WRESTLING: Disputed call costs Zadick at Pan American Championships; Cejudo qualifies weight class for Olympics
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.-A puzzling call at the most crucial juncture of a huge match cost the United States a chance to qualify the men's freestyle team for the Olympic Games at 60 kg/132 lbs. The Pan American Championships quarterfinal match between past World silver medalist Mike Zadick and past World champion Guivi Sissaouri of Canada came down to the clinch in the third period. But mat referee Kurt Jonckheer of Belgium never let the wrestlers decide the outcome. Sissaouri gained the advantage for the tiebreaker when a red ball was drawn out of a bag. But Zadick was called for a caution before Sissaouri, a 1996 Olympic silver medalist, even grabbed the leg in the clinch. The referee ruled Zadick was not in the proper defensive position to start the clinch and awarded a point to the Canadian on a caution-and-one-point-penalty call. Mat chairman Max Gutierrez of Mexico confirmed the mat referee's call and that gave the 36-year-old Sissaouri a 1-0, 2-2, 1-0 victory on Sunday morning at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. That cost the U.S. a chance to qualify for the Olympics at 60 kg/132 lbs. The U.S. now has two qualifiers left-in Switzerland and Poland-to qualify that class for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. A visibly upset Zadick (Solon, Iowa/Gator WC) stood on the mat for several minutes as U.S. National Coach Kevin Jackson protested the ruling. Zadick and U.S. coaches were not aware Zadick had been called for"attention"-a warning in international wrestling-during the sequence for the leg clinch."Zadick knows if he's called for attention he has to do everything right and he can't block the guy from coming in on his leg,"Jackson said."Zadick obviously didn't hear the referee say 'attention' and the coaches didn't hear the referee say 'attention.' Most of the time, the protocol is for that official to point to the corner of that athlete that is committing the wrongful act and say your athlete is warned for attention. The referee has pointed to our corner every other time attention was called this year and in the last several years."We had been called for attention, even though we didn't know it, so the next time he didn't create the proper position the referee did award those points. What can you do' It's disappointing because we were already in the defensive position and we were already at a serious disadvantage, so why not let them wrestle'"Jackson said the match should've never come down to a clinch."We should've taken care of business earlier with an Olympic berth on the line,"he said."We need to score points and not leave it up to a coin flip or pulling a ball out of a hat. We're better than that guy. It's disappointing to not qualify that weight class and we obviously have some serious work to do there."Shortly after Zadick's loss, 2007 World Team member Henry Cejudo (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) qualified the U.S. for the Olympics at 55 kg/121 lbs. by reaching the finals."It feels real good to get it done,"said Cejudo, who celebrated his 21st birthday a few weeks ago."It's a lot less stress. I don't have to travel overseas to those tournaments. Now I can just focus on Nationals and Trials and make my first Olympic Team. This is a huge year for me and I'm really excited about it."Cejudo qualifies the U.S. for the Olympics since his opponent in the finals of the Pan American Championships, Cuba's Andy Moreno, has already qualified his country for Beijing. Moreno won a bronze medal at the 2007 World Championships after losing to Cejudo in the Pan American Championships and Pan American Games."It's a matter of who wants it more,"Cejudo said."We're both representing our countries and want to win this tournament. It's just a matter of who goes in there and wrestles. It will be a good challenge."Cejudo had been struggling, dropping 6 of his last 7 matches since making the U.S. World Team last year."Henry got the job done and he competed hard,"Jackson said."We're looking for Henry to wrestle well against a very good wrestler from Cuba. It's a good measuring stick for him to see where he's at. Henry wants to get a few more leg attacks going and score a little bit more."The U.S. has now qualified 14 of 18 overall weight classes for the 2008 Olympics. The U.S. has two more opportunities apiece in each style to qualify classes for Beijing. The Americans still need to qualify in Greco-Roman at 60 kg/132 lbs. and 74 kg/163 lbs. Men's freestyle needs to qualify at 60 kg/132 lbs. and women's freestyle needs to qualify at 55 kg/121 lbs. Cejudo, hampered by neck and shoulder problems late last year when he lost in the first round of the World Championships, looked sharp in winning his first two bouts Sunday morning."I'm healthy-I'm 100 percent right now,"said Cejudo, the 2007 Pan American Championships and Pan American Games champion."I'm ready to rock right now and ready for the finals."The Americans also are competing in the other five weight classes it has already qualified for the Olympics. 2007 World Team member Tommy Rowlands (Columbus, Ohio/Sunkist Kids) delivered a huge win in his first match when he pinned past World champion Alexis Rodriguez of Cuba at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. The wrestlers were involved in a wild scramble before Rowlands caught Rodriguez on his back to record the second-period fall."I was down 1-0-I knew I had to go get points,"Rowlands said."I don't feel like I use all my offense sometimes. That low single that I hit, I drill it all the time but I don't have the guts to use it in matches. I had to pull the trigger and it worked."That was a real big win for me. He's a seven-time World medalist. This doesn't put me on the Olympic Team, nor does it win me a gold medal. It's definitely a nice steppingstone for me and one that I am proud of."Rowlands followed by beating Canada's Arjan Bhullar in the semifinals. He will face Brazil's Antoine Jaoude in the final round."That was a huge, huge win for Tommy against one of the best wrestlers in the World,"Jackson said of his win over Rodriguez."Tommy had lost three straight matches to him and hadn't even won a period against him. Tommy wrestled a perfect match technically and tactically. He went and scored with the match on the line. Tommy has taken the next step and moved to the next level. He knows he's good enough to be an Olympic gold medalist."At 74 kg/163 lbs., Casey Cunningham (Mt. Pleasant, Mich./Sunkist Kids) advanced to the finals where he will meet Olympic and World bronze medalist Ivan Fundora of Cuba. At 84 kg/185 lbs., two-time World bronze medalist and 2004 Olympian Joe Williams (Belvidere, Ill./Sunkist Kids) advanced to the finals where he will face Colombia's Jarlis Mosquera. Williams placed fifth at the 2007 World Championships in his first year at 84 kilos after previously competing at 74 kg/163 lbs. At 96 kg/211.5 lbs., Damion Hahn (Ithaca, N.Y./New York AC) advanced to the finals. He will take on Cuba's Michel Batista in the gold-medal match. At 66 kg/145.5 lbs., past World Team member Chris Bono (Ringgold, Ga./Sunkist Kids) dropped a hard-fought 4-1, 2-2, 2-1 decision to past 2007 World silver medalist Geandry Garzon of Cuba. Bono and Zadick will wrestle for bronze medals on Sunday night.