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From the Video---Match Three, Cormier vs. Morrison

7/27/2003 Ted Witulski/USA Wrestling

It would be the decisive match to determine who would gain the honor of wrestling for the United States in the 2003 World Championships. The first two matches were tight until a decisive move determined the victor. The third match would be much closer, and controversy would give many in the stands plenty of fodder for future conversations.

Cormier was late coming to the mat dressed in red, while Morrison bounced energetically at the center of the raised platform in the blue singlet. Perhaps it was the intensity of the moment, the sheer volume of this single match, but neither wrestler nor the official seemed to take notice that the two wrestlers never shook hands in the basic ceremony of any wrestling competition.

The referee stepped back and blew the whistle, and the two adapted their earlier tacts that succeeded for them in match one and two. Cormier plodding heavily forward; and Morrison darting in and out side to side.

Cormier seemed to desparately seek a strong collar tie on Morrison, throwing his reach with long arms like they were haymakers in an ultimate fighting competition. Every time Cormier reached heavy to Morrison's head, Morrison shrugged and shucked the tie loose.

If Cormier did gain a solid head tie, Morrison immediately looked to control the free wrist with the familiar thumb out grip that John Smith popularized in his competitive days.

The pace was much quicker from the start as the two swept from edge to edge on the mat. As the two parried back and forth, Morrison committed early to a right side single leg, sweepling low to the mat and catching the laces of Cormier's left leg with his right hand.

Cormier was beaten on position from the start of the exchange, but briefly it appeared that his heavy hips would be enough to stymie the attempt. As they rounded towards the edge of the mat Morrison brought the action to the feet still only controlling Cormier's leg with his grip on the laces of his opponent's leg.

Then finally Morrison was successful at regripping the leg, catching at the thigh before driving back into Cormier's chest and knocking his opponent out of bounds to his back.

The call from the center of the mat was for three points, but immediately the officials went to the video for review. After several runnings of the protest video three points were confirmed.

Down three to zero Cormier took the bottom crouching on his hips looking to escape from par terre. On the whistle Morrison worked for a lace crossing left to right but Cormier kept his opponent boxed in keeping his ankles elevated. The referee determined there was no action, and brought the two to their feet.

Being down by three, Cormier began to press even harder looking for his own opening. Morrison now looked to slow the pace by getting to his underhook. With Cormier pressing, Morrison looked to ice the match by scoring on a double leg shot, easily bypassing a long reach of Cormier. Cormier saved the match by getting his hips back and nearly going to his favorite offensive attack as he pulled Morrison back up to an underhook.

The two left the mat after Cormier snapped Morrison to a front headlock, no par terre was called for as the two remained in a neutral position. The newest ruling from FILA is that if wrestlers leave the mat without scoring but one wrestler was in a dominant position, such as close to being on top then the wrestlers return to the mat in par terre with the dominant wrestler on top.

The two again left the mat with a hi-c attempt by Cormier that was quickly countered by Morrison. Cormier at this point was clearly controlling the mat, center-out, which would eventually come into play. As the clock ticked below a minute the referees signalled passivity with the blew paddles, giving Cormier the option of taking the action to the mat or remaining on the feet. With a little hesitation and a long look to his corner coach, Cormier decided to stay on his feet.

On the whistle, Cormier again bulled forward before taking two lunging step-in single attempts two his left side that led to front headlock control. As the two neared the edge of the mat with Morrison's back to the zone Cormier again lunged for a shot that Morrison countered. The attempt was again white paddled.

With time below twenty seconds Cormier pressed wildly, needing to close the gap in score. Morrison circled hard after one shot attempt, even turning his back to Cormier on the speedy exchange. Again as Morrison stepped into the zone, Cormier lunged for a shot. Morrison barely stepped out but the call for a caution and one was immediate from the officiating crew. With just ten seconds on the clock the officials awarded Cormier's efforts with his first point.

Cormier burned the final ten seconds of par terre dropping to a gut and taking a few deep breaths.

After the thirty second break the two senior athletes had expended enough energy for several matches. They both looked drawn and tired.

Morrison, the much leaner of the two wrestlers, is a display in muscled-perfection. Cormier has a much stalkier build, far removed from his collegiate days of wrestling 184 pounds.

From the start of the period, Morrison looked to get back on offense taking a short step-in attempt and sliding into an underhook. This time he drove Cormier into the zone and took another serious throw-by attempt that was countered.

The missed but real attempt was enough to awaken Cormier as he drove back into the center and came to a powerful bodylock position. Cormier drove in popping his hips and twisting hard to his right. Rather than fight the position that he was clearly beaten in, Morrison baled out giving up the one technical point to Cormier.

The score now rested at three to two with plenty of time for Cormier. With announcer Don Blassingame's voice echoing in the dome, "this is for all the marbles," the action was blown back to the feet.

Morrison came to the center and paced into Cormier again gaining a right side underhook and free wrist control. The two led off the mat and again the action came to the center. Morrison circled back and forth as Cormier chased him moving forward, the officiating crew again called Morrison for passivity. Cormier again decided to keep the action on his feet.

At this point the two were visibly tired, Cormier stumbled badly after his own snap attempt and Morrison's long body heaved for air in the Dome. Their stances were visibly raised, appearing that both had forgotten a basic skill of level change.

Then, the definitive point in the match happened. Cormier attacked and reattacked with successive step-in snatch singles that Morrison blocked only to have Cormier slide into a low double under lock. The two forces on the mat stood hip to hip, Cormier locked in tightly with Morrison seeking the space for a whizzer counter. With a sweeping circluar step to his left and then a second step to his right Cormier lowered his level and looked to lift his opponent with the astounding back arch that won the second match.

Morrison circled hard back to his left stepping over and around Cormier's right leg as the back arch took the two into the air. The action happened just to the left of the mat chair within a few feet of the protest video. On tape Morrison has his hands extended down to the mat while his long left leg scrapes the mat stopping any turn back to Cormier's right.

Three sets of eyes saw the action very differently, the mat official raised a thumb for an appreciation point for correct technique for Cormier, while the judge white paddled the action. The head chair was even more cautious never lifting any paddle but quickly standing to step down and look at it on video.

Coaches in the crowd could be heard discussing the scoring options. One for a lift. Two for Morrison--he clearly landed on top with Cormier out of bounds still in an exposed position. Or in a let's call the whole thing off nod--the crew could white paddle the scenario and call no scoring.

Let's call the whole thing off was agreed upon. No scoring as the chair lifted a white paddle. Cormier was placed down in a bow to the new FILA edict reintepreting position. With little action there, both came back to their feet with just under a minute in the match.

For at least fifteen of the last sixty seconds Morisson controlled the upper-body position, himself getting to double underhooks and plowing into Cormier's weight. Morrison pressured Cormier across two-thirds of the mat before, Cormier took an ill-advised hi-c attempt to his own right side.

Morrison circled hard to his right dropping his hips on Cormier's extended left hand. Nearly giving up the takedown, Cormier exploded off his knees like a bull coming out of the chute. As the two scrambled back to their feet, Morrison was in his own dominant double under position.

However, Cormier turned the tables exploding into Morrison with a left leg inside trip attempt that sent Morrison down to the mat and scrambling back to his feet like Cormier had done moments earlier.

Paused in time the two can be seen locking again into an over under position. Cormier lunged for a single, and Morrison countered jacking up his opponent and driving him back into the zone. Here, Cormier nearly stepped out with his right foot, but he circled to his left against Morrison's pressure, placing both him and Morrison in the zone near the head table.

Cormier drove into Morrison as the two went out of bounds again towards the stands of the Fargo Dome. The referee blew the whistle to stop the action and Cormier kneeled to the mat catching a deep breath as Morrison walked back to the center.

In an over-ruling manner both the judge and chair threw up a solid blue paddle and a one point red paddle. In what was a dizzying sequence two of three officials awarded Cormier the match tying point.

Morrrison took the down position with no protest, probably a testimony to his character more than an agreement with the call. With just a few seconds left on the clock both wrestlers rested for the on-coming overtime.

Just seconds in and after some fakes and feints Morrison shot to his right being countered by Cormier's sprawl that led to a chest-lock. Cormier jerked hard to his his left and then whirled to his right dropping behind Morrison who now assumed a four-point tripod that was quickly broken.

Cormier lept to his feet celebrating his first chance to represent America on a World Team. Morrison dropped his head to the mat trying to figure out what happened.

With the decisive point being earned, the decision was final. Following 2000, FILA did away with backroom protests, allowing only for matside review.

The fans assembled in Fargo witnessed an exciting three match series that was a study in Senior Level competition. It had it all: clinches, three-point maneuvers, a dramatic fall, and even a touch of controversy.

The World Team is now complete and the 2003 World Championships are only weeks away in New York City.

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