Justin Lester … and the U.S. Greco team … fails to place

A second chance ended up not meaning much for Justin Lester and the United States Greco-Roman team on Tuesday.

That’s because Germany’s Frank Staebler easily defeated the American 145.5-pounder in a repechage (consolation) match to eliminate Lester and ended the United States’ 28-year streak of an Olympic medal in Greco-Roman wrestling that began in 1984.

Justin Lester (right) actually won the first period of his quarterfinal against Hungarian Tamas Lorencz, but lost the next two periods … and later a repchage bout to end his Olympic medal dream. (John Sachs image)

The last time an American Greco-Roman wrestling team failed to medal was 1976 because of the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

In Lester’s final match, Staebler controlled Lester from start to finish. The German got two takedowns towards the end of first minute of the first period for a 2-0 lead. Staebler then took Lester to his back five seconds left in the period and nearly pinned him, taking the period 5-0 after the takedown and exposure.

The second period was more of the same. Staebler took Lester down nine seconds into the period, then gutted him six seconds later. He added two pushouts against Lester to win the second period with the identical 5-0 score.

“I just couldn’t put it together today, I don’t know what it was,” said Lester with tears in his eyes. “I just couldn’t get the ball rolling. It obviously showed. I’m a little sick, but it played no part in it.”

Lester got a chance to come back and wrestle in repechage when Tamas Lorincz of Hungary advanced to the gold medal match with a victory over last year’s bronze medalist Manuchar Tskhadaia of Georgia.

Lorincz — who had not wrestled Lester in a World/Olympic-level match since the 2007 Worlds — earlier rallied to beat Lester in the quarterfinals of this tournament, 0-2, 1-0, 2-0. The Hungarian scored the deciding points in a scoreless third period just as the wrestlers would have moved to the par terre phase with 30 seconds left.

Lester’s corner protested of the scramble, but one point was awarded for the takedown and another for the overruled U.S. protest. Lester, who won the first period on a pair of pushouts, pursued Lorincz the rest of the period but was unable to score and suffered the tough loss.

“(Lester) kind of slipped as they were fighting and fell on his stomach or side and the Hungarian capitalized on it,” said U.S. coach Steve Fraser.

Lester also looked a little sluggish in his first-round 3-0, 3-1 victory over Japan’s Tsutomu Fujimura — scoring a three-point throw moments after it looked like he would not score with a par terre advantage. Lester used a similar throw on the same side of the mat gave Lester a 3-0 lead in the second period as well, this time at the :35 mark.

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