Fri, September 20, 2013

No luck of the draw for Canadian wrestler

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

There are bad draws and there are roundhouse rights to the teeth.

Matt Gentry received the latter on Friday at the London Olympics.

Really, Canada's 2012 Male Wrestler of the Year couldn't have received a worse draw if he had knocked on the door of the IOC and begged them to screw him around.

En-route to a fifth-place showing in the 74kg freestyle division -- the best showing by a Canadian male wrestler at an Olympic Games since Daniel Igali's gold in the 2000 -- Gentry drew two world champions, including his opponent in the bronze medal match Friday night, 2009 and 2010 world champion Denis Tsargush, who beat the Canadian by 2-0 in total points, on two single-leg takedowns.

In the quarter-finals, Gentry drew American Jordan Burroughs, the 2011 world champion, who went on to defeat Sadegh Goudarzi of Iran for the gold here in London.

Basically, any opponent Gentry wrestled on Friday who wasn't a world champion, he beat, including N.P. Yadav of India and Francisco Soler of Puerto Rico. He lost by one point to Burroughs.

Given that, Gentry's disappointment over losing the bronze to Tsargush was somewhat tempered.

"I'm sure it will as time passes, but right now I wanted to see our flag being raised and getting that medal," said Gentry, when asked if recording the best finish by a Canadian male since 2000 helped ease the pain of the loss. "That sting and that disappointment is definitely the over-riding emotion right now."

Gentry, a dual Canadian/American citizen whose mom is from Vancouver Island, said he wasn't bitter having to face two world champs on his side of the draw, though, the way he wrestled on Friday, he likely would have won at least a bronze with a favourable one.

"I've got a couple of world champs on my side of the bracket. You want that though," he said. "It's the Olympics. You don't want to be handed a medal. You want to earn it and to be able to look back and be proud of it. That's the glory of it I guess."

One spectator who was proud of Gentry was Igali, who is here in London with the Nigerian wrestling team, though he has also worked with Gentry and other Canadian wrestlers at the Burnaby Mt. Wrestling Club.

"Just finished biting my nails from watching Gentry's match," Igali told QMI Agency via e-mail. "Would have been good to get a bronze, but for me, his effort is worth a bronze."

Igali added that he is confident that a male Canadian wrestler (Canadian females Carol Huynh and Tonya Verbeek won medals here) will win another Olympic medal "sooner than later."

There are three Canadians left in the tournament -- Haislan Garcia (55kg), Khetag Pliev (96kg) and Arjan Bhullar (120kg).

"Funding has been limited for the male program for a while now, so a medal would help," Igali said. "But I am optimistic. I just hope Matt and Garcia stay in it for a few more years to get the program to the point where we can consistently win medals again."

The 30-year-old Gentry said he likely won't be around for the 2016 Games, given his age.

"But thirty is the new 20," he said." I never had surgery and never really had a major injury and I would say my body is very healthy."

Quebec taekwondo fighter Karine Sergerie (67kg), the defending Olympic silver medallist, was eliminated in the second round when she lost to Franka Anic of Slovenia 10-5. Sergerie, 26, said a number of injuries she had to deal (hips and knees) with in the months leading up to the London Olympics affected her performance.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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