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Sunday, August 29, 2004
Cormier falls short in bronze match

Associated Press

Daniel Cormier went down without a fight this time, and without an Olympic wrestling medal.

Cormier, America's last medal hope in freestyle, couldn't hold a 2-0 overtime lead Sunday and lost the bronze 3-2 to Iran's Ali Reza Heidari in the 211-pound (96-kg) class.

Heidari's dominance of Cormier was similar to that of last year's world championships, a match that turned ugly when Cormier became enraged at Heidari's on-mat victory celebration and shoved him in the back. After the latest loss, Cormier was left to lash out only at himself.

"I don't know what happened, I really don't know,'' said Cormier, from Stillwater, Okla. "This was a big match for me, and I just wasn't able to get it done. I just stopped wrestling. I just should have kept doing what I did the whole match.''

To Cormier, who was sanctioned and forced to apologize following the Heidari shoving, the consequences of Sunday's loss were far worse. He came to Athens seeking to win a medal in honor of his late daughter, an infant killed in a car accident just over a year ago.

Heidari, a 1998 world champion who looked disinterested much of the match, finally took control in overtime to finish third or better in a world championship for the fifth time.

Earlier in the day, Cormier lost his semifinal match 5-0 in overtime to Russia's Khadjimourat Gatsalov, who then beat Magomed Ibragimov of Uzbekistan 4-1 for the gold.

Sunday proved to be a washout for the U.S. freestyle team, with three-time NCAA champion Joe Williams losing 3-2 in overtime to Kazakhstan's Gennadiy Laliyev in an elimination match at 163 pounds (74kg). Williams finished fifth, though it was no consolation.

U.S. national coach Kevin Jackson said Williams had a victory in his grasp, but declined to take it.

In the clinch position that started the overtime, Laliyev unlocked his hands, "and Joe knew it,'' Jackson said. "Joe unlocked his hands and thought the guy was just going to quit wrestling. The guy ended up pushing him out of bounds for one.''

The seven-man U.S. freestyle team left Athens with three medals, Cael Sanderson's gold and silvers by Jamill Kelly and Stephen Abas. Four years ago in Sydney, the Americans got a gold -- by Brandon Slay via a drug disqualification -- plus a silver and two bronzes.

"But I think we did better than predicted,'' said Kelly, whose silver was the best finish of his career.

Overall, the United States won six wrestling medals -- one fewer than in Sydney -- despite the addition of women's wrestling. Sara McMann got a silver and Patricia Miranda a bronze, but the U.S. Greco-Roman team produced only Rulon Gardner's bronze. That team won three medals in Sydney, including Gardner's gold.

For five-time world champion Bouvaissa Saitiev of Russia, his gold in the 163-pound class was partial redemption for his upset loss to Slay in the 2000 Games -- his only defeat in a world championship since 1995. Saitiev skirmished twice with 2003 world runner-up Murad Gaidarov of Belarus, a 3-2 victory on the mat and the other off it, before taking the gold by beating Laliyev 7-0.

Gaidarov, unhappy with what he thought was a poor call that gave Saitiev the decisive point, tussled briefly with his opponent in an arena corridor before police broke it up.

Saitiev, 29, joins Bruce Baumgartner (1984, 1992) of the United States and Sergei Beloglasov (1980, 1988) of the former Soviet Union as the only wrestlers to regain a gold medal after losing it in the preceding Olympics.

"It was definitely my day,'' he said.

Yandro Quintana, last year's world runner-up from Cuba, won at 132 pounds (60 kg) by beating Masuod Jokar of Iran 4-0.