Biggest Olympic Upsets
Is it any surprise that these Rio Olympics were jam-packed with stunning upsets? Let’s go back through each day to look at a few of the mind-blowing ones.
59kg semifinals: Shinobu Ota (JPN) pins Rovshan Bayramov (AZE)
The first day of these Olympics kicked off with a Japanese lightweight running roughshod over the bottom half of the bracket and taking out several world medalists. The most impressive of those wins came in the semifinals.
Near the two-minute mark, Ota attempted a high dive that was caught by Bayramov, who then threw Ota in double overs. But Ota immediately bounced back to his feet, and tried to go into a front head pinch using his left arm. Bayramov actually got Ota off the mat again, but then Japan planted his feet, whipped Bayramov over, and popped his hips to finish on his back. It took a a few seconds for Ota to adjust his lock, but once he did, the pin was called, and he had just shocked a world champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist to make the final.
130kg bronze-medal match: Sergey Semenov (RUS) 6-0 Heiki Nabi (EST)
Given the Russians had Bilyal Makhov wrestle Greco last year at Worlds, you could understand why their coaches might have reason to believe this would not be a medal-contending weight. Semenov proved the doubters wrong, though, and even hit a spectacular five-point throw late in the match to seal the win over the London silver medalist and 2013 world champ.
66kg repechage: Tomohiro Inoue (JPN) 2-2 over Frank Stabler (GER)
Both lost to eventual gold medalist Stefanek on the championship side, so these two met in a repechage match. Stakes were high as the right to wrestle for a bronze medal was on the line.
Prior to this year, Inoue had never wrestled at the world championships for Japan, and that includes his years as a cadet and junior. But he earned his spot on this team by winning the Asian qualifier in Astana.
With less than 30 seconds remaining in the match, it appeared Stabler had done just enough to wrestle for a medal for the third consecutive year. But Inoue kept active by pushing Stabler into the zone. Inoue finished on the edge, which gave him the two-pointer necessary to move on as Stabler scored a couple one-pointers.
58kg quarterfinals: Aisuluu Tynybekova (KGZ) 14-7 over Petra Olli (FIN)
Since 2011, Petra Olli won a medal every year at every age-level world championships she attended, including a world silver last year. But Tynybekova had never earned a medal at the world level.
Continuously attacking the right leg of the European champion, Tynybekova scored two takedowns in the first. She scored a nasty exposure from neutral to start the second, and then answered Olli's first points of the match by pancaking the 22-year-old Finn off an attempted duck under. Two more exposures from scrambles, and the match ended in one of the most puzzling defeats for a woman in Rio.
53kg gold-medal match: Helen Maroulis (USA) over Saori Yoshida (JPN)
Here's everything that needed to be said about this legendary, instant-classic match.
Day 674kg repechage: Bekzod Abdurakhmonov (UZB) 11-1 over Jordan Burroughs (USA)
Down went the champ. Burroughs had lost matches on the senior level before, but only on criteria or with a torn knee.
Both of his losses were upsets, but this one was far more surprising than his defeat to Geduev. Burroughs had beaten Abdurakhmonov a month earlier 9-3 at the Grand Prix of Germany. The Uzbeki is a small 74kg who often wrestles at the non-Olympic weight of 70kg. This would have been an upset just based on NCAA credentials as the one-time All American beat a two-time, Hodge-winning champ.
Abdurakhmonov scored a takedown in the first minute, and didn't slow down the rest of the match. He got another takedown off a re-attack in the second minute, and transitioned from a low double to a low single which he then lifted up and brought to the edge for yet another takedown right before the break. Burroughs kept Abdurakhmonov from scoring in the first two minutes of the second period, and even got a step-out point of his own. Two takedowns in the final minute cemented a surprising victory and the flabbergasting fact that Burroughs would not medal in the Olympics.
86kg bronze-medal match: J'Den Cox (USA) VA over Reineris Salas Perez (CUB)
In United World Wrestling parlance, VA = victory by withdrawal. The Cuban coaches were very unhappy with the scoring in the match's final exchange, and walked off the mat.
Coming into this year, Perez was a three-time world medalist with two consecutive silvers under his belt. He was ranked third in the world prior to Rio, and had dominated Americans at 86kg and the old 84kg for years. Cox had never even made an age-level world team, let alone something on the senior level.
But the American came out on top of a wild, minute-long shot clock scramble to take what would ultimately become a 3-0 lead prior to the withdrawal. Cox was put on the clock at 4:54, and shot in before time expired. He continued to hold his lock, and eventually drove Salas to his hip, where it was eventually blown dead. It was initially ruled that the clock ran out, and the Cuban led 1-1 on criteria, until Team USA won the ensuing challenge.
97kg round of 16: Valerii Andriitsev (UKR) 8-5 Anzor Boltukaev (RUS)
The No. 6 pound-for-pound guy and unquestionable favorite at 97kg entering Rio went down like a sack of potatoes in his only match. Their bout at Euros went 8-5 in Boltukaev's favor, and it appeared another win was in store for the god of thunder when he was up 5-0 at three and a half minutes in.
Andriitsev didn't get that memo. He countered a Boltwheel to get his first takedown, and the Russian completely gassed out from there. The Ukrainian scored another takedown off a go-behind, but still trailed entering the final minute, right after the official called for the mat to be mopped. This momentary breather didn't help, though, as Andriitsev hipped into an attempted stepover by Boltukaev off an overhook. One final time, Bolt attempted a stepover from an underhook that was easily countered for the final takedown of the match.
BONUS: 97kg repechage - Magomed Ibragimov (UZB) pins Reza Yazdani (IRI)
It was definitely a bigger upset credential-wise than Boltukaev's, but the hype around the Russian and the way he melted down which made it the memorable loss of the day. But Ibragimov's outside trip probably ended the career of a two-time world champion who never seemed to be able to get his health back to 100 percent.