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|Rough morning sees all three Americans eliminated on Day 5 of the World Championships on Friday, Sept. 29|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
GUANGZHOU, China - The United States men's freestyle team title hopes that looked so promising on Thursday night vanished in a span of a couple hours late Friday morning.
The lead the Americans enjoyed the first and second days of the freestyle competition is gone now after Daniel Cormier (96 kg/211.5 pounds) and Tolly Thompson (120 kg/264.5 pounds) were both eliminated during the first session Friday at the Tianhe Sports Center.
Both losses were to wrestlers from Iran.
Thompson (Cedar Falls, Iowa, Sunkist Kids) fell to Iran's Fardin Masoumi Valadi 2-0, 1-0 in the 120 kg quarterfinals. Thompson was eliminated when Valadi fell to World Champion Kuramagomed Kuramagomedov of Russia in the semifinals.
The U.S. dropped a pivotal first-round match at 96 kg/211.5 pounds when two-time World Champion Alireza Heydari of Iran beat Cormier 2-0, 0-1, 7-0. Cormier was eliminated when Heydari fell in the second round.
Russia, by virtue of advancing both its freestyle wrestlers to the finals on Friday, moved into the team lead with 50 points after placing two wrestlers in the finals. The U.S. finishes with 35 points. Russia moved ahead of the U.S. in the overall medal race. The Russian have nine medals and the Americans seven.
The rough morning also saw a tough start to the women's freestyle competition when World Team newcomer Mary Kelly (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) was eliminated at 48 kg/105.5 pounds
Kelly pinned Vietnam's Thi Trang Lee in just 37 seconds of her first match. Kelly was on the verge of winning her second match against Francine De Paola of Italy before De Paola rallied for a 0-2, 1-1, 2-1 win. Kelly placed ninth overall at 48 kg.
Thompson (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Sunkist Kids) won a challenging early test when he beat two-time World Champion Eldar Kurtanidze of Georgia 3-3, 1-0, 2-0 in the second round. The massive, 6-foot-4 Thompson dwarfed the 5-foot-7 Kurtanidze, who moved up to 120 kg this year from 96.
Thompson was a World bronze medalist at 264.5 pounds last year and Kurtanidze won a silver at 211.5.
Thompson fell behind early against Valadi, who used a pair of single-leg shots and finishes to win the first period 2-0. Valadi scored on a double-leg takedown midway through the second period and then relied on his defense to prevent Thompson from staging a comeback.
Cormier (Stillwater, Okla./Gator WC) lost the first period against Heydari, but showed grit and character as he battled back to win the second. The second period was tied after two minutes, so it went to a coin flip. Cormier lost the flip, but fought off a takedown attempt and worked his way behind Heydari for a takedown.
The third period was scoreless just over the halfway mark when Heydari caught Cormier with a body lock and planted him on the mat. Heydari then turned Cormier to his back twice to win the period by a 7-0 technical fall.
"He shot a single leg," Cormier said. "Instead of possibly using our baseline defense or giving up the point, I pulled him to my body and went to my back with a minute left. I have to be smarter. I felt good. I made a bad, costly mistake. I fell to my back. He was in on a deep waist and arm. He flipped me a few times for the technical fall.
"It kills me. It is so disappointing. I am so disappointed in myself right now. Like Coach Jackson says, I have to look ahead. I can cry and be disappointed later. If he pulls me through, I have to get my mind right and be ready to wrestle."
Kelly won the first period against De Paola and was up 1-0 late in the second before De Paola scored on a double-leg takedown in the closing seconds of the period.
Kelly was on the verge of winning the match again late in the third period before DePaola finished a single-leg shot for the winning takedown at 1:47.
"I think the thing I am most upset about is getting taken down with 20 seconds left," Kelly said. "I should have stayed more with what I doing in the first period. I think I could have wrestled better the second match. I was not prepared enough, I guess. I don't know."
"I am disappointed. I really wanted to bring home a medal. I think if I did something else differently, I could have won."
Day 6 of the seven-day tournament is set for Saturday in Guangzhou with the women's freestyle competition continuing. The U.S. entries include Patricia Miranda (New Haven, Conn./Sunkist Kids) at 51 kg/112.25 pounds, Tina George (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) at 55 kg/121 pounds and Erin Tomeo (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids). George and Miranda are each two-time World silver medalists.