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Distinguished Member - MATT GHAFFARI, Avon Lake, Ohio



Born in Tehran, Iran, Matt Ghaffari grew into a true American hero and set the standard by which all future U.S. Greco-Roman wrestlers would be judged.

Ghaffari immigrated to the United States as a teenager, settling in New Jersey and competing for Paramus High School. He started his collegiate career at Fairleigh Dickinson University before finding a home at Cleveland State University, where he fashioned a solid if unspectacular 56-11-2 record and as a senior set a school record for pins.

After graduation, Ghaffari stepped into the world of international freestyle wrestling, rising as high as No. 2 in the U.S. rankings, and placing fourth at both the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Trials. In 1989, he changed directions, adding Greco-Roman wrestling to his repertoire. By 1990, Ghaffari had won his first U.S. National title, made his first U.S. Greco-Roman World team, and quickly became one of the best super heavyweights in the world.

Ghaffari is currently the only American to win a combined four World and Olympic medals in Greco-Roman, placing second at the 1991 World Championships, third in 1995, and second in 1998. A two-time Olympian, he is best remembered for his silver-medal performance at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, where he took Alexander Karelin, Russia’s seemingly invincible superstar, into overtime before falling, 1-0. On the awards stand, he captured America’s heart as he saluted the flag of his adopted homeland with tears streaming down his face.

In all, Ghaffari won six national Greco-Roman championships, four World Cups, two Pan-American Games, seven Pan-American championships (including double titles in 1989-90), and 13 Grand Prix tournament titles. He represented his adopted country six times in World Championships and was twice named the United States Olympic Committee Greco-Roman Wrestler of the Year.

For advancing Greco-Roman wrestling through significant and groundbreaking achievements, Matt Ghaffari is honored as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
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