Sun, Sep 14, 2003 - Page 22 News List

World freestyle wrestling meet begins


Tina George, top, of the US holds down Julieta Okot of Bulgaria during the first round of the Women's 55kg category at the World Freestyle Wrestling Championships at Madison Square Garden in New York, Friday.


Iran and the US split the last two matches at the opening day of the World Freestyle Championships Friday.

Iran's Hadi Habibi beat Joe Williams 3-1 in overtime in the 73kg class. Two minutes later Cael Sanderson defeated Majid Khodaee of Iran 8-2 at 83kg. US wrestlers had won their first 20 matches in the two sessions of pool competition before the two highly anticipated matchups between American and Iranian wrestlers.

"We train to win every match. We were excited about our performance, but we feel as bad about the one loss as we are happy about the 21 wins," US coach Bobby Douglas said.

Williams was thrown for three points as overtime began and the contingent of Iranian fans erupted and the crowd estimated at 6,000 chanted back and forth.

Eric Guerrero of the US won two matches at 59kg, including a 3-1 overtime win over Mohammad Talaei of Iran.

Other American victories included Sara McMann pinning world silver medallist Sara Erikkson of Sweden at 62kg and Stephen Abas winning twice in overtime at 54kg, including a 3-1 victory over 2002 Olympic gold medallist Abdullaev Yadulla of Azerbaijan.

"I set a goal a long time ago to be a world champion," Abas said. "I have to clear the pool to do that."

Svetlana Martynenko of Russia upset women's world 67kg champion Katerina Burmistrova of Ukraine 3-1 in the first session of the pool competiton at the World Freestyle Championships.

Also, Tanabe Chickara of Japan edged 2001 world 55kg champion German Kontoev of Belarus 11-10 at Madison Square Garden.

The world freestyle championships were to be held in New York in September 2001, but were moved to Bulgaria following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

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