Sanderson salvages gold for U.S. wrestlers

Updated: August 28, 2004, 3:12 PM ET

ATHENS, Greece - Cael Sanderson picked up Rulon Gardner and the rest of the United States men's wrestling team.

Sanderson won an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling Saturday as he rallied for a 3-1 victory over Jae Eui Moon of Korea in the 84-kilogram class.

"This thing is so unreal," Sanderson said. "I see the medal, but it is hard to believe it."

Sanderson, one of the most decorated collegiate athletes in history, captured the first gold for American men in both freestyle and Greco-Roman competition. He prevented a shutout as U.S. wrestlers lost their first two gold-medal matches Saturday.

The 25-year-old, who complied a 159-0 record with four NCAA titles at Iowa State, became the first American to gain the gold in the 84-kg class since current U.S. coach Kevin Jackson in 1992.

"I will get some time off," Sanderson said about the prospects of continuing his career. "If I have the desire to compete, I will continue."

On Wednesday, Gardner - the defending Olympic champion in the Greco-Roman 120-kilogram class - suffered a stunning overtime loss in the semifinals and settled for bronze. He was America's best hope for a gold in that discipline.

Sanderson, Steven Abas and Jamill Kelly all advanced to title matches in the freestyle discipline, giving the U.S. a chance for three golds.

Grappling in the 55-kg class, Abas was overwhelmed, 9-1, by Russian Mavlet Batirov. At 66 kg, Kelly was not much of a match in a 5-1 loss to Elbrus Tedeyev of Ukraine.

The U.S. is still in contention for two gold medals Sunday with Daniel Cormier and Joe Williams.

Cormier dominated Austria's Radovan Valach, 9-0, in his first match of the day, then beat Bartlomiej Bartnicki of Poland by a 10-1 score to move into the semifinals of the 96-kilogram class.

Williams, competing at 74 kg, also was victorious in two matches to advance to Sunday's quarterfinals. The five-time national champion topped Gela Saghirashvili of Georgia, 6-1, in the morning session and shut out Iran's Mehdi Hajizadehjoybari, 3-0, in the evening.

"The time was ending so I had to secure the victory," Williams said of the end of his second match. "I did something dangerous, but I surprised him. The competition was very tough and I had to keep focused on my main target."

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index