It was a good day gone bad for the United States in Greco-Roman wrestling. At least the Americans were in good company.
Dennis Hall of Stevens Point, Wis., and the only American to win a world Greco-Roman title, is one victory away from the gold-medal match after a stomping, crowd-waving crowd rallied him to two tense overtime victories.
But on a day in which five former Olympic or world champions were eliminated from gold-medal contention, four of the five Americans were bounced, including 1992 bronze medalist Rodney Smith.
Four U.S. wrestlers won their preliminary matches, and it looked as though the United States might be headed for its best day in what traditionally is one of its weakest Olympic sports. The United States has won only seven Greco-Roman medals since the modern Olympics began in 1896.
But then the losses started, and Majaahid Maynard (105 1/2 pounds), Smith (149 1/2), Dan Henderson (180 1/2) of Huntington Beach and Jason Gleasman (220) were eliminated.
Hall, whose wife, Chrissy, expects to deliver their first child any day, beat Seref Eroglu of Turkey, 3-0, in overtime, then came back to beat Chi-Ho Park of South Korea, 3-2.
"When I was out there, I felt like I had the whole country behind me," said Hall, the U.S. captain who started a teamwide trend by shaving his head. "That's what keeps you going out there. That's what pumps you up."
Hall, considered the United States' best hope for its first Greco-Roman gold medal, trailed Park, 2-1, after the regulation five-minute period. Under international rules, a wrestler must score at least three points to win in regulation.
Hall, who controlled the match throughout but constantly found himself being sent to the bottom position, won by rolling Park over with 47 seconds remaining in overtime. He received one point for the reversal and another for exposing Park's back to the mat.