RIO DE JANEIRO — The crowd inside Carioca Arena 2 chanted, “Mon-go-lia!” as two wrestling coaches refused to the leave the mat, one shirtless and one stripped to his underwear.
Early Sunday afternoon, one of the most bizarre and controversial episodes in amateur wrestling memory unfolded at the end of a 65-kilogram bronze medal match. It began with a shady call that further raised questions about fairness in Olympic wrestling officiating. It ended with Forca Nacional officials escorting two shirtless Mongolian coaches from the mat following a spontaneous strip show.
At the end of that bronze medal match between Mongolian Mandakhnaran Ganzorig and Uzbekistan’s Ikhtiyor Navruzov, Ganzorig appeared to have won, 7-6. He hugged his coaches and celebrated for about 10 seconds. Suddenly, apparently because Ganzorig had been docked a point for fleeing in the waning seconds, another point appeared on the board for Navruzov. In wrestling, the competitor who scores the final point of a tie match is the winner, so in a flash, Ganzorig went from victory to defeat.
Ganzorig fell to the mat and rolled inconsolably. Navruzov leaped into his coach’s arms, and the coach body-slammed him in celebration.
When the Mongolian coaches realized what had happened, they erupted. Byambarenchin Bayoraa rushed to the scorer’s table, ripped off his shirt and shoes and slammed them in the direction of the scorers. Tsenrenbataar Tsostbayar followed him and removed his shirt and shoes, then one-upped Bayoraa by also taking off his pants. Both coaches screamed at the scorers and pleaded for a replay.
When it did not come, the coaches refused to leave the mat. The Brazilian crowd roared in approval, chanting, “Mon-go-lia!” When tournament officials asked them to leave, they would not. Ganzorig was still lying on his back in the middle of the mat, sobbing.
Finally, Brazilian national force officers walked from the corners of the arena and escorted the coaches away.
“The referees supported the Uzbek,” Baryoraa said through the translation of the Mongolian press attache as part of a 45-second rant. (He said much more than that, but the quality of translation made it difficult to discern more. And that is by no means a criticism of the Mongolian press attache, who handled an impossible situation with incredible grace.)
The episode will draw attention for outlandish humor, but it also illustrated real issues with Olympic wrestling officials.
Before the match, as the Associated Press first reported, the international federation removed three officials and suspended them indefinitely after a dicey decision went against Puerto Rican Franklin Gomez — and in favor of Navruzov, the same wrestler who benefited from the call that so incensed the Mongolian coaches.
“We had for the whole tournament, maybe hundreds of matches and one or two situations were made doubtful, I would say,” United World Wrestling chief Nenad Lalovic told the AP. “I think the situation is much better than we had before. Much, much better. Of course, we need time to cure all our diseases.”
Later, the crowd booed Navruzov on the medal stand, another sign of their distrust in the competition.
Here’s how it unfolded in real-time:
The Post’s Cindy Boren contributed to this report.