After a redemptive win over his Turkish rival in the semifinals, Cuba’s Mijain Lopez said that he didn’t think anyone else could touch him.
Lopez wasn’t really bragging. Nobody was getting in the way of Lopez’s second straight Olympic gold medal.
He took down Heiki Nabi of Estonia 2-0, 1-0, to win gold in Greco-Roman at 120 kilograms Monday night.
Lopez is the third wrestler to win multiple golds at 120 kilograms, joining Russian legend Alexandre Karelin and Alexander Koltschinkski of the former Soviet Union.
Asked if he’d be back for the Rio Games in 2016, Lopez was noncommittal. But Monday’s performance solidified Lopez’s place as one of the great Greco-Roman heavyweights of all time.
”I mean I am 30 already. I have three Olympics behind me. It is going to be a little bit more difficult, but life goes on,” Lopez said.
Also Monday, Omid Noroozi of Iran won the gold medal in 60-kilogram Greco-Roman, while Alan Khugaev of Russia took the gold in men’s 84-kilogram Greco-Roman.
But the most highly anticipated match of the day was between Lopez and Riza Kayaalp of Turkey in the semifinals.
Many in the wrestling world were stunned when Kayaalp beat the formidable Lopez at the 2011 world championships in Istanbul. Lopez had won world titles in 2005 and 2007, took Olympic gold in 2008, and then won the next two world championships.
Lopez restored order to the heavyweight division he’s owned for years. He scored a pair of late points while on offense to win the first period and set the tone. The second period also went to the ”par terre” tiebreaker position, this time with Lopez on the bottom,d keeping Kayaalp from scoring on him.
Kayaalp flailed wildly as he tried to pick Lopez off the mat, but nothing worked.
The match with Nabi went almost exactly the same way.
Lopez scored two points with what’s known as a gut wrench — grabbing an opponent’s stomach and wrenching them over — and Nabi couldn’t get Cuba’s star heavyweight off the ground in the next period.
”It was a really good fight,” Lopez said.
Noroozi, the defending world champion, beat Georgia’s Revaz Lashkhi 1-0, 1-0, to give Iran its second Greco-Roman medal in as many days. Hamid Soryan won the country’s first Greco-Roman gold on Sunday.
Noroozi beat Kazakhstan’s Almat Kebispayev in a rematch of the 2011 world championship final, then took out Lashkhi for his first gold.
”It’s very good for Iran, especially how the national anthem went out in a prominent way. … Everyone in Iran will be very happy,” Noroozi said.
Khugaev beat former Olympic champion Karam Mohamed Gaber Ebrahim of Egypt 1-0, 2-0, to become Russia’s second Greco-Roman winner in London.
The 23-year-old Khugaev beat Georgia’s Vladimer Gegeshidze in the semifinals, then took out Ebrahim to join 21-year-old teammate Roman Vlasov as gold medal winners.
”We have a very good future for Russia. We have brilliant coaches that can train very good athletes,” Khugaev said.
Ebrahim won gold in Athens in 2004 at 96 kilograms. Eight years later and 12 kilograms lighter, he came up just one win shy of completing a remarkable comeback.
For the second straight day, the Americans struggled in London.
Ellis Coleman and his ”Flying Squirrel” move were no match for Bulgaria’s Ivo Angelov, who beat the 20-year-old Chicago native 1-0, 7-1. Chas Betts won his first match at 84 kilograms against Micronesia’s Keitani Graham before Cuban Pablo Shorey Hernandez beat him 1-0, 1-0.
Dremiel Byers got Kayaalp in the quarterfinals, and Kayaalp beat him 1-0, 1-0, to set up his rematch with Lopez. Kayaalp went on to claim bronze.
The U.S. is just 4-6 in Greco-Roman, but the Americans weren’t expected to be a major factor as it is.
The Americans are considered much stronger in men’s and women’s freestyle, which starts Wednesday.