The Rio Olympics…where wrestling enthusiast gets to watch the best athletes in our sport contend for the highest honor in wrestling, an Olympic Gold Medal. Each Olympic cycle we are rewarded with accomplishments and historic moments that have been building with anticipation since the closing ceremonies of the previous games. The highlights (and unfortunate lows) of these games have been captured and well documented, and here is a brief, but entertaining, recap from this year’s games.
Helen became the first American female freestyle wrestler to win Olympic Gold! Along the way she defeated the most credentialed and accomplished wrestler in the sport, Japan’s Saori Yoshida. Yoshida had already won Olympic Gold 3 times and was a 13x World Champion. Above anything else, Helen is a great ambassador for our sport. Her comments about respecting her opponent were great!
In less than a year Kyle Snyder won the World Championships, NCAA Championships, and now is an Olympic Gold Medalist. At 20 yrs. old Kyle Snyder became the youngest US Freestyle wrestler to earn a gold medal.
In a great interview Snyder explains how he is motivated by his love for wrestling and desire to improve himself every day. That is why he was able to achieve an Olympic gold medal at only 20 years old.
In case you missed it…these coaches have set the bar on how to protest a call! It’s sad that this moment, more than any other, provided instant media attention from ESPN and other networks, while the two gold medals mentioned above were less documented. By itself, this is not a great look for our sport. However, the re-occurrence of corruption and blatant abuse by officials with the goal of determining the outcomes of matches pushed these two coaches over the edge. Important to note that the winner of this match, Ikhtiyor Navruzov (Uzbekistan), was the same wrestler who was “given” the win over Franklin Gomez (former NCAA Champion for Michigan State and current resident athlete at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club) in the quarterfinals (more below).
Although Franklin Gomez studied at Michigan State and trains at Penn State, he was born in Puerto Rico and represents Puerto Rico in all international competitions, including the Olympics. The clip shows Gomez’s final takedown in his quarterfinal match, which should have clearly earned him at least 2 points, if not four. However, after discussions among the officials, his opponent was awarded the points instead. Even a Gomez video review challenge did not lead to the correct call. The video/audio of the NBC live stream clearly shows the table discussions being manipulated to determined the outcome. These officials were subsequently suspended for the rest of the games and are now under review by the governing body. Regardless, Gomez was robbed of an opportunity to compete for an Olympic medal.
2x NCAA Champion, Olympic Champion and 3x World Champion with a career 130-2 record entering the Rio Olympics…since the London Olympics Burroughs has put the sport of wrestling on his back. With each accomplishment his stature grew. It was impossible to find many in the world who did not think a gold in Rio was automatic. Before the tournament, 2o out of 21 international wrestling journalists predicted that he would go on to win the Gold. To not medal!…my keyboard would autocorrect that phrase to “not possible”. Regardless of the outcome, Burroughs’ response and perspective within the moment is why he is truly one of the greatest athletes we can have representing any sport.
A year ago Frank was not in the discussions to make the US Olympic team. And even before Rio Frank was not seen as a top contender to medal. In the end, Frank was only inches away from defeating last year’s World Champion and capturing a Bronze medal. I don’t have the video, but Molinaro was fully behind his opponent with an ankle lace, but could not get his opponents knee to touch the mat before time expired. What this video does show is a preliminary bout where his opponent bit him. Maybe he was still hungry from weigh-ins! We could create plenty of jokes and #hashtags with this.
For more interviews and matches check out TrackWrestling’s coverage of the Olympic Games!