, Soslan Ramonov put on a clinic on his way to an 11-0 destruction of Asgarov in just over two minutes. Ramonov added the Olympic gold medal to his 2014 world championship in what almost seemed like an afterthought given the madness that transpired in the bronze medal matches before it.
In the repechage, Frank Molinaro (USA) survived his Ukrainian opponent twisting his ankle in unsporting fashion and then appearing to bite Frank. Oh, and he managed to also win on the scoreboard, 8-5, to advance to the bronze medal match. In an interesting twist, the two countries whose initial disqualification for doping during the Olympic qualification process allowed Molinaro to qualify the weight, Poland and Ukraine, were the two countries Molinaro defeated in this tournament after they were reinstated. In the medal match, Molinaro went on the shot clock first, two minutes into the first period. When it expired, Chamizo led 1-0, but that lead was short lived Molinaro got through Chamizo’s defenses and, just as importantly, was able to prevent Chamizo from scrambling away. The takedown made it 2-1, Molinaro, at the break. Molinaro was again put on the clock early in the second period, but even after it expired, led on criteria. With a minute to go, however, Chamizo struck for a takedown of his own to lead, 4-2. Against a defending world champ, that could have been the end of it, but Frank Molinaro refused to quit. He got in again, no small accomplishment against the Italian, and only needed to force one of Chamizo’s knees down to gain the winning score. Unfortunately, the clock expired before he could do so and, after a failed challenge, Frank Chamizo snuck past Frank Molinaro, 5-3 for the bronze medal.
On the other side, Haislan Garcia (CAN) knocked off Alejandro Valdes (CUB) with a late takedown only to fall to Ganzorigiin Mandakhnaran (MGL), 3-0. The Mongolian earned a shot at last year’s world silver medalist Ikhtiyor Navruzov (UZB) for bronze. Navruzov and Mandakhnaran went back and forth, trading two point scores until the score was 6-4 for the Uzbek late. In a wild scramble that had both men on the verge of a match changing score, the Mongolian finally secured the takedown as they went out of bounds. A failed challenge from Navruzov’s corner made it 7-6 with 15 seconds to go. The Uzbekistan corner protested vehemently, but to no avail. After the match re-started, it appeared the Mongolian had held on to win. The clock expired and the Mongolian coaches stormed the mat to celebrate a dramatic victory with their wrestler. Those celebrations did not last.
First, a caution and one, apparently for fleeing, was offered as time expired, but went unseen by the Mongolians. If it was confirmed, Navruzov would win the match. The caution was confirmed, as it turned out, giving Navruzov, who had been at the center of the controversy earlier in his match with Franklin Gomez, the win. Once the Mongolians realized what had happened, they started to protest. They were already on the mat so they immediately went to the head table to challenge. When it became clear their wrestler had lost, and their challenge had failed, the irate Mongolian coaches angrily stripped off their clothes and had to be removed by security. There was a good 10 minutes of absolute chaos and the Mongolian wrestler still refused to shake hands, but the decision was final. Ikhtiyor Navruzov won the bronze medal, 8-7.
The defending world champion at 97 kg, Kyle Snyder (USA), survived a slow start in his semi-final, rallying from a 4-0 deficit after one period to see off world number six Elizbar Odikadze (GEO), 9-4. Snyder, who will be a junior at Ohio State this fall, had a chance to exact some revenge of his own in the final. World number three, and seven-time world-level medalist, Khetag Gazyumov (AZE) picked off Snyder at the Grand Prix of Germany over the summer, 2-1. That match was a slow paced affair with Gazyumov converting a first period takedown and Snyder unable to get the Azerbaijani veteran out of position.
The final was widely expected to be a tight, tactical affair and it was exactly that. Snyder found a leg in the first and managed to get a step-out to lead 1-0 at the break. Early in the second, Gazyumov was put on the clock and failed to score, giving Kyle the 2-0 advantage. Snyder went on the clock halfway through the period and conceded the point. That left just under a minute remaining with both men knowing Gazyumov needed something, anything to win gold. It wasn’t easy for Snyder. With just under 30 seconds, the Azerbaijani gained a solid positional advantage and Snyder had to rapidly retreat to avoid being pushed out. This led to a warning from the official and, after what we had seen previously, a fleeing point was in everyone’s mind. However, Kyle did a much better job after that to stay in the middle and got an underhook late to finish the match without any more danger. Kyle Snyder backed up his world championship from last year, got revenge on Gazyumov and won the Olympic gold medal, 2-1!
In the repechage, Albert Saritov (ROU) exploded for all his points in one burst to knock out Javier Cortina (CUB), 8-1. He then used a slick counter-attack to take an early 4-0 lead in the bronze medal match against Elizbar Odikadze (GEO) and stretched that lead to 6-0 at the break. Saritov tacked on a pair of additional takedowns in the second to complete an impressive repechage run to the bronze medal.
On the other side, two-time world champion Reza Yazdani (IRI) got past Radoslaw Baran (POL), 5-2, to open the repechage, but got ambushed by Magomed Ibragimov (UZB) in the next round, losing by fall early in the match. Ibragimov earned a shot at 2014 world bronze medalist Valerii Andriitsev (UKR) in the bronze medal bout. In a match that was tight throughout, Ibragimov just held on to win, 6-4 after a failed challenge from Ukraine. As time expired, Andriitsev nearly found the winning takedown, but couldn’t find his way around Ibragimov’s right arm, the only thing left between him and another bronze.