LONDON – Japan’s Ryutaro Matsumoto rallied from a period down en route to a dramatic victory over Almat Kebispayev of Kazakhstan to win the bronze medal in the men’s Greco-Roman 60 kg at the London Olympics on Monday.
Matsumoto dropped the first period 2-1 when Kebispayev threw the 2010 world silver medalist to the mat from the ground clinch for two points before the Japanese wrestler scored a point on a back hold.
But Matsumoto came to life, continually working his way inside on Kebispayev after his opponent scored a point in the second, turning Kebispayev on the mat for three points to take the next period.
Kebispayev, the 2011 world silver medalist, was all but out of steam in the decisive third period, and Matsumoto dropped him to the mat for a fall, then pumped his fists in celebration.
It was the 15th consecutive Olympics that the Japanese men won a medal in the wrestling tournament.
“It feels good to extend my country’s medal streak early in the wrestling program,” the 26-year-old Matsumoto said. “In Japan, media attention has been on women’s wrestling, but I believe I was able to make our presence felt.”
Matsumoto won his first match in the second round against Rahman Bilici of Turkey, and the next versus France’s Tarik Belmadani, but lost a close encounter to eventual gold-medal winner and reigning world champion Omid Haji Noroozi of Iran.
Matsumoto was bidding to become the first Japanese to make a Greco-Roman final since Katsuhiko Nagata, who took the silver medal at 69 kg at the 2000 Sydney Games.
In other Greco-Roman action, Russia’s Alan Khugaev defeated Karam Mohamed Gaber Ebrahim of Egypt 3-0 in the 84-kg final. Cuba’s Mijain Lopez Nunez successfully defended his 120-kg title with a 3-0 victory over Heiki Nabi of Estonia.