LONDON -- It was a tough start for the U.S. wrestling team at the 2012 Olympic Games in London as the first two Americans to take the mat, Greco-Roman wrestlers Spenser Mango (55 kilos) and Ben Provisor (74 kilos), failed to earn medals on Sunday at the ExCel Centre in London. The two wrestlers combined to go 2-3.
"There's no easy people here," said U.S. Greco-Roman coach Steve Fraser. "I think they did their best, but their best wasn't good enough."
Mango, who has represented the U.S. at the Worlds or Olympics every year since 2008, opened with a two-period victory over Mohamed Abouhalima of Egypt, 6-1, 1-0. He got on the board early with a takedown and two-point exposure, followed up with a two-point gut wrench to go up 5-0. The 18-year-old scored with a pushout, but Mango added a late takedown to win 6-1. The second period went to par terre after neither wrestled scored in the first 90 seconds. Mango defended for the period win and the match victory.
Spenser Mango works to defend in par terre against Rovshan Bayramov of Azerbaijan (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Mango then fell to 2011 World champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist Rovshan Bayramov of Azerbaijan in his second match. Bayramov scored all four of his first-period points in par terre with lifts. He scored with one-point lift and followed it up with a three-point lift to take the period 4-0. In the second period Bayramov scored four points off a high dive, putting Mango to his back. That's all the points Bayramov needed as he won the period 4-0 to close out the match.
Mango, though, earned a spot in the repechage (wrestlebacks) after Bayramov reached the finals. In the repechage Mango fell to Russia's Mingiyan Semenov, 2-0, 1-0, eliminating the American from the competition. Semenov went on to earn the Olympic bronze medal.
"I wrestled tough," said Mango, who finished ninth in the competition. "That's all I can do is go out there and give it my best. I did that today and it wasn't my day.
"Anybody can be beat on any given day. That's what I always believe. Nobody comes in already with a gold medal around their neck. I just go back there, work hard in the practice room, come back, and give it another shot."
Mango was competing in his second Olympic Games after placing eighth in the 2008 Beijing Games. So how was Mango's Olympic experience different this time around?
"It was not so much an eye-opener for me this time," said the 26-year-old Mango. "I knew what to expect. I've seen almost all my competitors that were in the bracket. I've seen them wrestle before, or I've wrestled them. I pretty much know everybody."
Ben Provisor came back to defeat Cuba's Alexi Bell in his opening match (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Provisor, like Mango, won his opening match, coming from behind to defeat Alexi Bell of Cuba. Bell took the first period on the strength of a takedown and two-point gut wrench. But that was all the points Provisor would give up the rest of the match, winning second period 1-0 with a pushout, and closing out the match by successfully defending in par terre in the third period.
Provisor dropped his second match to Zurabi Datunashvili of Georgia, a Junior World silver medalist. Datunashvili won the first period 1-0 by successfully defending in par terre. Datunashvili dominated the second period 6-0, scoring with a three-point arm throw, two-point exposure, and pushout.
Provisor was eliminated from the tournament after Datunashvili lost in the quarterfinals to Emin Ahmadov of Azerbaijan.
"I wrestled my best," said Provisor, who was competing in his first world-level event on the senior level. "I'm going to learn from this experience and try to get better."
Ben Provisor gets advice from U.S. coaches James Johnson and Momir Petkovic (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Despite falling short of a medal, Provisor said the Olympic experience has been a positive one.
"It's been awesome," said Provisor. "There's nothing like the Olympic Games. At 22 years old it's awesome to be able to experience it. I'm just going to take this as a learning lesson for the next four years."
Fraser discussed the importance of not dwelling on Sunday's performance with two more days of Greco-Roman competition remaining.
"We can't let it be a negative," said Fraser. "We have three more wrestlers coming tomorrow and they all have great potential too. Again, our draws are tough, but they're all tough. This is the Olympic Games. Everybody is tough."
The U.S. Greco-Roman wrestlers that will take the mat on Monday are Ellis Coleman (60 kilos), Chas Betts (84 kilos), and Dremiel Byers (120).
Coleman will open his competition with 2011 World bronze medalist Ivo Angelov of Bulgaria. Betts will see Keitani Graham of Micronesia in the opening round. Byers will face Muminjon Abdullaev of Uzbekistan in his first round match.
"Everybody has to come tomorrow right off the bat ready to rumble," said Fraser. "Ellis, Betts, and Byers are all going to do that. I guarantee you."
World champs Reihanpour, Vlasov win gold medals
The two gold medalists crowned on Sunday at the 2012 Olympic Games in the Greco-Roman competition were Soryan Reihanpour of Iran at 55 kilos and Roman Vlasov of Russia at 74 kilos.
Iran's Soryan Reihanpour claimed the gold medal at 55 kilosReihanpour, a five-time World champion and now Olympic champion, claimed his gold medal by shutting out the aforementioned Bayramov, 2-0, 1-0.
"I am very happy," said Reihanpour. "I am representing the children of Iran and I am very grateful to get gold."
Reihanpour remains uncertain whether he will set his sights on another Olympic gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
"I cannot make a decision just now," said Reihanpour. "There are so many people that have helped me throughout my career. I have to discuss this with them."
For Bayramov, it was his second Olympic silver medal after finishing second in Beijing.
The medal winners at 74 kilos in Greco-RomanVlasov defeated Armenia's Arsen Julfalakyan in the finals at 74 kilos, 1-0, 1-0, adding an Olympic gold medal to a growing collection of medals that also includes a World gold medal in 2011 and a Junior World gold medal in 2010.
"I want to thank my coaches, my parents, my brother, my wife and my city Novosibirsk," said Vlasov. "I know they are not sleeping now. They supported me. I congratulate my opponents as well. Arsen, he is my main rival. His father is an Olympic champion. Each match with him I had was tough."
Vlasov was inspired by another Olympic champion from Russia who is universally considered the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time.
"I want to add that Alexander Karelin is my biggest idol," said Vlasov. "He trained in my gym. I am proud that I was able to train with him and it is also thanks to him that I am now an Olympic champion."
Monday's action begins at 1 p.m. local time/8 a.m. ET with three Greco-Roman weight classes contested, 60 kilos, 84 kilos, and 120 kilos.
Day 1 Olympic Wrestling Placewinners (Greco-Roman)
Gold: Soryan Reihanpour (Iran)
Silver: Rovshan Bayramov (Azerbaijan)
Bronze: Peter Modos (Hungary)
Bronze: Mingyan Semenov (Russia)
5th: Hakan Nyblom (Denmark)
5th: Gyu-Jin Choi (Korea)
7th: Shujin Li (China)
8th: Gustavo Balart (Cuba)
9th: Spenser Mango (USA)
10th: Kohei Hasegawa (Japan)
Gold: Roman Vlasov (Russia)
Silver: Arsen Julfalakyan (Armenia)
Bronze: Aleksandr Kazekevic (Lithuania)
Bronze: Emin Ahmadov (Azerbaijan)
5th: Mark Madsen (Denmark)
5th: Aliaksandr Kikiniou (Belarus)
7th: Zurabi Datunishvili (Georgia)
8th: Christophe Guenot (France)
9th: Robert Rosengren (Sweden)
10th: Neven Zugaj (Croatia)