Rough night for U.S. freestyle team as Cuba rolls to team title at Pan American Games
Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
07/28/2007

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Cuba's freestyle wrestling team is as strong as ever. That was painfully obvious to the United States squad during the Pan American Games.

A veteran and talented Cuba team won a whopping five gold medals in seven weight classes over the two-day competition to roll to the team title over the second-place team from the U.S. Cuba won all three weight classes that were contested Saturday night at the Riocentro Sports Complex.

Americans Mike Zadick and Joe Heskett both won silver medals after falling to wrestlers from Cuba. U.S. wrestler Daniel Cormier, who lost to a Cuban in the quarterfinals, came back to win a bronze medal.

The U.S. finished 2-5 in head-to-head matchups with Cuba. American Henry Cejudo was the lone champion from the U.S.

"We definitely have a lot of work to do - good thing we have two months to get it in and train these guys full-time," USA Wrestling National Freestyle Coach Kevin Jackson said. "I think the guys wrestled hard and tried hard, but there obviously are some areas we definitely need to get stronger in.

"We're far from being where we want to be and we didn't peak for this event, but our expectations were to win and dominate. Cuba came in and had the results we were looking for. We'll go back to Colorado Springs and go to work and hopefully we can get a better performance at the World Championships. With two months to prepare, we'll definitely have these guys ready for the Worlds."

The five-day wrestling competition, that featured athletes from countries in North, South and Central America, concluded on Saturday.

Zadick (Solon, Iowa/Gator WC), a returning World silver medalist, was unable to generate any offense in his finals match against Cuba's Yandro Quintana in a 3-0, 1-0 setback at 60 kg/132 lbs. Quintana, a 2004 Olympic champion and two-time World silver medalist, fired in on a leg attack and gained two points exposure while finishing the first-period move. He added a second-period takedown on another leg attack. He also was superb defensively as he kept Zadick from getting to his legs.

"I thought Mike wrestled hard - he probably wrestled the best guy in the World in Quintana," Jackson said. "Mike has to figure out a way to score on the guy, but I thought he competed hard."

Heskett (Columbus, Ohio/Gator WC), who made his first World Team this year, ran into a strong, powerful finals foe in Cuba's Ivan Fundora at 74 kg/163 lbs. Fundora, a 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, rolled to a 5-0, 3-1 win. Fundora twice caught Heskett to expose his back to the mat for three points. Heskett secured a late takedown, but could not turn Fundora near the edge of the mat as time ran out.

Cormier (Stillwater, Okla./Gator WC), a four-time World Team member and 2004 Olympian, downed Colombia's Arnulfo Hernandez 3-0, 7-0 in the bronze-medal match at 96 kg/211.5 lbs.

Cormier, a 2003 Pan Am Games champion, was locked in a close quarterfinal match in the third period before being caught and pinned by 2006 World bronze medalist Michel Batista of Cuba.

The U.S. finished with 17 overall medals in men's and women's freestyle, and Greco-Roman. The U.S. won medals in every weight class they entered in Rio.

SATURDAY'S PAN AMERICAN GAMES MEDALISTS

60 kg/132 lbs.
Gold - Yandro Quintana (Cuba)
Silver - Mike Zadick (USA)
Bronze - Tomas Solorzano (Venezuela)
Bronze - Aldo Parimango (Peru)

74 kg/163 lbs.
Gold - Ivan Fundora (Cuba)
Silver - Joe Heskett (USA)
Bronze - Wilson Medina (Colombia)
Bronze - Matt Gentry (Canada)

96 kg/211.5 lbs.
Gold - Michel Batista (Cuba)
Silver - Luis Vivenes (Venezuela)
Bronze - Daniel Cormier (USA)
Bronze - Mike Neufeld (Canada)

U.S. MATCH-BY-MATCH RESULTS

60 kg/132 lbs. - Mike Zadick, Solon, Iowa (Gator WC) - 2nd
WIN Antonio Gonzalez (Panama) 6-0, 7-0
WIN Ivan Duque (Colombia) 4-0, 1-0
WIN Aldo Parimango (Peru) 1-0, 3-0
LOSS Yandro Quintana (Cuba) 3-0, 1-0

74 kg/163 lbs. - Joe Heskett, Columbus, Ohio (Gator WC) - 2nd
WIN Maximo Blanco (Venezuela) 1-0, 2-0
WIN Matt Gentry (Canada) 1-3, 3-0, 2-0
LOSS Ivan Fundora (Cuba) 5-0, 3-1

96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Daniel Cormier, Stillwater, Okla. (Gator WC) - 3rd
LOSS Michel Batista (Cuba) fall 5:23
WIN Arnulfo Hernandez (Colombia) 3-0, 7-0