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Justin Lester's medal quest comes up short at Olympic Games



Justin Lester went 1-2 in the Olympic Games on Tuesday. John Sachs photo.

LONDON – Justin Lester’s quest for an Olympic medal came to an end early Tuesday night.

Lester fell to Germany’s Frank Staebler in two straight periods in the repechage wrestlebacks in Greco-Roman wrestling before a sellout crowd of 6,500 fans Tuesday at the ExCel North Arena 2.

Lester fell behind early and couldn’t recover as Staebler prevailed 5-0, 5-0 at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. Staebler and Lester both placed fifth in the 2011 World Championships. Lester fell two wins short of a bronze medal.

“I couldn’t put it together,” Lester said. “I don’t know what it was. I’m a little sick, and I just didn’t wrestle like I usually wrestle. I wrestled stupid and didn’t stick to my game plan. I felt like I was a step behind out there.

"The last match was the worst match I've ever wrestled."

Lester rolled to a convincing two-period win over Japan’s Tsutomu Fujimara in the first round before coming out strong in the quarterfinals against Hungary’s Tamas Lorincz.

Lester scored two pushouts to win the first period 2-0 over Lorincz, who placed fifth at the 2009 Worlds. But Lorincz rebounded to win the final two periods 1-0, 2-0. Lester received a chance to wrestle back when Lorincz advanced to the finals.

“Harry was a little sluggish out there,” U.S. Coach Steve Fraser said. “I think he executed his game plan well. I just think he lacked the normal Harry Lester zip that he normally has.”

Lester, a two-time World bronze medalist, was competing in the Olympics for the first time.

“I felt like a gold medalist when I woke up this morning,” he said. “Mentally, I felt great. But physically it wasn’t there for me today.”

The U.S. fell short of winning a medal in an Olympic Greco-Roman tournament it competed in for the first time since 1976.

"We’re obviously not that good as a team yet," Fraser said. "Each guy had the potential to win a medal. I believe that. In reality, we’ve got some real young guys on our team who are going to keep improving. And we’ve got a few veteran guys who have been around a long time.

"It’s hard to stay on top in this sport for a long time. I’m not taking anything away from our guys or our opponents here. We just didn’t show that we were the strongest team here."

The Greco-Roman weight class of 96 kg/211.5 lbs. was also contested on Tuesday, but the U.S. didn’t qualify for the Olympics in that division.

Day 4 of the eight-day Olympic wrestling tournament is scheduled for Wednesday at the ExCel Center. Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. (8 a.m. Eastern Time) in London. Fans can watch a live webcast of the event on nbcolympics.com.

The women’s freestyle tournament will kick off with Americans Clarissa Chun (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) and Elena Pirozhkova (Colorado Springs, Colo./Gator WC) scheduled to compete on Wednesday.

Chun, who competes at 48 kg/105.5 lbs., is a 2008 World champion who placed fifth at the 2008 Olympics. Pirozhkova is a 2010 World silver medalist at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. She is wrestling in her first Olympic Games.

OLYMPIC GAMES
ExCel Center, London, England

Tuesday’s medal winners

66 kg/145.5 lbs.
Gold – Hyeon-Woo Kim (Korea)
Silver – Tamas Lorincz (Hungary)
Bronze – Manukhar Tskhadia (Georgia)
Bronze – Steeve Guenot (France)

96 kg/211.5 lbs.
Gold – Ghasem Rezaei (Iran)
Silver – Rustam Totrov (Russia)
Bronze – Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia)
Bronze – Jimmy Lidberg (Sweden)

Finals matchups

66 kg/145.5 lbs.
Hyeon-Woo Kim (Korea) dec. Tamas Lorincz (Hungary), 1-0, 2-0

96 kg/211.5 lbs.
Ghasem Rezaei (Iran) dec. Rustam Totrov (Russia), 2-0, 1-0

U.S. results

66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Justin Lester, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army) - 8th
WIN Tsutomu Fujimura (Japan), 3-0, 3-1
LOSS Tamas Lorincz (Hungary), 2-0, 0-1, 0-2
LOSS Frank Staebler (Germany), 0-5, 0-5
Untitled Document
   
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