Ghasem Gholamreza Rezaei won the Olympic gold medal Tuesday in 96-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestling, beating Russia's Rustam Totrov 2-0, 1-0.
Many thought it would be world champion Saeid Abdvali joining Hamid Soryan and Omid Noroozi as Olympic champions. But Abdvali got beat and Rezaei — who was a lowly 16th at the Beijing Games — navigated through an upset-riddled field to claim gold.
"I am very happy because I have made my people very proud," Rezaei said. "To see all the Iranians inside the stadium and back home, to bring smiles to their faces is the happiest moment of my life."
Kim Hyeon-woo also won gold Tuesday in 66-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestling, beating Hungary's Tamas Lorincz 1-0, 2-0 to give South Korea its first wrestling gold of the London Games.
"There is a saying in Korea that my coach uses all the time. 'If you work hard, the sky will know.' I worked hard and I think the sky recognized my efforts," Kim said.
Russia finished with five overall medals in the discipline. Iran had three medals — all gold.
The Americans failed to win a medal in Greco-Roman for the first time since the 1976 Montreal Olympics after Justin Lester was knocked out Tuesday.
It wasn't a surprising result. But it still stung for the U.S., and coach Steve Fraser said the poor showing will force the program to re-evaluate what it's doing.
"It's tough. We're very disappointed because we take a lot of pride in our Greco-Roman program in the United States," Fraser said. "We have to go back to the drawing board and really sit down and talk about some things program-wise and coaching-wise and athlete-wise and development-wise."
Although Kim won the Asian championships in 2010, few thought he'd win in London.
But Kim beat France's Steeve Guenot, the Olympic champion in 2008, to reach the gold medal match, where he was tossed by Lorincz in the first period. Kim stayed on his feet and was given a point for successful defence. His throw in the second highlighted his impressive run to gold.
Kim, whose right eye was so black, blue and swollen that his pupils were barely visible, closed both of them and put his hand over his heart as his national anthem was played.
"I couldn't see through one eye, which was annoying," Kim said. "But I got through it with my mentality."
The first two days of Greco-Roman competition held largely to form, with mostly favoured wrestlers reaching the finals.
All the upsets, it seemed, were saved for the final day.
Guenot jumbled the 66-kilogram bracket with perhaps the upset of the Olympic tournament so far.
Abdvali went into the last 30 seconds of the second period needing a point to survive. He appeared to get two of them, but Guenot's corner won a challenge and had those points taken off the board — much to Abdvali's dismay.
Guenot successfully defended his position and went on to a 3-0, 1-0 victory. Guenot couldn't sustain his form, though, losing in the semifinals to Kim.
The defending world champion at 96 kilograms, Bulgaria's Elis Guri, also was knocked out in the quarterfinals by a wrestler who didn't reach the finals in Tsimafei Dzeinichenka of Belarus.
Guenot and Manuchar Tskhadaia of Georgia won bronze medals at 66 kilograms. Jimmy Lidberg of Sweden and Artur Aleksanyan of Armenia took bronze at 96 kilograms.
The Americans were hoping Lester could at least earn one of the two bronzes at 66 kilograms. But after opening with a victory and a close loss to Lorincz, it all fell apart for him.
Lester earned a spot in the consolation bracket because Lorincz reached the finals, but he was beaten 5-0, 5-0 by Frank Staebler of Germany.Suggest a correction