LONDON -- After a tough first day for the U.S. Greco-Roman wrestling team at the 2012 Olympic Games, things went from bad to worse on Monday after three more wrestlers, including a three-time World medalist, were eliminated in the first session of the day at the ExCel Centre in London.
Ellis Coleman (60 kilos), Chas Betts (84 kilos), and Dremiel Byers (120 kilos) posted a combined 2-3 record on Monday. The U.S. Greco-Roman wrestling team has now gone 4-6 over the first two days of competition, and is still in search of its first Olympic medal in London with only Justin Lester at 66 kilos left to compete.
"Obviously, we're disappointed," said U.S. Greco-Roman coach Steve Fraser. "We didn't come here to not win a lot of medals. I thought everybody that was here was capable of winning a medal. But man, it's no easy task. It's the Olympic Games. We didn't do it. That's all I can say. We can't make any excuses. We weren't good enough yesterday and today. But tomorrow is a new day, and with Justin Lester we're going to be good enough."
Olympic training partner Joe Warren talks with Ellis Coleman (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Coleman, who was competing in his first world-level event on the senior level, fell in the first round to Bulgaria's Ivo Angelov in two straight periods, 0-1, 1-7. The first period started with a scoreless 90 seconds. Coleman started on top in the par terre position, but was unable to score, giving Angelov a point and the period victory. Angelov dominated the second period 7-1, ending the match by countering Coleman's last-ditch effort at his trademark "Flying Squirrel" move.
Coleman was eliminated from the competition after Angelov lost in the next round.
"My coach talked to me and told me that I'm young," said Coleman. "I'm 20 years old. I've got plenty of medals and World titles to win. No matter what, he still thinks that I'm a champion ... and that I train as hard as I can. You never know if you're going to get that opportunity again. Anything can happen on any given day, any second. This was my chance today. I know that for a fact, and I let it go."
Chas Betts throws Keitani Graham of Micronesia for five (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Betts opened his tournament with a 6-0, 1-0 victory over Keitani Graham of Micronesia. In the first period Betts scored a one-point takedown, and then executed a five-point throw to end the period. He needed just a one-point pushout to win the second period 1-0.
Betts then dropped his next match to Cuba's Pablo Enrique Shorey Hernandez, 1-0, 1-0, in the rubber meeting between the two. The Cuban won the first period after Betts was unable to score from the top position in par terre. Hernandez scored a pushout in the second period, which was enough to win the period and take the match.
Betts' bid at earning a spot in the repechage ended when Hernandez was headlocked and pinned by Poland's Damian Janikkowski in the quarterfinals.
"The loss (to Hernandez) was tough," said Betts. "And then it's even tougher to have to sit and watch your guy try to carry you through. I was pretty confident in him hopefully getting to the finals, but it didn't work out. I'm pretty disappointed."
Chas Betts walks out to the mat with coach Momir Petkovic (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Fraser was pleased with Betts' effort, just not the result.
"I thought he gave his best effort," said Fraser. "He's in great shape. I know he pushed himself to the limit that last period to try to score. He just couldn't put a point on the board."
Betts wrestled in the World Championships in 2009, and said there are some noticeable differences between competing in the World Championships and the Olympic Games.
"The atmosphere is a little different," said Betts. "You can tell. The crowd is awesome here. The World Championships, it's also divided by country. Some have a lot bigger contingents than others. But here it's like everybody is cheering like they know the people. It's pretty special."
Byers, a three-time World medalist, defeated Muminjon Abdullaev Uzbekistan, 2-0, 1-0, in a match that saw the first 90 seconds of each of the first two periods go scoreless. Byers successfully defended in par terre to win the first period, 1-0, and then used a two-point gut wrench to win the second period 2-0.
Dremiel Byers, a three-time World medalist, battles Riza Kayaalp of Turkey (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)In the second round Byers drew 2011 World champion Riza Kayaalp of Turkey, and lost in two periods, 1-0, 1-0. The first period went scoreless through the first 90 seconds, which sent the match to par terre. Byers started par terre in the top position, but was unable to score, which gave Kayaalp the first-period victory. Kayaalp scored with a pushout in the second period, which is the only point he would need in winning the second period 1-0.
Kayaalp was then pitted against Cuba's Mijain Lopez, a three-time World champion and 2008 Olympic champion Mijain Lopez of Cuba in a rematch of last year's World finals match. Last year Kayaalp pulled the monumental upset in his home country of Turkey. This time Lopez won in two periods, 2-0, 1-0, which eliminated Byers from the competition.
"I really don't know what to say," Byers said. "It just hurts. It didn't work out the way I needed it to. I tried to leave it all out there, but just came up short."
Justin Lester, a two-time World bronze medalist, will be the lone wrestler to compete for the U.S. on Tuesday. He opens with Japan's Tsutomu Fujimura. Lester will need to win three matches to earn a spot in Tuesday night's finals.
Wrestling begins at 1 p.m. local time/8 a.m. ET with two Greco-Roman weight classes contested, 66 kilos and 96 kilos, but the U.S. does not have a representative at 96 kilos.
Noroozi, Khugaev, Lopez win gold medals
Iran's Omid Noroozi (60 kilos), Russia's Alan Khugaev (84 kilos), and Cuba's Mijian Lopez (120 kilos) earned Olympic gold medals in Greco-Roman on the second day of the Greco-Roman competition at the 2012 Olympic Games.
For Noroozi and Khugaev, they become the second wrestlers in their respective countries to win gold medals in Greco-Roman this Olympic Games.
Noroozi claimed his gold medal by defeating Revaz Lashkhi of Georgia, 1-0, 1-0, in the finals at 60 kilos. He joins Soryan Reihanpour (55 kilos) as an Iranian Olympic gold medalist in Greco-Roman.
"My coach helped me so much with my win," said Noroozi. "I want to thank him so much. I would also like to dedicate this medal to all of the people in the country (Iran). I hope I will continue to be successful in the future."
Khugaev defeated 2004 Olympic champion Karam Mohamed Gaber Ebrahim of Egypt, 1-0, 2-0, and joins Roman Vlasov (74 kilos) as a Russian Olympic champion in Greco-Roman.
"Our country is very good in wrestling and we hope that tomorrow it will be the third gold medal for us in wrestling, as it was in the previous Olympics in Beijing (2008)," said Khugaev.
Lopez added a second Olympic gold medal and sixth world-level title to his resume by shutting out Estonia's Heiki Nabi, 2-0, 1-0, in the finals at 120 kilos.
So will the Cuban Greco-Roman legend go for a third Olympic gold medal in Rio in 2016?
"I am considering it," said Lopez. "I would like to. But I am 30 and it becomes more complicated to stay at the top. These were my third Olympic Games and life goes on. So let's see."
Day 2 Olympic Wrestling Placewinners (Greco-Roman)
Gold: Omid Noroozi (Iran)
Silver: Revaz Lashki (Georgia)
Bronze: Zaur Kuramagomedov (Russia)
Bronze: Ryutaro Matsumoto (Japan)
5th: Hasan Aliyev (Azerbaijan)
5th: Almat Kebispayev (Kazakhstan)
7th: Ivo Angelov (Bulgaria)
8th: Ji-Hyun Jung (Korea)
9th: Tarik Belmadani (France)
10th: Jiang Sheng (China)
Gold: Alan Khugaev (Russia)
Silver: Karam Gaber (Egypt)
Bronze: Danjel Gajiyev (Kazakhstan)
Bronze: Damian Janikowski (Poland)
5th: Vladimer Gegeshidze (Georgia),
5th: Melonin Noumonvi (France)
7th: Pablo Shorey (Cuba)
8th: Vasil Rachyba (Ukraine)
9th: Chas Betts (USA)
10th: Amer Hrustanovic (Austria)
Gold: Mijian Lopez (Cuba)
Silver: Heiki Nabi (Estonia)
Bronze: Riza Kayaalp (Turkey)
Bronze: Johan Euren (Sweden)
5th: Guram Pherselidze (Georgia)
5th: Ioseb Chugoshvili (Belarus)
7th: Darzi Babanjanzadeh (Iran)
8th: Yuri Patrikeev (Armenia)
9th: Dremiel Byers (USA)
10th: Lukasz Banak (Poland)