Jake Herbert won his first match in the 84kg weight class of Saturday's freestyle wrestling, but his second match ended weirdly and in a costly controversy.
The problem occurred in a critical match against the reigning world champion, Azerbaijani Sharif Sharifov. Herbert was down one period in a best-of-three format, and a flurry of activity in the second period was scored three points for Sharifov and two for Herbert. With more than a minute left in the second period, the U.S. coaches disagreed with the scoring, and challenged.
According to the mat-side judges, the scoring was wrong but not in Herbert's favor. They changed the score from 3-2 to 6-0 for Sharifov. When a wrestler is up more than five points, the period is ended. Since Sharifov was already up one period, winning the second period meant winning the match.
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The loss means Herbert was out of contention for a gold or silver medal.
"It all happened so fast," Herbert's coach Sean Bormet said. "We were trying to get clarification on the score at first. It seemed like the officials went back and forth on what the points would be.
"There is nothing you can do about it. It's hard because they didn't have the score on the board. It's disappointing. It looked like Jake had the momentum and took his opponent over for three points, but the refs don't always see it the way we do. We thought it should have been 3-2 in favor of us."
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U.S. wrestling coach Zeke Jones was given a yellow warning card for disputing the call after the challenge was decided. He stood on the mat with a look of disbelief as Sharifov's hand was raised.
It wasn't a bad decision by the coaches to make the challenge at the time, because it appeared Herbert should get more points. A challenge in another wrestler's bronze-medal match helped him to the medal. However, if they would have let the match go on, it's feasible Herbert could have come back to win the second and the third periods. Herbert went on to lose in the repechage round.
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