Pictured: Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion (86 kg) David Taylor. Photo courtesy of Larry Slater; LBSphoto.smugmug.com.
In every Olympic Games since 2004, the IOC went to six weight classes. Under that format, the 2020 Tokyo Games has proved among the most successful for Team USA. Every U.S. men’s freestyler brought home a medal, which accounted for five of the nine total medals for USA Wrestling. To put into perspective how much of an achievement that is, the United States won eleven total medals in wrestling across the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympics. These nine were also the most medals of any other country for wrestling during the 2020 Olympics.
A look at the Team USA men’s freestyle Olympic squads since 2004 in Athens.
2004 – Athens Olympics
Stephen Abas, FS, 55 kg., 2nd
Eric Guerrero, 2004, FS, 60 kg., dnp
Jamill Kelly, 2004, FS, 66 kg., 2nd
Joe Williams, 2004, FS, 74 kg., 5th
Cael Sanderson, 2004, FS, 84 kg., 1st
Daniel Cormier, 2004, FS, 96 kg., 4th
Kerry McCoy, 2004, FS, HWT, 7th
2008 – Beijing Olympics
Henry Cejudo, 2008, FS, 55 kg, 1st,
Mike Zadick, 2008, FS, 60 kg, dnp
Doug Schwab, 2008, FS, 66 kg, dnp
Ben Askren, 2008, FS, 74 kg, 7th
Andy Hrovat, 2008, FS, 84 kg, dnp
Daniel Cormier, 2008, FS, 96 kg, dnc
Steve Mocco, 2008, FS, 120 kg, 7th
2012 – London Olympics
Sam Hazewinkel, FS, 55 kg, dnp
Coleman Scott, FS, 60 kg, 3rd
Jared Frayer, FS, 66 kg, dnp
Jordan Burroughs, FS, 74 kg., 1st
Jake Herbert, FS, 84 kg, 7th
Jake Varner, FS, 96 kg, 1st
Tervel Dlagnev, FS, 120 kg, 3rd
2016 – Rio de Janeiro Olympics
Daniel Dennis, FS, 57 kg, 19th
Frank Molinaro, FS, 65 kg, 5th
Jordan Burroughs, FS, 74 kg, 9th
J’den Cox, FS, 86 kg, 3rd
Kyle Snyder, FS, 97 kg, 1st
Tervel Dlagnev, FS, 120 kg, 3rd
2020 Tokyo Olympics
Thomas Gilman, FS, 57 kg, 3rd
Kyle Dake, FS, 74 kg, 3rd
David Taylor, FS, 86 kg, 1st
Kyle Snyder, FS, 79 kg, 2nd
Gable Steveson, FS, 125 kg, 1st
All five wrestlers competing for the United States in men’s freestyle at the Olympics made it to the podium, earning two bronzes, one silver, and two gold medals. This year has seen extraordinary performances from these athletes, who produced a combined 16-3 overall record.
After losing his Olympic opener in a last-second defeat to eventual champion Zavur Uguev of Russia, Thomas Gilman easily defeated his next two opponents to claim the bronze medal in the 57 kg class. The former Hawkeye wrestled as good as we have ever seen from him despite battling through a Lisfranc injury.
After barely missing the team in 2016, Kyle Dake made the 2020 Olympic Team by defeating rival and countryman, 2012 Olympic Gold medalist, and four-time World champion Jordan Burroughs in the 74 kg finals at the US Team Trials. At the Games, Dake lost his chance for a gold medal after falling in a shocker to Belarus’s Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov 11-0 in round two. But Dake rebounded to defeat four-time World medalist Geandry Garzón of Cuba and 2016 Rio Olympic bronze medalist Frank Chamizo of Italy to claim a bronze medal of his own for the United States. He has since intimated that he is battling through an injury of some sort, but would not specify further.
David Taylor had several accolades under his belt, including first-place finishes at the 2021 and 2019 Pan American Championships, the 2015, 2017, and 2018 US Open, the 2017 and 2018 World Cups, and most notably a 2018 World title from Budapest, but had never competed in the Olympics until this year. He made the most of it, breezing to the finals and coming home with a gold medal to add to this collection, winning gold in the 86 kg class in thrilling fashion thanks to a 4-3 over Hassan Yazdani.
Kyle Snyder arrived in Tokyo not only as an Olympic gold medalist but as the youngest Olympic Gold medalist in American Wrestling history after his win in 2016. On Saturday, Snyder added a silver medal to his collection, losing the gold medal match to Abdulrashid Sadulaev of the Russian Olympic Committee 6-3. The former Ohio State Buckeye flew into the finals matchup outscoring his three opponents 33-2 with two shutouts.
Gable Steveson shocked the world with his win over Georgia’s Geno Petriashvili in the 125 kg gold-medal match. His last-second win over Petriashvili, a three-time World champion, with just 0.2 seconds on the clock caught the attention of many, and some are speculating on what the 21-year-old will do next.
On Tuesday, Steveson posted about it on Twitter, quoted a post speculating the betting odds on his future with “If I was y’all I would bet on the NFL.”
That same day, Steveson posted on Twitter addressing Dana White, the President of the UFC, with a simple hand-waving emoji.
The Minnesota heavyweight has also cryptically hinted at moving to the WWE or playing college football for P.J. Fleck and the Golden Gophers in 2022. Needless to say, the world’s most popular wrestler is having fun with people at this point. That said, Gable will be must-see TV no matter what path he takes.
Team USA’s men’s freestyle success during the 2020 Olympics, in addition to the women’s freestyle team’s historic week, point to a bright future for USA Wrestling on the international scene in the years to come.
And, as fans we only have to wait a couple months to see many of these Olympians back on the mat at the 2021 World Championships in Oslo, Norway in October.