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Random thoughts from TheMatside View at the Olympic Wrestling Tournament



It's less than a day since the wrestling competition has ended in Sydney, and the there has not been much time to reflect on these eight days of spectacular wrestling action. I will give a few random highlights in my mind, and promise to put in a little more effort when the mind is a bit clearer. 1. RULON, RULON - It was amazing to watch Rulon beat the unbeatable wrestler, and the sheer pressure and excitement that the monumental feat generated when he defeated Alexandre Kareline. The best part is that the moment was also captured by the general public, and became the biggest story of the Games. Rulon was selected to carry the flag in closing ceremonies, a moving moment for me. He did one billion interviews from the time he got off the medal stand until probably right now, when he either has a microphone in his face or a cell phone to his ear. Rulon has been an amazing representative of our sport and USA Wrestling. Continue to be proud. This is something for American wrestling fans to cherish. 2. GREAT GRECO FINISH - Our Greco-Roman team far exceeded all expectations, with three medals, one of every kind. The general media picked them for no medals; many wrestling fans in the United States also wrote the team off. With no past Olympians, and a three-year run of challenges on the world level, people forgot about the American fighting spirit. Gardner's gold was not the only Greco story; Lindland's run for silver and the emergence of a shining new star, Garrett Lowney with the bronze, gave us something to cheer abou. Placing third at the Olympics is outstanding, especially when our nation is known more for its freestyle. We beat a ton of Greco-Roman nations hands down. Great job by captain Steve Mays, and special praise to the coaches, led by Dan Chandler, Rob Hermann and Steve Fraser. 3. FREESTYLE EXCELLENCE - Once again, our freestyle wrestlers proved that the USA is a true power in the sport. However, the team has such high expectations, the athletes and coaches are disappointed about winning no gold medals. Stepping back a bit, the four medals and team point total was second only to Russia, and everyone in the gym knows that both Henson and Slay had either poorly or unbalanced officiating in their finals. The U.S. team trains to win gold medals, and that did not happen. But this is once again an example of just how hard it really is to become an Olympic champion. We need to remember that when evaluating the performance in Sydney. Our team was outstanding and prepared. Our freestyle team members are heroes. Remember that. 4. UPSETS GALORE - It is amazing how our athletes rose to the occasion when faced with tough draws or supposedly superior opponents. Think of the upsets - Gardner over Kareline, Slay over Saitiev, Lowney over Gogouachvili. (did you notice these were all wins against Russian stars?). The U.S. can win any match it enters, because of the attitude of the athletes and coaches that we have the skill, condititioning and strategy to win. 5. GREAT SEMIS - Although the outcomes went the other way, the semifinal matches between Terry Brands and Dabir of Iran, and Lincoln McIlravy and Igali of Canada were spectacular matches. Of course, when these star athletes edged their U.S. opponents, they went on to win the gold medal fairly easily. These matches had the skill level, intensity and overall drama to make a wrestling fan out of anybody. Enough for now. Thanks for coming to TheMat.com for your Olympic coverage. We hope we filled your need for coverage. We sure worked hard at it.
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