Gardner thrown in OT, loses bid for repeat wrestling gold

Updated: August 25, 2004, 4:28 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Jim Gruenwald and Garrett Lowney failed to advance from their pools Wednesday in Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling, meaning no Americans will be on the mat when three medals are decided Thursday.

The six-man U.S. Greco-Roman team departs with only one medal -- Rulon Gardner's bronze -- the first time that's happened since Seoul in 1988. In Sydney, the Americans got a gold, silver and bronze, plus four medals in freestyle. Freestyle wrestling starts Friday in Athens.

Lowney, a bronze medalist in Sydney, lost both of his pool matches Wednesday at 211½ pounds (96kg), 3-1 to Ernesto Pena of Cuba and 4-0 in overtime to Lajos Virag of Hungary. Only the pool winners can win medals.

"I wrestled terribly in my first match," said Lowney, a former All-American at Minnesota who lives in Freedom, Wis. "To train four years and make that much of a sacrifice, to come out and perform poorly in my first match was disappointing. ... But this last match, I don't know where it came from. I don't know what happened."

Lowney, 24, was called for unlocking on the clinch to start the overtime, giving Virag a point, then drew two decisive penalty points for blocking Virag's lift attempt -- an infraction he didn't know existed.

"I've been wrestling for years and I don't know where they pulled those points out of," said Lowney, who had even stronger words to describe the call. "I am completely dumbfounded."

Gruenwald, sixth in the 2000 Olympics, pinned Hugo Passos of Portugal in 5:41 at 132 pounds (60kg), but lost 3-1 to pool winner Eusebio Diaconu of Romania.

"But I can walk off the mat having wrestled at this level for well over a decade with no shame whatsoever," said Gruenwald, 34, of Milwaukee.

The day before, Dennis Hall (121 pounds, 55kg), Oscar Wood (145½ pounds, 66kg) and Brad Vering (185 pounds, 84kg) also were eliminated. Hall was a silver medalist at Atlanta in 1996.

The United States did not qualify an Olympic wrestler at 163 pounds (74kg).

Also Wednesday, Turkey's Hamza Yerlikaya lost 3-0 to silver medalist Ara Abrahamian of Sweden in the 185-pound (84kg) semifinals, ending his attempt to win a third consecutive gold. He also lost the bronze to Vichaslav Makaranka of Belarus, 2-1, but still got his first top-five finish in a world-level championship since Sydney.

Winning golds were Hungary's Istvan Majoros, who surprised Russia's Gueidar Mamedaliev 3-1 in overtime at 121 pounds (55kg); Azerbaijan's Farid Mansurov at 145½ pounds (66kg); and two Russians, Alexei Michine at 185 pounds (84kg) and Khasan Baroev at 264½ pounds (120kg).

Baroev, only 21 but already the reigning world champion, was a 4-2 winner over Kazakhstan's Georgi Tsurtsumia, who hours before ousted 2000 Olympic champion Rulon Gardner 4-1 in the semifinals. Gardner came back to get the bronze, then announced his retirement.

"It won't be until somebody tells me I am an Olympic champion that I will realize it," Baroev said. "This is the best moment of my life. But, right now, I'm a little bit lost."

Majoros' coaches were so pleased and excited that they ran onto the mat and tossed him up and down, catching him playfully in their arms. No wonder: Majoros finished only 12th and 13th in his last two world championships and 18th in the 2000 Olympics.

Majoros said he wanted to honor his mother, who died earlier this year, by winning a medal.

"I feel great happiness to win the gold," he said.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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