US Olympic Wrestling Team 2012: Grading Individual Performances in London
The London Olympics are coming to their conclusion tonight, but Sunday's action did bring sports fans some last-minute Olympic action. One of the premier sports of Day 16 was men's wrestling. Today, wrestling champions were determined in the men's freestyle 66 kg and the men's freestyle 96 kg.
All in all the United States made out pretty well in these Olympics with two gold medalists and two bronze medalists. The two gold medals made it the first games since 1996 that the American team had multiple gold medalists in men's wrestling.
Obviously some stars like Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner are very pleased with their Olympics, as they picked up gold medals. Still, expectation needs to be factored in as some wrestlers have nothing to be ashamed of, despite not winning the gold medal.
On the other hand, some favorites fell flat and should be disappointed with their Olympic experience.
Here are my grades for some of the more notable U.S. wrestlers at this year's Olympics.
1. Jordan Burroughs
All I see is gold.
That was what Jordan Burroughs changed his twitter handle to right before these Olympics. It may sound like an extremely cocky thing to say, but when you can back it up the message changes entirely. It comes across as almost prophetic and even scarily confident.
Of course that's what happened as Burroughs is now an Olympic gold medalist.
He defeated Iran's Sadegh Goudarzi 1-0, 1-0 in the gold-medal 163-pound wrestling match on Friday. This win showed that Burroughs' confidence is well deserved as he now has 38 straight freestyle wins.
Really there's almost no way that Burroughs could have had a better showing at the Olympics. For anyone else this confidence could come across as off-putting and arrogant. When that someone is an Olympic champion though, there's nothing left to do but agree with him.
2. Jake Varner
Jake Varner's road to the top was assisted by a fellow wrestler that he grew up idolizing. This was Cael Sanderson, a U.S. wrestler that won Olympic gold himself back in 2004.
Now Varner can give credit to his mentor for helping him win his own Olympic gold. Earlier today, Varner defeated Ukraine's Valerii Andriitsev 1-0, 1-0 in the final of the 211.5-pound class of freestyle wrestling. Varner showed good form by closing out his Olympics with four straight wins.
Although most of the top medal contenders were on the other side of his bracket, Varner still encountered some challenges.
Perhaps his most serious threat was George Gogshelidze of Georgia, who defeated Varner in the first period of the semifinals. This serious threat became even scarier when the second period ended scoreless after two minutes.
Luckily, Varner won the ball draw that put him on offense for the period tiebreaker. Varner then took down his opponent and forced a third period, which he won on a pushout.
Varner had even more good luck in his final where he took on Andriitsev, who was the underdog in the other semifinal. Andriitsev had defeated Iranian world champion Reza Yasdani in that semifinal, which was called because of a leg injury that Yasdani suffered just 28 seconds into the first period.
Though he was initially the underdog, Varner bested Andriitsev in two periods and the rest was history.
Like Jordan Burroughs' gold-medal run, it's hard not to feel inspired by Varner's story. In fact, his might be more inspiring considering that he was more of an underdog. In terms of grades, he still has a very high score considering his perseverance through the tournament.
3. Jake Herbert
Here's where things get a little ugly for American wrestling. And the saddest part about is this was not necessarily because of what Jake Herbert did while he was on the wrestling mat.
All this controversy comes from Herbert's match against Azerbaijan's Sharif Sharifov, which was definitely a tough draw. The draw became even tougher when Sharifov dominated the first round 4-1.
Facing elimination in the second round, Herbert was able to stop an attacking move by Sharifov and turn him over on his back.
The judges did not see it this way though and they gave three points to Sharifov, who added two more points while the judges were debating this. Eventually Herbert's coaches stopped the match to request a review of the scoring.
After minutes of debate, the judges upheld the original decision and gave Sharifov another point and the six-point lead needed to end the match.
It was truly a heartbreaking end for Herbert, especially since both he and his coach disagreed with the judges. Herbert went on to call it his biggest nightmare, saying he didn't want to come here and just be a participant.
Unfortunately that's what happened, regardless of whether or not viewers feel that Herbert deserved it.
4. Coleman Scott
More Olympic heartbreak came to U.S. wrestling with Coleman Scott's tough break in the 132-pound division. He made it all the way to the semifinals, where he lost to eventual champion Toghrui Asgarov from Azerbaijan.
Still, Scott showed up and gave his all for the bronze medal match against Japan's Kenichi Yumoto.
Yumoto defeated Scott 1-0 in the first period but Scott came back with wins in the next two periods, 3-0 and 3-1. Scott's determination to close out the Olympics with a win powered him back to a bronze medal.
Yeah it's no gold, but still this has to be a somewhat satisfying conclusion for a wrestler who wasn't even on the U.S. team until June. This was when he beat Reece Humphrey in a special wrestle-off held on an outdoor mat in New York's Times Square.
With the win, Scott clinched the final roster spot that put him in the position where a bronze medal could even be possible.
As the video above shows, Scott wants more. He should remain on the wrestling scene for a few more years and he could even be someone to watch for in Brazil for the 2016 Olympics.