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Olympic Gold Medalist Kendall Cross set to make comeback

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - It's been nearly a decade since he wrestled competitively.

But 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist Kendall Cross is back on the mat.

And ready to take on one of the top wrestlers in the World.

The 38-year-old Cross is scheduled to face 2004 Olympic Champion Mavlet Batirov of Russia at 60 kg/132 pounds in the Team of the World Against Team of Russia freestyle dual meet on Friday, Nov. 24 in Makhachkala, Dagestan, Russia.

Cross returned to the mat this summer and took part in a pair of training camps with the United States World Team at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Cross, a 1992 and 1996 Olympian, has not competed since the 1997 World Cup. He jumped at the chance to take part in the dual with World Silver Medalist Mike Zadick of the U.S. unable to compete at 60 kilos because of an injury. Cross is the lone American scheduled to compete in the event.

Zadick beat Batirov in the semifinals at the World Championships on Sept. 27 in Guangzhou, China. Batirov came back to win a bronze medal.

"They were looking for someone at 60 kilos and Kendall is here training and asked if he could wrestle in the dual," said Kevin Jackson, USA Wrestling's National Freestyle Coach. "I told them that Kendall would put on a good show, if not win the match. It will be a really good test for Kendall because it will tell him exactly where he's at."

So why would Cross come back?

"I think Kendall believes he can still win and he thinks these new rules are made for him," Jackson said. "He thinks he can still be competitive with the two-minute periods and the 30-second breaks in between. And he knows if he wins the first two periods he only has to wrestle a four-minute match. He thinks the one-day tournament helps him now as well. He wouldn't have to come back the second day where his body might be a little more stiff and sore than some of the younger guys who can recover quicker."

Cross now is living and training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and working with USA Wrestling Freestyle Resident Coach Terry Brands.

"Kendall still has the physical tools and the mental capacity to compete," said Jackson, a teammate of Cross on the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team. "There obviously is still a big question mark with Kendall - the key will be if he can stay healthy and compete at his best when he has to wrestle four or five times in one day.

"When Kendall was out here at our training camp he surprised us with his physical abilities. He held his own. He didn't just come back to wrestle - he came back to win. I'm excited to see what he can do. He gives us more depth at 60 kilos and that helps our overall program having someone of his caliber back in there."

Jackson said Cross originally planned to make his comeback at the Dave Schultz Memorial International Open on Feb. 8-10 in Colorado Springs.

Cross placed sixth at 125.5 pounds at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. He came back four years later to win the 125.5-pound championship at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
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