| J'den Cox (USA) celebrates his bronze medal victory at the Olympics.
Photo: Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com.
Staring down Cox in his bronze medal match was the formidable three-time World medalist Reineris Salas Perez of Cuba who entered the Olympics ranked No. 3 in the World.
After several fascinating exchanges between the two, Cox led Salas 1-0 deep into the second period and was placed on the shot clock with just over one minute to go. A wild turn of events ensued after Cox secured a double leg on the Cuban as the shot clock expired. Initially, Salas was awarded the go ahead point with six second remaining in the match. After official review Cox was awarded a takedown and a 3-0 lead. Salas did not finish the match out of protest and was disqualified, giving the U.S. its first men’s freestyle medal of the Rio Olympics.
“It was awesome to know that I accomplished a great feat,” Cox said following his bronze medal victory. “That wasn’t my goal. I am not going to say that I accomplished my goal because my goal was to win gold. I am not bitter about it. I am happy. I accomplished a great feat, and so many people never get the chance to even come close to taste it. I got to taste it. I enjoy it and am very happy about it.”
The two-time NCAA champion for Missouri with no international experience prior to this summer went through the 86 kg Olympic field without surrendering a single takedown. Cox returns to Missouri with one year of eligibility remaining and an Olympic medal dangling around his neck.
After Cox’s wowing performance in Rio, personal coach Mike Eierman echoed sentiments of amazement about his star pupil.
“I knew it was coming, I knew it was possible. It is an unbelievable feeling. I have been in his life since he was seven or eight years old. We had a 10-year plan, yeah, that was what it was (laughing). I knew he had the potential. I knew he had the physical and the mental game to do this,” said Eierman.
The U.S. boasted another wrestler in the bronze medal finals as Tervel Dlagnev took center stage inside Carioca Arena 2 for one final go against World No. 1 Geno Petriashvili of Georgia.
It was clear in his semifinal match Friday afternoon that Dlagnev was affected by a nagging back injury, an injury he unfortunately couldn’t overcome in what is expected to be his last hoorah on the mat. Dlagnev fell to Petriashvili by technical fall to finish in fifth place at the Olympics for the second time.
“Yeah, it’s a bummer,” Dlagnev said. “It has been a slow fade. I am not sure about my body. I wasn’t planning on wrestling out there (in the bronze-medal bout). I kind of got talked into going out there. Hopefully it means something to somebody.
“I didn’t work out one day of training camp. My back locked up right when I got on the plane to leave to the Olympics. It has been a year fade. I made the Trials, but since then I have had five practices in the last four months. I have been just holding on, holding on hopefully for one big day. It didn’t go my way.”
Dlagnev is a two-time World bronze medalist, two-time Olympian and four-time World Team member for the U.S. He wrestled for a bronze medal in every World Championships and Olympic Games in which he competed.
On the international front, Russian star Abdulrashid Sadulaev cemented his place as one of the current wrestling greats by winning his first Olympic gold to go along with his two World titles, all at the ripe young age of 20.
The top ranked wrestler at 86 kg cruised throughout the day, outscoring his opponents 28-1, capping off the tournament with decisive 5-0 win over two-time World medalist Selim Yasar of Turkey for gold. Sadulaev gave Russia its 15th Olympic champion since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the nation’s second men’s freestyle medal this week in Rio.
2012 Olympic champion Sharif Sharifov of Azerbaijan picked up Olympic medal number two with a 5-1 win over Pedro Ceballos Fuentes of Venezuela in the 86 kg bronze medal match. Azerbaijan now owns three Olympic bronze medals in men’s freestyle from this week, which is impressive considering the nation only had six overall Olympic medals in the discipline coming into Rio.
Also being crowned Olympic champion was two-time World champion Taha Akgul of Turkey. The top seed Akgul edged 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Komeil Ghasemi of Iran 3-1 in the 125 kg gold medal final to give Turkey its 18th men’s freestyle Olympic champion.
Ghasemi joins gold medalist Hassan Yazdanicharati and bronze medalist Hassan Rahimi as Iranian medalists in men’s freestyle entering the final day of competition.
Heavyweight Ibrahim Saidau won Belarus its third Olympic medal by taking out Armenia’s Levan Berianidze 2-2 in the bronze bout at 125 kg.
In a change of schedule, the men’s freestyle competition will resume at 7:30 a.m. (ET) on Friday with the first session of action at 65 kg and 97 kg.
Every match from the 2016 Olympic Games can be viewed live courtesy of NBC at NBCOlympics.com. Complete brackets and match-by-match results can be found at unitedworldwrestling.org.
2016 OLYMPIC GAMES
Aug. 14-21 at Carioca Arena 2 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
86 kg/189 lbs.
Gold – Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Russia)
Silver – Selim Yasar (Turkey)
Bronze – Sharif Sharifov (Azerbaijan)
Bronze – J’den Cox (United States)
5th – Pedro Ceballos Fuentes (Venezuela)
5th – Reineris Salas Perez (Cuba)
7th – Alireza Mohammad Karimimachiani (Iran)
8th – Mihail Ganev (Bulgaria)
9th – Amarhajy Mahamedau (Belarus)
10th – Zbigniew Baranowski (Poland)
Gold – Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Russia) dec. Selim Yasar (Turkey), 5-0
Bronze – Sharif Sharifov (Azerbaijan) dec. Pedro Ceballos Fuentes (Venezuela), 5-1
Bronze – J’den Cox (United States) dq. Reineris Salas Perez (Cuba), 5:54
125 kg/275 lbs.
Gold – Taha Akgul (Turkey)
Silver – Komeil Ghasemi (Iran)
Bronze – Ibrahim Saidau (Belarus)
Bronze – Geno Petriashvili (Georgia)
5th – Levan Berianidze (Armenia)
5th – Tervel Dlagnev (United States)
7th – Daniel Ligeti (Hungary)
8th – Korey Jarvis (Canada)
9th – Diaaeldin Abdelmottaleb (Egypt)
10th – Alen Zasieiev (Ukraine)
Gold – Taha Akgul (Turkey) dec. Komeil Ghasemi (Iran), 3-1
Bronze – Ibrahim Saidau (Belarus) dec. Levan Berianidze (Armenia), 2-2
Bronze – Geno Petriashvili (Georgia) dec. Tervel Dlagnev (United States), 10-0
U.S. men’s freestyle results
86 kg/189 lbs. – J’den Cox, Columbia. Mo. (Titan Mercury WC/Missouri WF), Bronze
WIN Amarhajy Mahamedau (Belarus), 7-1
WIN Alireza Mohammed Karimimachiani (Iran), 5-1
LOSS Selim Yasar (Turkey), 2-1
WIN Reineris Salas Perez (Cuba), DQ 5:54
125 kg/275 lbs. – Tervel Dlagnev, Columbus, Ohio (Sunkist Kids/Ohio RTC), 5th
WIN Jamaladdin Magomedov (Azerbaijan), 6-5
WIN Robert Baran (Poland), 3-2
LOSS Komeil Ghasemi (Iran), 10-0
LOSS Geno Petriashvili (Georgia), 10-0