LONDON -- Jake Herbert had to root for the man who beat him.
The only chance for Northwestern's Herbert to wrestle for an Olympic medal in the 185-pound freestyle class Saturday was to have Azerbaijan's Sharif Sharifov make the final.
That is what happened, giving Herbert a shot at bronze from the loser's bracket.
But he lost to Turkey's Ibrahim Bolukbasi in a repechage.
Sharifov, the reigning world champion, beat Herbert 4-1, 6-0 Saturday at ExCeL Arena in a quarterfinal match that ended amid controversy, as Herbert's coaches protested the referee's decision that gave Sharifov six points in quick sequence.
"We did everything we could to get a clarification," said Sean Bormet, Herbert's coach.
Bormet said he thought Herbert should have been ahead 3-2 after the flurry, which took place 43 seconds into the round. As soon as one wrestler gets a six-point lead, the round is his.
"I don't know if I would say politics are involved," Bormet said. "It's the way they saw the calls. Sometimes it's a lot of circumstances, sometimes they are seeing from different angles, sometimes it just doesn't make sense."
And this time?
"It doesn't make sense," Bormet said. "To get to this point in this level of tournament and have a match decided on a lot of unanswered circumstances is difficult and disappointing."
A late rally had carried Herbert to a first-round victory. In that match, Herbert lost the first round and trailed Cuba’s Humberto Arencibia by a point with 11 seconds left in the third round when he scored the decisive takedown to advance.
With his friends and family waving yellow “terrible towels” in homage to their Pittsburgh area roots, Herbert lost the first round 4-1, then took the second 8-0, nearly pinning Arencibia twice. Although the third round ended in a tie, Herbert advanced by having scored last.
Herbert had beaten Arencibia for the gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games.
Herbert, 2009 world silver medalist, came into the match with a 2-0 record against Sharifov, although they did not meet in 2011. The Azerbaijani beat U.S. wrestling great Carl Sanderson in the second round of the 2011 worlds.
“Jake has had great preparation,” said Zeke Jones, USA Wrestling’s national freestyle coach. We had him wrestle a lot of foreigners last week. That will make a big difference. He needed to get that foreign feel in competition. That will pay off at the end.”
Wrestling has a blind draw, meaning the top two in a weight class can meet in the first round. Herbert is in the tougher half of the bracket.