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|McIlravy vs. Igali is the new “Bout of the Week” on USA Wrestling Audio/Video website|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
USA Wrestling has updated its new "Bout of the Week" which has been posted as a video file on-line on TheMat.com Audio/Video website .
The featured match this week is the 1998 Lincoln McIlravy vs. Daniel Igali bronze medal match at 69 kg/152 lbs. at the World Championships in Tehran, Iran.
This matchup featured a pair of talented young wrestlers from North America who were establishing themselves on the international level. This became one of the great rivalries of the late 1990's in wrestling, part of a series of very entertaining and intense battles.
Lincoln McIlravy came to the World Championships as one of America's brightest hopefuls on the international level. A five-time high school state champion South Dakota, McIlravy was a Junior National champion and Junior World Team member during his prep career. He went on to the Univ. of Iowa, where he was coached by the legendary Dan Gable. McIlravy had one of the greatest college careers of all time, winning three NCAAA titles and placing second the other year. Early on, he always had the goal of becoming an Olympic and World champion in freestyle.
McIlravy took an Olympic redshirt year in 1996 to pursue a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. He was second at the U.S. Nationals that year, and placed third in the Olympic Team Trials, in a weight class won by eventual Olympic medalist Townsend Saunders. He returned to Iowa to win his fourth NCAA title in 1997, then focused all attention on his freestyle dreams.
In 1997, McIlravy won his first U.S. Nationals title, and qualified for the U.S. World Team by capturing his first World Team Trials. He did not win a medal at his first World Championships, held in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, dropping matches to athletes from Ukraine and Iran.
In 1998, McIlravy returned to win both the U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials, earning another shot at his first World medal in Tehran, Iran. In preparation for the World Championships, McIlravy won a gold medal at the Goodwill Games in New York City, beating stars from Russia, Turkey and Iran. He was developing a very successful style which included superior technique and tremendous conditioning.
Igali took a different route to the top of international wrestling. A native of Nigeria, Igali came to Canada and emerged as one of the greatest freestyle wrestlers in nation's history. He attended Simon Fraser Univ., perhaps the top college wrestling team in Canada, and won an impressive four NAIA national titles for the Clan, competing against American wrestlers. Although he was outstanding in folkstyle wrestling, it was in freestyle that Igali developed his immense athletic talents. Igali had great quickness and executed his moves with explosive power.
1998 was the first year that Igali was able to display his abilities at the international level. He entered the tournament as a relative unknown, but that changed quickly with his effort in Tehran.
McIlravy's road to the bronze medal match was rugged. He opened the tournament with a 3-2 loss to World champion Araik Gevorkian of Armenia, then reeled off seven straight victories, Igali also lost a match then emerged in the bronze-medal round. In this bronze-medal match in Tehran, McIlravy won a competitive 4-1 decision to capture his first World medal.
These athletes continued to face each other after the match in Tehran. At the 1999 Pan American Games, McIlravy defeated Igali again to take the bronze medal. The matches continued to be intense and much closer, as both wrestlers continued to improve. The wrestlers would meet again in the 1999 World Championships in Ankara, Turkey, but this time, Igali won the showdown, becoming a World Champion, and McIlravy won his second career medal, a silver.
In 2000, many expected the Olympic gold medal to go to one of these two talents. Igali and McIlravy were on the same side of the draw at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Their battle in the semifinals was an epic. Igali led 2-0, but McIlravy rebounded to take a 3-2 lead. Igali tied the score at 3-3, forcing an overtime. A three-point throw by Igali ended the match suddenly for a 6-3 overtime win.
Igali went on to capture the Olympic gold medal, defeating Arsen Gitinov of Russia in the finals. McIlravy won the bronze medal, defeating Sergei Demtchenko of Belarus for the medal. Igali became a national hero in Canada, its first Olympic champion in wrestling.
After the 2001 World Championships, the IOC reduced the number of weight classes in international wrestling from eight to seven, and basically eliminated the division where Igali and McIlravy were stars. A wrestler needed to drop down to either 66 kg/145.5 lbs. or move up to 74 kg/163 lbs. in order to continue competing. This affected both of these star athletes.
Igali stayed with the sport for another four-year cycle. In 2001, when the division was still at 152 pounds, he dropped to ninth at the World Championships. In 2002, Igali moved up to the new 163 pound class, and was competitive. He was fifth in the 2002 World Championships and 11th in the 2003 World Championships. He was able to qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, placing sixth. He battled some injuries during these years, and was not able to make up the size difference against his larger opponents.
McIlravy retired from wrestling after 2000, and shortly after took a job as USA Wrestling's National Freeestyle Resident Coach. He coached the resident athletes at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and worked with all of the nation's elite freestyle wrestlers.
However, in 2003, the urge to wrestle burned inside McIlravy, and he resigned his coaching position to made a comeback. To compete, he dropped all the way down to 66 kg/145.5 lbs. At the new weight class, McIlravy placed third at the U.S. Nationals and fourth at the World Team Trials, falling short of his goal of making another U.S. team In 2004, McIlravy decided not to try out for the U.S. Olympic team and retired again, going into private business. Like his rival Igali, the new weight class structure made McIlravy a "tweener," where he was too large for one division and too small for another.
This popular feature will be changed on a regular basis, allowing members to enjoy many of the greatest matches in wrestling history. Posted in the archive section of the Members Only web page was the 1988 Kenny Monday vs. Adlan Varaev men's freestyle gold-medal match at 74 kg/163 lbs. from Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. Many other entertaining and historic matches are in the archive section for the Bout of the Week.