Although the two US competitors started off their day in promising fashion, there will be no Olympic gold medals for Jesse Thielke (USA, world no. 19, 59 kg) and Andy Bisek (USA, world no. 5, 75 kg). Actually, there won’t be any medals for either wrestler.
Thielke faced off against two-time Olympic silver medalist and 2011 World Champion Rovshan Bayramov (AZE, world no. 2) in the quarterfinals. The American tried getting something going right away, using his drop-steps to close the distance inside. Bayramov defended well early. The two stayed engaged in the ties with neither having a clear advantage. Thielke maintained a posture that didn’t necessarily betray a lack of initiative, but was hit for passivity all the same. Unfortunately for him, he wouldn’t recover. Bayramov locked for a gutwrench and swept it over four times for the superiority victory. Team USA challenged the call, arguing that the last sequence was below the waist. It was to no avail, resulting in a 9-0 TF win for Bayramov.
However, Thielke’s loss to one of the weight class’s favorites put him in decent position to get pulled back into the repechage. Bayramov took on Shinobu Ota (JPN, world no. 12). Ota, as you might remember, took second at the Asian OG Qualifier, where he announced his presence on the World stage in a big way by upsetting six-time World Champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Hamid Soryan (IRI, world no. 14). Ota actually defeated Soryan again in the first round this morning 5-4 thanks to some late heroics. Versus Bayramov, the magic continued. Ota locked around and threw Bayramov to his back. When the Azerbaijani wrestler went to roll to his stomach, Ota re-gripped and held on for the shocking fall. The surprising turn of events put Ota in the final against 2015 World Champion Ismael Borrero Molina and also, ended Thielke’s potential bid for a bronze medal.
Bisek had all he could handle with Bozo Starcevik (CRO, world no. 17), and that was more because Starcevik was committed to playing it safe until his chance arrived. Bisek pushed the pace as usual, weaving in and out, looking for the tiniest openings he could find. Starcevik blocked a bit, but kept moving enough with his angles to sidestep being knocked, although that was a matter of time. Bisek had a crack on top around a minute in but couldn’t quite get Starcevik over. The action remained scoreless going into the second.
Starcevik was waiting all match long to get to the mat and when he did, he took advantage. Starcevik maintained a mid-to-high lock around Bisek and barely brought him over for exposure. But it was good for two points and a lead for the Croatian. Bisek upped his attacks even more and certainly appeared close to making something happen. With less than 30 seconds left in the bout, Starcevik pushed off of Bisek, causing him to momentarily fall to the mat. That seemingly inconsequential event actually allowed for more clock to be eaten up. Plus, it basically wiped away any chance Bisek had for the referee to call passivity on Starcevik. Bisek kept in it; he never ceased trying to turn the tables as time was winding down. But it just didn’t happen for him. Starcevik escaped with a 2-0 win and earned a quarterfinal showdown against 2012 Olympic champ and two-time World gold medalist Roman Vlasov (RUS, world no. 1).
Just like Thielke needed Baryamov to beat Ota, Bisek required Starcevik to oust Vlasov. It was a tall order. In what is likely to go down as the most controversial match of the day (if not the entire tournament), Vlasov asserted control early on and jumped out to a 6-0 lead. That’s when things went haywire. On the edge, Starcevik reversed position and rolled Vlasov onto his back holding onto the Russian’s head and arm. Vlasov was a) clearly pinned and b) about to take a nap, as the pressure created by Starcevik was not unlike a neck-crank in submission grappling. The referee stopped the match and the officials convened to determine the hold and the point values. Meanwhile, the Croatian side protested throughout, though of course, that wasn’t going to lead anywhere.
The score was 6-2 when action resumed. Vlasov, bloodied and back to consciousness, used his impeccable balance and par terre defense to stay afloat the rest of the way. He was even willing to give up a passive point to Starcevik in the latter stages of the bout in exchange for a respite. So, despite the controversy and everything else, Vlasov came out on top 6-3 and thus, eliminated Andy Bisek from getting a chance to earn his third World-level medal.
2016 Greco Roman Olympics — Finals – 59 kg & 75 kg
Ismael Borrero Molina (world no. 1) vs. Shinobu Ota (JPN, world no. 12)
Roman Vlasov (RUS, world no. 1) vs. Mark Madsen (DEN, world no. 3)