3rd Freestyle Wrestling Gold for Saitiyev

APBuvaisar Saitiyev, left, wrestling against Soslan Tigiev in the 74 kilogram freestyle final on Wednesday in Beijing.
BEIJING -- Russia's Buvaisar Saitiyev won his third freestyle wrestling gold medal at his fourth Olympics on Wednesday.

A six-time world champion, the rangy 33-year-old's victory over Soslan Tigiev of Uzbekistan in the 74-kilogram freestyle event secured his place in the wrestling pantheon. Murad Gaidarov of Belarus and Kiril Terziev of Bulgaria won bronze.

The lean Saitiyev advanced throughout his matches with ease. He wound himself around Cuban Ivan Fundora like a python, grabbing his ankles and turning him upside down on his head.

Russian wrestling team officials were on hand in strength to cheer him on in the final and to witness his expected victory.

But Tigiev, displaying great upper body strength, took the first period by one point to nil and there was apprehension on the Russia bench with the second period tied, until Saitiyev slipped out of Tigiev's grip and ended the match with the Belarussian pinned in a leg-hold.

"The way I fought was a pass mark, if you like. Which in the Russian school system is not really all that wonderful. It's a pass but it's barely a pass," said Saitiyev modestly of his first period loss.

"Nonetheless even though I fought, shall we say, in a manner which was not of the top quality, my character and my psychological makeup brought me through."

Russian all-time heavyweight great Alexander Karelin, a three-time Olympic gold wrestler who looks hewn from rock, applauded Saitiyev from the stands as he ran over to his home country fans to be embraced and then loped around the stadium with the Russian flag over his shoulders.

A native of the north Caucasus Republic of Dagestan, Saitiyev looks nothing like the stereotype of the heavy-shouldered wrestler. But he has tremendous skill and great strength.

Saitiyev, his black beard streaked with grey, said it was unlikely he would wrestle at the London Olympic Games in 2012.