Molinaro Falls Short in Bronze-Medal Bout at Rio Olympics After Wrestling ‘Really Tough’
During the past six months, Frank Molinaro has improved as a freestyle wrestler by leaps and bounds. And on Aug. 21, he showed the world just how far he’d come.
With his goal of winning gold squashed after a quarterfinals loss to the London Olympics gold medalist, Molinaro rebounded to reach a bronze-medal bout against a returning world champion.
Unfortunately, time ran out on Molinaro and he finished fifth in the 65-kilogram weight class at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I thought I wrestled really tough,” Molinaro said during an interview with trackwrestling.com. “I gave it my all. I think I was about two or three seconds from a bronze medal against a returning world champ. I gave it all I had, and I can walk off the mat holding my head high knowing that I did everything I could.”
After giving up a passivity point to Italy’s Frank Chamizo with 2:31 gone by in the first period, Molinaro shot in for a single-leg takedown with 11 seconds to go in the period and took a 2-1 lead into the second period.
Chamizo was awarded another point after Molinaro failed to score during a 30-second “shot clock” stint, and with just over a minute to go Chamizo got in on Molinaro’s leg for a takedown and took a 4-2 advantage.
Molinaro feverishly tried to work in on Chamizo but was held off for most of the final minute. But with about seven seconds left, Molinaro shot through a block attempt and snatched Chamizo’s left ankle. As Molinaro worked to snag the other ankle, Chamizo hand walked to the edge of the circle.
As Molinaro tried to work his way to Chamizo’s calves, time ran out. Molinaro was awarded a point on Chamizo’s step-out and the U.S. coaches challenged the call, hoping the matside officials would give Molinaro a match-tying takedown and the bronze medal, but the challenge was declined and Chamizo won, 5-3.
“Before I even stepped out on the mat today, I was at peace,” Molinaro said later. “It’s really painful to not reach your goals. But it’s more painful to fail quietly, and I don’t think I did that today.”
In his Olympic debut, Molinaro knocked off the world’s No. 2-ranked wrestler, Magomedmurad Gadzhiev of Poland, with a criteria victory following a 2-2 tie. During the bout, Molinaro gave up a pair of passivity points but scored the only takedown with about a minute left in the first period.
In the quarterfinals, Molinaro squared off with Azerbaijan’s Toghul Asgarov, who won gold at the 2012 Games in London, and quickly found himself outmatched against an excellent counter wrestler.
“I’ve got to get better against counter wrestlers,” Molinaro said of the 10-0 loss to Asgarov. “Asgarov was very good. He won all the scrambles. He created some good tricks. He out-slicked me in some positions. And overall, that’s somewhere I’ve got to improve.”
After Asgarov reached the final, Molinaro pulled into the repechage rounds and in his first bout against Ukraine’s Andriy Kvyatkovskyy Molinaro scored a takedown 58 seconds into the contest and was up 3-0 after the first period.
But Kvyatkovskyy fought back in the second period and took a 5-4 lead following a four-point maneuver with 1:48 left in the bout. Molinaro scored a takedown with 1:20 to go to regain the lead, 6-5, and with 43 seconds left got in on another single-leg takedown en route to an 8-5 win and a shot at bronze.
Since two bronze medals are awarded in Olympic wrestling, Molinaro ended up fifth alongside Mongolia’s Mandakhnaran Ganzorig, whose coaches protested the result of his loss to Uzbekistan’s Ikhtiyor Navruzov by stripping off their clothes and throwing them to the mat in front of the matside officials – a spectacle that immediately went viral on social media channels.
Nonetheless, Molinaro’s road to Rio was nothing short of outstanding. And after coming home to meet his new son – wife Kera Molinaro gave birth to the couple’s second son, Frank Anthony, on Aug. 8 – and resting for a few months, the man many know as “Gorilla Hulk” will get to begin eyeing his future, which may include a run at the Tokyo Games in 2020.
“I’m 27 and I feel like I’ve just begun in this sport,” he said. “I just started wrestling freestyle the last couple of years – I’m very raw – but I’ve made huge gains. And it’s really encouraging to know that I was able to make improvements and continue to develop my game and develop my shots, and I don’t see that stopping.
“I’m very encouraged about where I can be in this sport. I’ve proven I can compete with the best guys. I’ve proven that to myself, and this is very enjoyable. I’m very blessed to be able to do this, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else right now besides competing.”