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Cormier falls short in bronze match

8/29/2004

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 211½-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.