Cuban wrestler Mijain Lopez won his third consecutive Olympic title in Greco-Roman's heaviest weight class after defeating longtime rival Riza Kayaalp of Turkey in the 130kg Gold Medal Match.
It marked the third straight year that Lopez and Kayaalp met in the final round with a major global title on the line. They also faced each other in Gold Medal Matches at the world championships the past two years — Lopez won in 2014, Kayaalp won in 2015. Their rivalry also includes a bout in the semifinals of the London Olympics, which was won by Lopez.
Lopez got the scoring started early this time around, hitting a big four-point throw about 15 seconds into the match. The bout got chippy late, with Kayaalp connecting with Lopez's head after the whistle blew. Kayaalp's move briefly awarded two penalty points to Lopez, which would have given him an 8-0 victory by technical superiority, but the points were taken off the board. The match resumed with less than a minute to go, and Lopez ultimately emerged with a 6-0 win.
Lopez is just the third wrestler to win three Olympic gold medals in the Greco-Roman style. He joins legendary Soviet/Russian wrestler Aleksandr Karelin as the only two to win all three Greco golds consecutively.
Furthermore, Lopez's win moves him into a tie for most all-time Olympic wrestling gold medals across all disciplines, although the mark could be broken by Japanese wrestlers Kaori Icho and Saori Yoshida in just a few days. Including freestyle, only eight other wrestlers have won three Olympic titles.
Lopez, a four-time Olympian, was in the mood to celebrate his achievement. When it looked like he would be awarded the tech fall, he did a little dance on the mat before realizing that the match would need to resume. After the clock ticked down and gave him the win for real, he let out another dance, then bodyslammed his coach in jubilation.
Coming into the final round, both Lopez and Kayaalp had been dominant in their first three matches of the tournament — neither one had allowed an opponent to score a single point on them. Kayaalp looked particularly dominant though, with all three of his preliminary-round matches ending earlier than the allotted time. Two matches were won by technical fall, and the other one ending with Kayaalp pinning his opponent after about just one minute.
Despite the loss, Kayaalp leaves Rio with his second Olympic medal. His silver is an upgrade from the bronze he attained in London.
This year's bronze medals went to Azerbaijan's Sabah Shariati and Russia's Sergey Semenov. With competition now complete in four weight classes, Russia currently has three medals, including two gold.
After reaching the semifinals of last year's world championships, U.S. wrestler Robby Smith was considered a possible medal contender in this competition. However he was eliminated in the Round of 16, losing an 8-2 decision to Shariati.
130kg Greco-Roman quarterfinals
Kayaalp (TUR) wins by fall (1:03) vs. Shariati (AZE)
Popp (GER) wins 3-1 vs. Babajanzadeh (IRI)
Lopez (CUB) wins 4-0 vs. Euren (SWE)
Semenov (RUS) wins 5-0 vs. Kajaia (GEO)
130kg Greco-Roman semifinals
Kayaalp (TUR) wins by tech fall 8-0 vs. Popp (GER)
Lopez (CUB) wins 3-0 vs. Semenov (RUS)
130kg Greco-Roman repechage
Shariati (AZE) wins by tech fall 8-0 vs. Caraballo (VEN)
Nabi (EST) wins 3-0 vs. Euren (SWE)
130kg Greco-Roman Bronze Medal Matches
Shariati (AZE) wins by fall (1:47) vs. Popp (GER)
Semenov (RUS) wins 6-0 vs. Nabi (EST)
130kg Greco-Roman Gold Medal Match
Lopez (CUB) wins 6-0 vs. Kayaalp (TUR)