Jordan Oliver at the 2021 Olympic Trials (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
On the first day of the World Olympic Games Qualifier from Sofia, Bulgaria, one lone member of the US men's freestyle team, Jordan Oliver, was in action attempting to qualify the 65 kg weight class for the Olympics. The two finalists at all six weights would earn berths, without any sort of "true" second-place match.
When the draws were announced early yesterday, it was apparent that Oliver had his work cut out for him and most of the credentialed contenders were in his half of the bracket. Before action kicked off on Thursday, Oliver got a stroke of good luck as one of the tournament's favorites, Ilias Bekbulatov (Uzbekistan), missed weight. Oliver was slated to meet the Russian transfer with continental championships in Asia and Europe to his name.
Before worrying about a second match, Oliver had to get by a tough Ruhan Rasim (Bulgaria), wrestling in his home country. While Oliver was measured in his offensive attacks, he did enough to win, 6-2. In lieu of Bekbulatov's missed weigh-in, Junsik Yun (Korea) advanced to the second round. Oliver survived a late push from the Korean wrestler to hang on 5-4. That win set up a quarterfinal matchup with a fresh Gor Ogannesyan (Ukraine). Oliver's offense was held in check for the majority of the bout; however, he converted on the winning takedown with under :25 seconds remaining. The final score was 3-3 since the criteria was in Oliver's favor.
Those wins earned Oliver a spot in the semifinals in the second session of the day. Oliver's opponent was Magomedmurad Gadzhiev (Poland), a 2020 World Cup champion at 70 kg and a two-time world medalist. Since Gadzhiev came down from 70 kilos, he was the larger, more physically imposing of the pair. That was evident in the first period as Gadzhiev scored on a couple of step-out points and made his lead 3-0 after Oliver was held scoreless on the shot clock. In the second period, Oliver was able to dictate the pace more and even registered a takedown with his signature double leg. The officials did not put Gadzhiev on the clock during a second period that saw him give up more ground than the opening stanza. He also had no dedicated attacks. Oliver attempted to rally but came up short, 3-2.
That means that the United States will not have a representative at 65 kg in men's freestyle.
In addition to Oliver, a handful of wrestlers that attended college in the United States, but represented other nations, were. Most notably, David Habat (Slovenia/Edinboro), and Mitch Finesilver (Israel/Duke). Habat wrestled right before Oliver and did not have enough firepower to run down Georgios Pilidis (Greece), while Finesilver was directly after Oliver and was defeated by Vasyl Mykhailov (Ukraine) at 74 kg. The trio will wrestle for bronze on Friday.
Additionally, Sebastian Rivera (Puerto Rico/Rutgers), Malik Amine (San Marino/Michigan), and Domenic Abounader (Lebanon), were in action. Abounader won his opening bout, while Rivera and Amine dropped theirs.
No American women will be in action tomorrow as all six weights have been qualified for Tokyo. Jesse Porter (77 kg) and Adam Coon (130 kg) will take the mat on Saturday in search of Olympic berths in Greco-Roman.