One U.S. wrestler lost a shot at gold in the last 10 seconds of her bout.
Another claimed gold in the last second of his.
Gable Steveson, named after wrestling legend Dan Gable, took an early lead in his bout for the gold medal in the 125kg freestyle, gave up the lead after being rolled around on the mat in the second period, then got a takedown just before the final buzzer to claim gold Friday evening at the Tokyo Olympics.
Earlier, Sarah Hildebrandt‘s dominant run toward a gold medal bout was halted in the last minute of her semifinal bout.
But the USA’s two Kyles, Dake and Snyder, clinched medals with stellar performances throughout the day. Dake won his bronze medal bout, while Snyder advanced to wrestle for gold on Saturday.
Still to come: Jacarra Winchester‘s bronze medal bout in the women’s 53kg class.
Dake rebounds for bronze
Kyle Dake vs. Frank Chamizo would’ve been seen as a likely gold medal bout in the 74kg class on Friday, but Dake lost an 11-0 shocker to Mahamedkhabib Kadzimahaedau, a wrestler from Belarus whose hero is UFC star Khabib Nurmagomedov. Kadzimahaedau then beat top-seeded Chamizo, setting up a path for Dake through Cuba’s Jeandry Garzon, whom he beat 10-0 in the first period, and Chamizo, whom he defeated in the main event of a special superfight card last year and with whom he has had some friendly banter.
Dake, a two-time world champion at 79kg who had to cut weight and beat 2012 gold medalist and four-time world champion Jordan Burroughs to qualify for Tokyo, made the most of his second chance in his first Olympics. He repeatedly caught Chamizo’s leg and wheelbarrowed him out of the rings, taking him to the mat outside the rings not to get points but to send a message. Chamizo had one chance to score when he got Dake’s leg, but Dake managed to get control and score himself.
The match ended soon after Dake again drove the desperate Chamizo from the rings and took a 5-0 lead, prompting Chamizo to shut things down and shake hands in the last seconds.
Snyder cruises to final
Kyle Snyder made it look easy Friday, outscoring his opponents 12-2, 6-0 and 5-0 on his way to the final. The defending gold medalist and two-time world champion at 97kg was hardly challenged throughout the day. He didn’t get a takedown in against Turkey’s Suleyman Karadeniz in the semifinal but calmly collected single points while allowing nothing in return.
Saturday’s final will be a much greater challenge. Russian wrestler Abdulrashid Sadulaev won the 2016 gold medal at 86kg and moved up to win the 2018 and 2019 world championships ahead of Snyder at 97kg. Sadulaev didn’t concede a point in his Friday matches.
The Snyder-Sadulaev rematch will be one of the most anticipated events on the penultimate day of the Games.
Heartbreaker for Hildebrandt
Sarah Hildebrandt nearly had the match won with a pin. She nearly had the match won on superiority, coming close to jumping out to a 10-0 lead that would automatically stop the bout. Even after China’s Sun Yanan chipped away at the American’s lead, Hildebrandt nearly had the match won, leading 7-3 in the last minute, still leading 7-5 with 30 seconds left and maintaining a 7-6 lead with seconds left.
But Sun somehow broke through Hildebrandt’s defense and got a four-point throw, taking a 10-7 decision and leaving Hildebrandt stunned on the mat.
The 2018 world runner-up at 53kg had made quick work of her first two opponents, winning 11-0 and 12-2, and nearly did the same in the first minute of the semifinal, putting Sun’s shoulders perilously close to the mat before flipping her for repeated points.
Hildebrandt will wrestle for bronze on Saturday.