It was a fast start for Team USA on the second day of men's freestyle wrestling, but a pair of semifinal losses means that the American duo will be wrestling for bronze instead of gold later today.
J'den Cox, the world No. 9, entered the day as wild card in the 86kg weight class. Although he lacks the freestyle experience of other wrestlers in the field, the two-time NCAA champion has had several impressive wins since he started competing internationally after his surprise win at Olympic Trials in April.
Cox was impressive in his first two Olympic matches, with a 7-1 win over Belarus' Amarhajy Mahamedau followed by a 5-1 defeat of Iran's Alireza Karimi, a 2015 World bronze medalist, in a rematch from this summer's Freestyle World Cup (which was also won by Cox).
In the semifinals, Cox fell to Turkey's Selim Yasar, the world No. 4. It was a close match that ended in a 1-1 score, but Cox lost the bout on criteria. An unsuccessful challenge made the official score 2-1.
Cox now drops into one of the bronze medal matches, while Yasar will face Russian powerhouse Abdulrashid Sadulaev in the final. Sadulaev, the overwhelming favorite in the 86kg field and considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the world, won his three opening matches by a combined score of 23-1. Those wins included an 8-1 takedown of Sharif Sharifov, the reigning Olympic gold medalist from Azerbaijan, in the semis.
In the 125kg division, 2012 Olympian Tervel Dlagnev made a run to the semifinal. His first match in the Round of 16 was particularly impressive, as he had to mount a comeback to win. Down 5-4 with the seconds winding down, Dlagnev scored two points to take the match.
After another victory for Dlagnev in the quarterfinals, things came unraveled in the semis. He appeared to hurt his back during his match with Komeil Ghasemi, a 2012 bronze medalist from Iran. The bout ended in under 30 seconds when Ghasemi repeatedly turned Dlagnev for a quick 10-0 technical fall.
Like Cox, Dlagnev will also be in a bronze medal match in this afternoon's later session. The 125kg gold medal bout will be between Ghasemi and Turkey's Taha Akgul, the division's two-time reigning world champion.
The final session will start at 3 p.m. ET and will feature repechage bouts, bronze medal matches and gold medal matches in both weight classes. NBCOlympics.com will have the live stream.
Sadulaev (RUS) wins 5-0 vs. Ceballos (VEN)
Sharifov (AZE) wins 7-0 vs. Baranowski (POL)
Yasar (TUR) wins 5-2 vs. Salas (CUB)
Cox (USA) wins 5-1 vs. Karimi (IRI)
Akgul (TUR) wins by tech fall 11-0 vs. Saidau (BLR)
Berianidze (ARM) wins 3-1 vs. Ligeti (HUN)
Dlagnev (USA) wins 3-2 vs. Baran (POL)
Ghasemi (IRI) wins on criteria 4-4 vs. Petriashvili (GEO)
Sadulaev (RUS) wins 8-1 vs. Sharifov (AZE)
Yasar (TUR) wins 2-1 vs. Cox (USA)
Akgul (TUR) wins 8-1 vs. Berianidze (ARM)
Ghasemi (IRI) wins by tech fall 10-0 vs. Dlagnev (USA)
Gold medal matches
86kg: Sadulaev (RUS) vs. Yasar (TUR)
125kg: Akgul (TUR) vs. Ghasemi (IRI)