This year's Olympic freestyle wrestling tournament brought us excitement unparalleled by any Olympic sport. Nowhere else in the Olympic program is so much emotional intensity present in both athlete and spectator. Nowhere else is the exultation of victory felt more keenly. Nowhere else is defeat more devastating.
Many story lines emerged from this tournament. Artur Taymazov established himself as the greatest heavyweight in history. Toghrul Asgarov has positioned himself to be, potentially, the greatest pound for pound wrestler of all time. Iran, world cup champions, went home without gold. And the Americans were resurgent.
USA Wrestling tripled its medal count from the Beijing Olympics, and claimed two golds, twice as many the number boasted by wrestling superpower, Russia.
Leading the charge for the United States was young superstar Jordan Burroughs. Jordan's performance left no doubts bout his status as the world's best at his weight as he became America's first back to back world/Olympic champion since Kurt Angle in 1995/96.
The fun is over, but now is time to celebrate the great wrestling witnessed by the world at these games. This celebration takes the form of animated gifs graciously furnished by Zombie Prophet.
After the jump, highlights of the medal matches in the men's freestyle wrestling competition at the 2012 London Olympics.
These highlights are not meant to be comprehensive. They are merely some discussion worthy portions of the freestyle wrestling medal matches which Zombie Prophet has outstandingly captured in gif form.
60kg Bronze Medal Match- Coleman Scott, USA vs Kenichi Yumoto, Japan
Coleman looked fantastic during this tournament; he's looked incredible all year. In his bronze medal match, two of his scoring series particularly impressed me.
At this level, American success is often determined in low-level scoring situations. In freestyle wrestling, attempting to convert a shot on the mat, at low level, is sometimes necessary and always dangerous. Not every take down is going to be authoritative and clean (unless your name is Jordan Burroughs), and sometimes the attacking wrestler needs to finish from his knees. The problem is that an attacker on his knees is very vulnerable to a variety of back-exposing counters, particularly from foreign wrestlers with very refined freestyle-specific skills.
Above, Scott lunges a bit for a shot and enters into a low-level scoring situation. Scott proceeds to crack Yumoto down to his hip, and then Coleman pops his head to the outside of Yumoto's leg. Instead of waiting around in this position, and possibly allowing his opponent a chance to establish better position, Coleman tripods on his head and rocks back into Yumoto while elevating his leg at the calf. This accomplishes two things
1. It exposes Yumoto's back earning Coleman two points.
2. It buts Yumoto in danger of getting pinned (both of his shoulders are close to being stuck to the mat), this forces Yumoto to concede the takedown to Scott.
This got me out of my seat. Scott needed a take down in the waning seconds of his match in order to win bronze. He keeps shooting and shooting, and manages to secure Yumoto's ankle, and the winning take down. Clutch!
60kg Gold Medal Match- Toghrul Asgarov, Azerbaijan vs. Besik Kudukhov, Russia
This tournament might have seen the coronation of wrestling's new pound for pound king, a teenager from Ganja, Azerbaijan, Toghrul Asgarov. He dismantled the field and, in the finals, dominated four-time world champion, Besik Kudukhov of Russia. Here Asgarov, in one fluid motion, drives into Kudukhov with a knee pick, slips around to his back, and hits him with a three-point throw.
This may not look like much, but freestyle wrestling is all about which wrestler comes out ahead in situations where either can score. Here the two competitors find themselves in the classic hip to hip, under hook/over hook position. This is theoretically a fifty-fifty position, where neither wrestler has an advantage; scoring from here is often a clear demonstration of superior wrestling skills. Asgarov achieves a takedown by hipping in and limp-arming his under hook out from beneath the overhook (whizzer) and hopping to Kudukhov's far side.
Asgarov's wrestling was the single most impressive wrestling performance of the Olympic games.
66kg Gold Medal Match: Sushil Kumar, India vs Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu, Japan
Sushil Kumar looked over matched in scoring situations in his finals match against Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu, who won without much suspense. Here Yonemitsu finishes a straight head-inside single without much effort, simply by popping his head outside and pivoting to pull his right shoulder from underneath Kumar's sprawl. Kumar's weight falls forward to the mat and Yonemitsu rotates behind him.
74kg Gold Medal Match: Jordan Burroughs, USA vs Sadegh Goudarzi, Iran
I guess Jordan Burroughs is going to ride this double-leg takedown thing out and see where it takes him.
Jordan's set up here is simple as possible, he rises to engage Goudarzi high, and when Sadegh responds by reaching up with both hands, Burroughs drops to the double. Once Jordan is beneath and beyond an opponent's head/hands defensive layer, with both hands on the knees, the take down is assured.
Most marvelous in these proceedings is Jordan's form. his forehead is lodged in Goudarzi's sternum, his torso leans exactly at a forty-five from the mat, and forms a perfect straight line between his head and butt. Burroughs's legs never stop driving and he even manages to get his arm elbow deep behind Sadegh's knee. All this results in an unstoppable take down with no opportunity for any exposure-based counter
I don't need to write anything here.
84kg Gold Medal Match: Sharif Sharifov, Azerbaijan vs Jaime Espanal, Puerto Rico
Jaime Espinal, of Puerto Rico, who trains at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club at Penn State, was a surprise finalist at this weight. Some were rather critical of the favorable draw he received.Ben Askren, Bellator welterweight champion, tweeted about how his brother, Max Askren, pinned Espinal earlier this year. Max, while a great wrestler and NCAA champ in his own right, is not even in the top three on the United State's Olympic ladder. To Jaime's defense, he looked incredible through the semi-finals of this tournament, dominating some great wrestlers. There was, however, no question that he was in over his head against defending world champion, Sharif Sharifov in the finals.
Here is Sharifov scoring two separate back exposures on Espinal with a gut wrench. This is a fair representation of how their match went.
96kg Gold Medal Match: Jake Varner, USA vs Valeri Andritsev, Ukraine
Jake Varner may or may not have received a favorable draw in his own right, but that is a discussion for another day.
Right now, let's focus on this ankle-pick, which Zombie Prophet got, expertly, from two angles. This is a variation on the signature move of Varner's coach and mentor, Olympic champion Cael Sanderson. Varner, here, runs through this pick, while Cael usually executed this move by dropping to a knee.
Varner sets the take down up by pulling Andritsev's tricep towards him, causing the Ukranian to step forward. As this happens, Jake establishes a collar tie with his right arm, nestling the nape of Andrisev's neck into the crook of his wrist. As Jake pulls on the tricep, he takes a subtle back step with his trail leg to establish a proper angle. He then reaches forward and grabs Andritsev's ankle while simultaneously using the collar tie to throw the Ukranian's head over the secured ankle. The result is simply beautiful.
This is the push out that ultimately won Varner his gold medal. Some have erroneously commented that Jake stepped out first, but a push out point is only awarded if the entire foot steps out of the circle. The referee here does an excellent job of recognizing that only part of Jake's foot was outside the zone.
120KG Bronze Medal Match: Daulet Shabanbay, Kazakhstan vs Bilyal Makhov, Russia
Bilyal Makhov, the Russian heavyweight, is a monster. He has won three world championships already, and in preparation for these games, appears to have shed somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty pounds of fat.
He should never lose, but yet he did at these games. I theorize he is just one of these incredible athletes who sometimes just losses focus, and let's periods get away from him. Unfortunately, he let two periods in one match get away from him in the Olympic semi-finals.
Here he is wrestling for a bronze medal, which he won, but not before dropping a period against the relatively tiny Kazak heavyweight, something that should have never happened. Here Makhov drives into the Kazak chest to chest with an over/under body lock. He is essentially begging his opponent to lateral drop him and Shabanbay is happy to oblige him. Though the throw is somewhat sloppy, it is enough to earn the Kazak the pushout, and the period.
120kg Bronze Medal Match: Tervel Dlagnev, USA vs Komeil Ghasemi, Iran
Here is an example of an American losing a match he should have won because he could not convert on low-level scoring opportunities. The first time Tervel was in on an ankle on Ghasemi, he ended up in this crackdown position and got crotch lifted for two exposure points. Tervel, I beleive, freaks out a little here, one thing leads to another and Ghasemi ends up in on a double which he finishes over his knee, straight to Tervel's back.
This series essentially won the match for the Iranian, as afterward all he had to do was wait on Dlagnev and defend. I still think that Tervel has Olympic gold inside him, and I hope he presses on to Rio.
I hope you enjoyed men's freestyle wrestling at these games.