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Deja Vu On Mat for Kolat of U.S.

September 28, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Cary Kolat can beat the wrestlers. What he can’t seem to beat is the system in international wrestling that permits the slightest dispute or error to alter a match result.

Even in the Olympics.

Kolat, who can’t seem to win for losing off-the-mat decisions in freestyle wrestling, won 3-1 over former world champion Mohammad Talaei of Iran on Thursday, saw the result protested, then lost the rematch 5-4.

Kolat, long one of the United States’ best amateur wrestlers, later pinned Ramil Islamov of Uzbekistan in 5:52 at 138 3/4 pounds (63 kg). However, Talaei won by injury forfeit over Islamov to win the three-man pool, advance to Friday’s quarterfinals and oust Kolat.

Even if Kolat didn’t feel like crying, his wife, Erin, and mother, Judy, did, sitting hand-in-hand in tears in the stands at Kolat’s latest mat misfortune.

Defying the odds, it was the third time in four years a Kolat victory in a world-level championship was stripped by protest.

``When I get to heaven, one of the first things I’m going to ask is: Why does this keep happening to Cary Kolat?″ U.S. coach Bruce Barnett said.

Imagine if any major league baseball score could be tossed out if TV replays showed an umpire missed a call at first base. Or NFL games were replayed from the start if it could be proven an official missed an out-of-bounds play.

Impossible? Welcome to the world of amateur wrestling, where no wrestler truly leaves the mat secure in victory. Any loser can dispute a match on any technical point, and all he needs is a sympathetic arbitrator to order a rematch.

Brandon Slay of the United States, for example, upset Olympic champion Bouvaissa Saitiev of Russia at 167 1/2 pounds (76 kg) on Thursday, but was nervous about the outcome until Saitiev’s protest was turned down.

``I don’t like it, and I’ve never liked it, that a point can be awarded on the mat and allowed to stand, and somebody goes into a back room and changes it,″ Barnett said. ``To have your hand raised in victory over a world champion, then have to come back and wrestle him again, it’s tough.

``I’m disappointed in the system because they keep making mistakes with it.″

In the rematch, Kolat gave up the first point when he lost his grip on a clinch, the same kind of point that gave Rulon Gardner his victory over Alexander Karelin for the Greco-Roman super heavyweight gold medal Wednesday.

Talaei then hit a pair of two-point scoring moves in the next 30 seconds to lead 5-0.

``He gave up that point and he had a mental letdown,″ Barnett said.

Kolat, who was 137-0 at Jefferson-Morgan High School in western Pennsylvania and whose name is on the road sign at the city limits of his Rices Landing, Pa., hometown, tried to rally.

The two-time NCAA champion from Lock Haven University got a point off a caution, another off a takedown and two more on a throw to make it 5-4, but Talaei wrestled out the final 30 seconds without allowing another point.

Kolat, 27, was visibly angered at losing a match he felt he had already won, responding only with an expletive as he ran by reporters.

Because of two prior match reversals in world championships, Kolat is personally responsible for two international rule changes _ one of them the protest format that cost him Thursday.

Following a 1997 world finals loss in which another Iranian gained a needed time-out by untying his shoes, altering the match’s momentum when Kolat was ahead, wrestlers now must tape their shoelaces.

Also, all protested matches now are re-wrestled, the result of a 1998 match in which Serafim Barzakov of Bulgaria overturned his loss to Kolat on protest without the two wrestling again.

Last year, wrestling with a separated shoulder, Kolat beat Elbrus Tedeev of Ukraine 4-2 in the world semifinals. But Tedeev protested, and won the rematch in overtime 2-1.

``What you’re thinking is, `I can’t believe I’m wrestling this guy again,′ ″ Kolat said earlier this year. ``You get a guy who is walking off the mat thinking he’s lost and then he’s told he’s got another shot and he’s on cloud nine.″

Kolat hoped that in the Olympics, the one real showcase for amateur wrestling, the scoring would be more consistent, the decisions less controversial.

Instead, the rule book took Kolat to the mat again.

``You can’t protest a protested match,″ Barnett said. ``I’m disappointed, but it happens.″

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