For the second consecutive Olympiad, the United States Greco Roman program is coming home without a medal.
Ben Provisor (USA, 85 kg) and Robby Smith (USA, 130 kg) both appeared to be on track for potential first-round wins before ultimately falling short. It all happened earlier today at the Carioca Arena 2 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as the second day of wrestling got underway at the 2016 Olympics.
Provisor drew 2015 World silver medalist Rustam Assakalov (UZB, world no. 4) and did everything he could to wear out his opponent. Assakalov, the taller, rangier athlete; Provisor, the short, powerful grappler. It was a contrast in both body types and wrestling styles. Provisor was active from the whistle, consistently coming in and jockeying for under-hooks. He was making Assakalov commit one way before shifting directions. The pace stayed high early on as the American pressed for opportunities. Unfortunately for Provisor, there just weren’t enough of them to exploit.
Assakalov received the first passivity chance, but “Big Ben” held firm. The two returned standing and Provisor’s relentless attack appeared to be taking its toll on Assakalov. Eventually, Provisor got his shot at par terre, locking around for a gutwrench. He couldn’t gain the traction he needed to continue his rotation and Assakalov immediately capitalized, reversing the position. That made the score 1-0 at the end of the first period.
The second frame gave Provisor new life. Once again, he looked to be the fresher of the two. Provisor was having his way with Assakalov inside, jutting in more under-hooks, short throw-by’s, and snaps. But they weren’t translating into points. Assakalov drew his third passive knock, which tied the score at one and gave Provisor the lead via criteria. That lead would not last too long. Assakalov re-took the lead on a penalty point and then gutted Provisor over for four points. 6-1, Assakalov. Even though there wasn’t a lot of time left, Provisor remained engaged. He kept coming at the Uzbek with fire. By the time the period was winding down, Assakalov was nearly finished.
Provisor forced the action once more by bullying forward and moved his exhausted opponent off the edge. This resulted in a caution and two, and closed the gap to 6-3. Time just wasn’t on the US side. Assakalov re-grouped enough in the remaining moments to hold on, leaving Provisor at his mercy in the next round. Viktor Lorincz (HUN, world no. 2) defeated Asssakalov via a razor-thin decision 2-1 in the quarterfinals, wiping away the USA’s chances for a medal at 85 kilograms.
Smith comes close, but is heartbroken late
Robby Smith got off to a flying start versus Sabah Shariati (AZE, world no. 15). Off of the first legitimate exchange of the bout, Smith grabbed onto an arm and dumped it over for a quick two points. Shariati plodded in from there — he wasn’t unwilling to stay inside, but he was clearly by now wary of Smith snagging another hold. It was’t back-and-forth action; the pace became too tense for that. Each wrestler occasionally dipped in to see if a setup was worthy. It felt as though Smith was beginning to sense another opportunity, but Shariati closed every window that became briefly available.
Of course, matches like this come down to par terre and seeing which competitor is able to execute (it also didn’t help that Smith was hit for two passivity calls in short succession despite no obvious reason for it). Shariati jumped at the chance and gutwrenched Smith four times to pick up a whopping eight points. Just like that, the 2-0 lead was gone and shortly thereafter, so was Smith’s hope for a gold medal. Shariati advanced 8-2. In the next round, reigning World Champion and top-ranked Riza Kayaalp (TUR) pinned Shariati early in the first period to dash Smith’s bid for a medal of any color altogether.