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Olympic Wrestling Roundup

13 August 2012 2 Comments

Olympic Wrestling Roundup
Mark Lovejoy

Now that the Olympics have concluded, we can now catch up on our sleep by having irregular naps to match the irregular wrestling coverage we just witnessed.  I tried to watch the Games from Africa, so don’t whine to me about television coverage of the Olympics.  When we were able to actually watch wrestling on TV, I knew the results ahead of time, but it was worth watching the matches if only to hear my wife say “Did that announcer just say ‘Lucky Ball Grab?’”

It was difficult to keep track of the matches, but hey, that is why Thomas Edison invented the internet.   To keep up with the wrestling news, I was glued to the computer pressing the refresh button on USA Wrestling, WIN Magazine, and Intermat’s facebook pages.  Thanks for the speedy updates guys!

Wrestling is truly a global sport – No one country dominates wrestling in the Olympics. In fact, 29 different countries had a wrestler earn either a gold, silver, or bronze medal; including the encouraging growth of wrestling for women across the globe.

When women’s wrestling was added to the 2004 Athens games, 20 countries sent women to compete.  That number grew to 42 during the London Games.  There is already talk from other countries about sending women to compete in Rio in four years. Personally, I would love to see countries like Pakistan (which already has an emerging men’s program and is situated next door to India….who garnered a lot of positive attention to Geeta Phogat, India’s first female Olympic wrestler) send women to compete in 2016.

Jordan Burroughs wins gold!

Jordan Burroughs - While I am on the subject of Mr. Burroughs, I don’t think people realize just how difficult it was for him to win the gold. This guy is just two years away from winning the NCAA wrestling championships. In the US, we primarily wrestle our folk style wrestling which is much different than the Olympic styles of Freestyle and Greco Roman. To be one year removed from college to Olympic champion is not unlike a New Zealand rugby player signing with the New York Giants and winning the super bowl or a cricket player from India winning a World Series championship ring with the New York Yankees.

And he wasn’t even America’s only Olympic Gold Medalist! Jake Varner won the 96kg gold on the closing day of the Olympic ceremony.

Iran – Like many news junkies, I am constantly online reading newspapers and articles about what is going on in the world.  I must admit that I love the insight such pundits like “Starchild1982” and “GumdropSparkles” have on what they think of the upcoming presidential election in November.

Jordan Burroughs (USA) gives Sadeg Goudarzi (Iran) a hug while on the medal stand. Burroughs beat Goudarzi in the finals at 74kg.

If anyone spent any time on Yahoo Sports over the past week trying to read yahoo’s updates of the wrestling brackets, you could read such insights as “Iraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan”, “Only Iran,” and “ Iran Iran Iran”. Then undoubtedly, someonewould want to talk geopolitics. To be honest, I didn’t realize that Yahoo Sports was so popular in the internet cafés in Tehran. I wonder what President Ahmadinejad thinks about Dwight Howard’s move to the Lakers.

As fans of wrestling know, Iran has had a long history of success in freestyle wrestling. Seeing a guy from Iran in the medal standings for wrestling is a common occurrence. However, Iran had a lot of success in the Greco Roman tournament while in London. Their success started on the very first day of competition with the first gold medal of wrestling going to Hamid Soryan.  If you are new to international wrestling, I liken Hamid Soryan to the American Speed Skater Dan Jansen, but with smaller quads and hamstrings.  Mr. Soryan had won every world championship tournament that he entered (and even tossed in a couple of Asian Championships to boot). However, wining the Olympic gold was out of his reach until last week.   Could this be the catalyst to future Iranian success in both Freestyle and Greco Roman?

India – I lived in India for a little over two years, so I have a soft spot for the Indian wrestlers.  Many people ask why India (a country with 1.2 billion people) does not have more Olympic success in any sports.  My explanation has been that Indians are truly gaga over cricket.  The sports pages are simply dedicated to the sport.  To imagine how popular cricket is, take a typical episode of SportCenter in the US.  Pay attention to the amount of attention is focused on baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and toss in NASCAR…that is about how much energy local sports shows spend on news about cricket (watching the cricket draft on TV is one of the most amusing times I had while living in Delhi).

The problem that comes from this passion for cricket is that CRICKET IS NOT AN OLYMPIC SPORT.  Therefore, many other Olympic sports (even the national sport of India, field hockey) are pushed to the wayside.

However, this changed in Beijing four years ago.  It was during the Beijing Games that India came away with three medals: a gold in shooting and bronzes in freestyle wrestling and boxing.

Hundreds of fans gathered at the Indira Gandhi International Airport to receive the star wrestlers along with the family members of the grapplers. (PTI Photo) –vis TimesofIndia

As reported on byWrestling Roots, India’s traditional form of wrestling, Kushti, has seen a revival.   Sushil Kumar, a wrestler who grew up practicing Kushti in the dirt pits of Old Delhi (not to be confused with New Delhi) won a bronze medal in Beijing. He followed that up with a gold medal in the 2010 world championships. His success brought forth positive attention to not only Kushti, but freestyle wrestling as well.

The Indian team followed Kumar’s lead to winning 19 medals in wrestling during the 2010 Commonwealth Games (think of the Pan-Am Games for countries formally in the British Empire).

In the lead-up to London, much attention has been focused on three wrestlers who had a chance to medal: Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt, and Geeta Phogat.  If you follow Wrestling Root’s facebook page, you would have read the incredibly inspiring story of Ms. Phogat.  I know that many American athletes have rags-to-riches tear jerking stories; however, none of those stories could match Geeta’s…I suggest you google her. (or read the Reuters article we posted on our Facebook page)

During their time in London, Sushil Kumar earned silver and Yogeshwar Dutt earned a bronze.  Many will predict at least four medals come Rio in four years.

Sushil Kumar BITING his silver medal.

Great Britain – The host country only fielded on wrestler.  Olga Butkevych did not have a successful outing by losing her opening to her opponent from Ecuador, but she was at least able to compete.

During the run-up to the Olympics, a new term entered my vocabulary: “Plastic Brit.” No, this is not a continuation of the very public feud between Elton John and Madonna, but a discussion within the London media about what it means to be “British” (I only put in quotes because I thought all one has to do to become a British citizen is to order bangers and mash at a pub with a straight face).

A handful of athletes representing Great Britain in the Olympics were dubbed “Plastic” in that they were recently granted British citizenship and passports.  Some suggest that they were only given citizenship to heighten the medal count for Great Britain.

The Cliff-Notes version of Ms. Butkevych’s British wrestling career goes like this:

-       To improve Britain’s Olympic wrestling hopes, wrestlers were brought in from eastern European countries to work as training partners for British wrestlers.

-       It became apparent that wrestlers who grew up in places like the Ukraine were more advanced in freestyle wrestling than their British training partners.

-       Ms. Butkevych arrived in the UK in 2007 and did quite well in European wrestling tournaments.

-       She became a citizen of Great Britain in May of 2012

-       Ms. Butkevych was the only wrestler from Great Britain to compete in the London Olympics.

No matter which side of the “plastic Brit” debate one falls on, I hope the attention that Ms. Butkevych gained during the lead-up to the Olympics motivates more British kids to wrestle. That and the fact that Brits still do not do very well against American wrestlers in the UFC. If Dan Hardy learns how to sprawl, an angel get’s his wings.

Japan – Japan is very very good at wrestling, especially the women. Japan actually won three of the four possible gold medals. The men’s squad earned two bronze and a gold (Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu defeated the aforementioned Sushil Kumar for the gold medal at 66 Kilo freestyle). This should not be that surprising (They tied Russia with the most amount of wrestling medals while in London).

Saori Yoshida’s third Olympic gold medal and nine World Championships tie her with alexander Karelin for most-ever world titles with 12.

Anyone know why Japan’s international wrestling (especially it’s women’s squad) is so strong?  A quick Google search did not give me any answers other than the fact that the sport has been respected by both men and women in Japan for years.  If anyone has more insight for us, please feel free to comment below.

OK, your turn.  What were some of your more memorable moments from the past week? Any predictions for 2016?

2 Comments »

  • Jim Harshaw said:

    Great wrap up to the event. It’s great to see India getting more traction and the thoughts of Pakistan fielding a women’s team!

  • mike said:

    Are you a fan of the Olympic freestyle format – scoring and periods and the ball?

    I prefer cumulative point scoring over period scoring. In tennis and volleyball there are far more opportunities to score vs. 4 minutes.

    My favorite match of the olympics was the cuban wrestler who won bronze with a pin after being behind with 12 sec to go in the match

    I was not a fan of the judges giving the AZB wrestler 6 points in that one scramble against Scott.

    Cheers

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