Referees Had The Best Angle

Cedar Rapids Gazette – August 1, 1996
By Mike Hlas

ATLANTA — It was a scene right out of professional wrestling.

The bad guy thinks he has won the match and starts to raise his arm, but the referee pushes it down and instead raises the hand of the good guy.

That’s what happened at the Georgia World Congress Center Wednesday, only it was an Olympics freestyle wrestling championship match. The “hero” to the pro-American sellout crowd of 7,000 was 220-pound Kurt Angle of Pittsburgh. The “villain” was Iran’s Abbas Jadidi.

The two battled the maximum eight minutes to a 1-1 draw. The first tiebreaker is the number of referee’s passivity calls for stalling. Both men had two, leaving a stalemate that had to be broken by the officials. The judge and referee vote in such a situation. If they disagree, the mat chairman breaks the tie.

Jadidi listened in to the officials’ post-match discussion. He walked back to the center of the mat acting as if he had learned he was the winner. The referee took an arm of each wrestler, started to raise Jadidi’s, then suddenly pulled it down and instead raised Angle’s. A moment of groaning was replaced by the loudest and happiest roar in Atlanta all afternoon.

Reportedly, the referee momentarily thought the mat chairman had sided with Jadidi, who had a different version of what happened.

“I heard the judge and the ref vote for me,” Jadidi said. “The referee wanted to take my arm up as the winner, but another chief told him no.”

FILA, the international governing body for wrestling, does not release the home nations of officials for security reasons. The referee for the Angle-Jadidi match was Adouchine Baskhou, the judge was Vassillos Pagonis, and the mat chairman was Etienne Martinetti.

Spurning a handshake with Angle, the Iranian pleaded angrily to all sorts of FILA officials. Jadidi claimed he should have received a point on a double-leg takedown with 1:24 left in the 3-minute overtime. No official protest was filed, though.

“I executed a double-leg right at the edge of the mat,” Jadidi insisted at a press conference in which he urged journalists to review a videotape of the match and help him get the decision overturned.

“All he did was try to drive me out of bounds,” Angle said.

Angle said he thought Jadidi’s stalling in the overtime may have been his undoing. The Iranian clearly was exhausted in the overtime.

“I think if he’d gotten up and went back to the center of the mat right away, he’d have gotten the decision,” Angle said. “But I wore him down.”

Jadidi twice asked the official to delay the match in the overtime. Once, after Angle drove Jadidi out of bounds, an Iranian coach ran onto the mat and appeared to shout at Jadidi to get up.

However, no stalling warnings were issued in the overtime.

It almost took a forklift to get Jadidi on the platform during the medal ceremony, but he finally relented.

“My hesitation was because I was protesting and waiting for them to change their decision,” he said, “and I still hope they change their decision. I was upset because they took what was mine.

“I respect (Angle) as a human being, but I don’t respect him as an Olympic champion. I feel that gold medal that he is hanging on his neck is mine, and I feel they took that from me.”

Angle, an NCAA champion in 1990 and 1992 at Pittsburgh, waited for over an agonizing minute to learn the judges’ decision. When he learned he won, he crumpled over in emotion. Tears rolled down his face on the medal stand. Later, he didn’t appear happy that controversy surrounded his victory.

“I feel I won,” Angle said. “What they did was take the match as a whole and realized I was the aggressor most of the match.

“I feel we both deserved to win, but we did put the match in the officials’ hands. When you do that, you can’t be upset if the officials pick the other guy.

“I’m not gonna put myself down. I feel I wrestled just as good if not better.”

Angle is the only member of the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club on the 10-man U.S. freestyle squad. Millionaire John du Pont was charged with murdering Schultz on du Pont’s suburban Philadelphia compound earlier this year. Angle formerly belonged to du Pont’s Team Foxcatcher club, as did Schultz and many other wrestlers including Olympian Tom Brands of Iowa.

“I know Dave is proud of me,” Angle said. “I know his wife, Nancy, is proud of me. Now I know how Dave felt when he won in ’84.”

Should Nancy Schultz ask Angle to attend du Pont’s trial, he said he would.

“I really don’t want to see John du Pont,” Angle said. “I don’t know how I would react. I thought at one point I liked the guy. He’d always been good to me. But anybody that can do that, I just can’t fathom the possibility of seeing him.”

As Angle spoke in a press tent, Jadidi continued spewing his disgust in a neighboring room.

“I respect American people,” the Iranian said, “… but my views are for the referees. They shouldn’t have done this.”

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