In an impressive Olympic debut, 21-year-old J'den Cox will leave Rio with a bronze medal.
Cox won his first two matches by a combined score of 12-2 to reach the semifinals before dropping a close bout to Turkey's Selim Yasar.
The loss put Cox into a bronze medal match against Cuba's Reineris Salas. With Cox leading 1-0, he was put on the shot clock for passivity late in the bout. A scramble ensued on the mat, with the referees initially awarding no scores to Cox. Because he failed to convert in the allotted time, one point went to Salas to tie the match 1-1 and put Salas ahead on criteria.
The American side challenged the non-scoring decision, and upon review, it was determined that Cox should have been given credit a two-point score. That decision put Cox back in the lead with six seconds left, but a perturbed Salas refused to come back to the center of the mat and resume the fight. As a result, he was disqualified from the bout, and Cox was awarded the victory.
It's the first medal for the U.S. team in men's freestyle wrestling in Rio and the second medal across all wrestling disciplines. On Thursday, Helen Maroulis won gold in the women's 53kg freestyle division.
Earlier in the day, Cox recorded victories over Amarhajy Mahamedau of Belarus and 2015 World bronze medalist Alireza Karimi of Iran. Both opponents finished the matches with just one point on the board against Cox.
It's been a rapid ascent from NCAA champion to Olympic medalist for Cox. In March, the University of Missouri junior won his second NCAA title, which automatically qualified him to compete at Olympic Trials. At Trials one month later, Cox ended up being one of the weekend's biggest revelations when he won the 86kg tournament. He had relatively little experience with freestyle wrestling, which is different from the style of wrestling used at the college level, but won gold in his first international tournament and had several notable victories in the runup to the Rio Games. By the time the Olympics were set to get underway, he had already claimed to No. 9 in the world rankings.
In the gold medal match, Russia's Abdulrashid Sadulaev defeated Yasar 5-0 to win his first Olympic title. Sadulaev, the division's two-time reigning world champion, was an overwhelming favorite entering the day and is in the discussion for best pound-for-pound wrestler in the world thanks to his dominant performances in recent years.
In his four matches, Sadulaev outscored his opponents by a combined score of 28-1. Only Sharif Sharifov, the reigning Olympic gold medalist from Azerbaijan, was able to put a point on the board against the Russian.
Sadulaev's gold puts Russia on top of the medal count for wrestling. The nation has now earned eight total medals in the sport, one ahead of Japan and Azerbaijan. Three of Russia's eight medals have been gold, which tops every country except Japan.
In the 125kg division, the heaviest weight class in freestyle wrestling, it was Turkey's two-time reigning world champion, Taha Akgul, claiming the gold medal. He outscored his first three opponents by a margin of 29-1 — two of those matches ended with a technical fall — before a much closer final against Iran's Komeil Ghasemi that ended in a 3-1 decision.
U.S. wrestler Tervel Dlagnev, who was competing at his second Olympics, reached the bronze medal round but quickly lost by technical fall to Georgia's Geno Petriashvili, the world No. 1.
The day started off in impressive fashion for Dlagnev when he overcame a 5-0 deficit to win his opening match with a late score. Another victory landed the Texas native in the semifinals for the second straight Olympics, but there he was quickly dispatched in under 30 seconds by Ghasemi and appeared to tweak his troublesome back during the match.
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)
Sadulaev (RUS) wins 8-1 vs. Sharifov (AZE)
Yasar (TUR) wins 2-1 vs. Cox (USA)
86kg repechage matches
Ceballos (VEN) wins 7-6 vs. Vereb (HUN)
Salas (CUB) wins 6-4 vs. Espinal (PUR)
86kg bronze medal matches
Sharifov (AZE) wins 5-1 vs. Ceballos (VEN)
Cox (USA) wins by DQ vs. Salas (CUB)
86kg gold medal match
Sadulaev (RUS) wins 5-0 vs. Yasar (TUR)
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)
Akgul (TUR) wins 8-1 vs. Berianidze (ARM)
Ghasemi (IRI) wins by tech fall 10-0 vs. Dlagnev (USA)
125kg repechage matches
Rd. 1: Jarvis (CAN) wins 7-0 vs. Abdelmottaleb (EGY)
Rd. 2: Saidau (BLR) wins 4-1 vs. Jargalsaikhan (MGL)
Rd. 2: Petriashvili (GEO) wins 9-2 vs. Jarvis (CAN)
125kg bronze medal matches
Saidau (BLR) wins on criteria 2-2 vs. Berianidze (ARM)
Petriashvili (GEO) wins by tech fall 10-0 vs. Dlagnev (USA)
125kg gold medal matches
Akgul (TUR) wins 3-1 vs. Ghasemi (IRI)