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Posted on Sat, Aug 11, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

Ann Arbor wrestler Jake Herbert believes anti-American bias influenced controversial Olympic loss

By Pete Cunningham


Ann Arbor resident Jake Herbert, front, reacts after losing his final match of the London Olympics.

Paul Sancya | Associated Press

The 2012 London Olympics ended in controversy for Ann Arbor resident Jake Herbert on Saturday and he believes an anti-American bias had something to do with it.

Herbert, who represented the United States in the 84 kilogram division of the freestyle wrestling competition, won his opening match, but lost in the second round to eventual gold medalist, Sharif Sharifov, of Azerbaijan. A hotly contested scoring decision in the second period ended the match in Sharifov's favor, much to the dismay of Herbert and American coach Zeke Jones, an Ann Arbor native.


USA freestyle wrestling coach and Ann Arbor native Zeke Jones argues a scoring decision during Jake Herbert's match.

Paul Sancya | Associated Press

In an interview the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Herbert suggested politics might have been involved in the scoring decision.

"That's how the sport is," Herbert said. "It's unfortunate it comes down to that. I wish I could find a more fair way. Some people are going to be in the ref's favor and some aren't. Unfortunately, I'm wearing the United States of America and it's the greatest country in the world. These guys are all mad about that and they have to prove it some other ways."

Sharifov closed out the match in the second period with a six point flurry that had Jones going after officials and resulted in him receiving a yellow card and a near ejection.

Jones challenged a scoring decision after Sharifov was awarded three points and Herbert none following a scramble, believing that Herbert had thrown Sharifov during the scramble and thus deserved points as well.

The challenge couldn't have gone any worse for Herbert as officials not only gave him zero points following video review, but also awarded Sharifov enough additional points to end the period. A six-point differential ends a period in international wrestling which is scored best out of three periods. Herbert had lost the first period and therefore lost the match with the decision.


Jake Herbert was the last of several Olympians with Ann Arbor ties to compete in London. Visit the Olympics page for stories from throughout the games. Follow along with Michigan athletes at
Jones said the referees ruled in favor of Sharifov, the defending world champion, while a separate jury ruled it in favor of Herbert. Herbert was 2-0 in his previous matches with Sharifov.

"I can beat one guy on the mat but not one guy and three officials." said Herbert after the match.

Herbert recently relocated to Ann Arbor to train for the Olympics with the Cliff Keen wrestling club under University of Michigan assistant coach Sean Bormet.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Bormet was more politically correct, but questioned the scoring decision, nonetheless.

"It doesn't make sense," Bormet said. "To get to this point in this level of tournament and have a match decided on a lot of unanswered circumstances is difficult and disappointing."

Because Sharifov advance to the gold medal match, Herbert had a chance for a bronze medal, but later lost in his consolation round opener. Prior to the games Herbert was considered by most prognosticators to be a medal contender.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


Joe B

Fri, Aug 17, 2012 : 1:11 a.m.

These games had a lot of questionable and downright bad calls, and a lot of competitors were hosed by bad refereeing. FILA refs are lazy. And what other sport to you see the refs yelling at the competitors like a dog that just tore up your couch, yelling orders at them that have nothing or little to do with the rules yet they continuously overlook rule infractions. And they frequently smack the wrestlers on the arms & shoulders will they are standing; just imagine the reaction to that in another sport.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 2 p.m.

What he can do is the same thing that was done when the Chinese had those tiny gymnast who said they were 16 but in all fairness? 14 or less. The IOC can investigate this and by their standards decide who was really at fault. Happened with Ally in gymnastics and it can happen here. I wish him luck. But I hate to say it, IOC and USOC? All politics. Take a look at the pairs on ice which resulted in the IJS instead of the 6.0. Both are still in need of tweaking. Good luck to both teams what ever is decided.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

I forgot to mention this. The IOC did indeed find some foul play but did nothing about it because they said they can fix it at the next Olympics. They did and it looked more even this go round then ever before.

Robert Granville

Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 9:49 a.m.

Greatest in the world huh. He must be referring to the prison system.

Dog Guy

Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 4:38 a.m.

First Jim Thorpe and now Jake Herbert . . . when will it ever end!


Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 2:54 a.m.

It's not a very Olympic attitude to say that your country is "the greatest in the world." It's an insipid statement of blind patriotism. It's implying that the judges are jealous of the US, and probably feel ashamed of their own, inferior, ethnic and national heritages. Why does one nations supposed greatness (which in our case is more often just overwhelming domination) automatically make others angry and vengeful? It is sad and unfortunate that so many US citizens have a superiority complex over the rest of the world.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

America is dead and buried. They just haven't had the funeral yet.

Matt Cooper

Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

And what exactly about my post leads you to think that I don't appreciate other cultures, if that is what you are implying? I don't have to go to other countries to say I think America is the greatest, and for me to say America is the best, or for that young American wrestler to say he thinks America is the greatest country in the world is in no way disparaging anyone else's homeland. It' s simply his opinion, and mine as well.


Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

And most people who say America is the best country in the world have never visited or lived in any other place. I'm not arguing against our country because I love living here, but I also can travel and appreciate other cultures.

Matt Cooper

Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 4:41 a.m.

And on the other side of that argument: 1. I think America is the greatest country in the world, and I don't give two hoots who doesn't like it. Blind patriotism? You darn betcha! 2. "It's not a very Olympic attitude to say that your country is "the greatest in the world." Hmmm. And what would you have him say instead? "Hey, I'm here but my country really sucks!"? He doesn't represent the world. He represents the USA, and if he wants to say the USA is the greatest, he is perfectly right in doing so. It's just too bad that other countries athletes can't or won't say the same for their countries. 3. If America sucks so bad, why are you here? Why not move someplace else?


Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 2:40 a.m.

Wrestling is a weird sport with its scoring to begin with. Seems like that and boxing are almost impossible for Americans to win.


Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 1:11 a.m.

Even if there were unfair politics involved, I would have liked to see a more mature response than he gave.

Joe B

Fri, Aug 17, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.

Macabre Sunset, wrestling has a set scoring system, points are awarded for takedowns, reversals and back exposure. The judges in question are similar to instant review in the NFL & college football. Given that the FILA judges do frequently come up with random scoring during scrambles or chain movements like this match. At the Beijing games I watched a greco roman match between 2 wrestlers from former USSR countries & that was the worst I've seen during a match: in a flurry there were at least 2 takedowns, 3 back exposures, a reversal & 2 illegal holds (greco you can't grab an opponent's leg and both guys did, one of them hit a roll by grabbing a leg- no way was that accidental contact. The ref gave out 4 points total and no acknowledgment of the illegal holds. It was a joke. And there is a history of dubious calls against American wrestlers, in the past there have been challenges after a match & the ref & FILA judges have changed the score in favor of the American's opponent; could you imagine that happening in another sport, game/match over & all of a sudden the refs come out and say no, that score in the 3rd quarter didn't happen, you lose. And the refs have had matches wrestled over, of course, it was an American that had won. I believe Gene Mills was in the changed score match and Gary Kolat had to rewrestle 2 matches in the early 2000s. I have only heard instances like this at the top world level happening to Americans. But given the poor quality of FILA refs I wouldn't be surprised if wrestlers at regional events get screwed in similar ways.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 5:04 a.m.

*you're. It's surprising a journalist wouldn't get that one right. He's in a judged sport. Judges are random sometimes. I understand the disappointment, but to turn it into an international conspiracy is very immature and makes, under the circumstances, his country look bad momentarily.

Pete Cunningham

Sun, Aug 12, 2012 : 1:28 a.m.

Perhaps your right, but that's a lot to ask of a young man shortly after his dreams have been crushed by a perceived slight. If you watched the match, Herbert was very gracious to Sharifov in defeat and even shook the hands of every official after the controversial final decision.