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Cross vs. Umakhanov is the new “Bout of the Week” on USA Wrestling Audio/Video website



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 1997 Kendall Cross vs. Murad Umakhanov men's freestyle match at 58 kg/127.75 lbs. at the World Cup of Freestyle Wrestling in Stillwater, Okla.

This was a match between the reigning Olympic champion and one of Russia's brightest young stars, who would become a future Olympic champion. It was also held on one of the most historic days in U.S. freestyle wrestling history.

For Kendall Cross, who grew up in Mustang, Okla. and was a college wrestling star at Oklahoma State, this was an important and meaningful competition. The World Cup was being held at Gallagher Iba Arena at Oklahoma State, and Cross was returning home after his amazing gold-medal victory at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga. just a few months earlier.

Cross worked his way through the U.S. wrestling system with success at every level. He was an Oklahoma state champion, Junior World bronze medalist and Junior Nationals placewinner on the high school level. At Oklahoma State, Cross was a three-time All-American and won a NCAA individual title during his junior season.

He quickly found success in international wrestling, taking second at the U.S. Nationals in 1991 during his first full season on the freestyle circuit. In 1992, Cross won his first U.S. Nationals title, then defeated 1991 World silver medalist Brad Penrith in the Final Olympic Trials to make the U.S. Olympic Team. He placed sixth at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain at 57 kg/125.5 lbs.

During the next four-year Olympic cycle, Cross was unable to retain his No. 1 position in the United States. He moved up in weight during some of the seasons. In addition, the new U.S. star at 57 kg was exciting young Terry Brands from Iowa, who won World gold medals in 1993 and 1995 and made all three U.S. World Teams at that weight class. When the 1996 season arrived, Cross made the commitment to challenge Brands for the Olympic spot.

Cross sent shockwaves through the sport by beating Brands in the finals of the 1996 U.S. Nationals. He finished off the amazing run by defeating Brands in a memorable three-match series at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Spokane, Wash. to make his second Olympic team. At the 1996 Olympic Games, Cross wrestled with confidence and dominance, and came away with the Olympic gold medal, beating Canadian star Giya Sissaouri in the championship match.

Going into the 1997 World Cup, the international wrestling world did not know much about Murad Umakhanov of Russia. He and his brother Chamil were just moving up into the Senior division, following the footsteps of older brother Bagaudin, who was a 1996 Olympian. Mourat had won a Cadet World title and Junior World bronze medal for Russia. The 1997 World Cup featured both of the Umakhanov brothers, with Chamil wrestling up at 63 kg on the team.

Five teams were in the World Cup, and each of the nations wrestled each other. Cross beat Oleg Brandt of Germany, Andro Salazar of Cuba and his Olympic rival Sissaouri of Canada in the first three dual meets. Umakhanov lost his match with Canada's Sissaouri in overtime in his first bout, but came back to beat Brandt and Salazar in the next two matches. Ironically, Salazar beat Sissaouri in the Canada-Cuba dual meet, which meant the individual title was still up for grabs at 58 kg going into the final dual meet.

Both the U.S. and Russia had unbeaten 3-0 records going into that final dual meet, and the team that won the match would be the World Cup champions. The meet started with a wild bout at 54 kg, where Lou Rosselli of the USA edged Leonid Chuchonov, 4-3 in overtime.

The Cross-Umakhanov match ended up being high scoring and entertaining. Cross emerged as a 7-5 winner and received thunderous applause from the hometown crowd in Stillwater. It was to be the last match in an illustrious international career for Cross, who would retire after winning in his final appearance in Gallagher Iba Arena. Umakhanov ended up winning a silver medal at the World Cup, based upon the point totals.

From that point on, the USA dominated Russia for the rest of the dual meet. John Fisher won his match at 63 kg, followed by wins at 69 kg by Townsend Saunders, 76 kg by Pat Smith and 85 kg by Olympic champion Kevin Jackson. When Mike Van Arsdale pulled off some heroics to edge Sergei Kovalevski, 7-6 at 97 kg, the U.S. led the dual meet 7-0. In the final match of the day, two-time Olympic champion Bruce Baumgartner edged Russian star David Musolbes for a clean sweep victory for the United States. The USA won all eight matches against Russia that day, the first and only time the United States won every World Cup bout against Russia, their fiercest rival. It was a historic day for USA Wrestling.

Umakhanov would continue to improve. A tragic accident happened at the Russian National Championships a year later, when the roof fell in at the tournament and killed a number of people, including his brother Chamil. Murad placed fourth at the 1997 World Championships and was fifth at the 1998 Championships at 58 kg. In 1999, Murad moved up to 63 kg, a decision that helped his career. He qualified for Russia's 2000 Olympic Team in Sydney, Australia, and had his best performance ever. He defeated Serafim Barzakov of Bulgaria in the gold-medal finals, and became a 2000 Olympic champion.

Both Umakhanov and Cross decided to make comebacks after their retirements. In 2004, Umakhanov returned to international wrestling and made another Russian Olympic team, this time dropping down to 60 kg/132 pounds. Umakhanov did not win a medal, placing 10th in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, and has not wrestled since.

Cross made a comeback late in 2006. His return was in an all-star dual meet in Russia, and he has since entered international events in Canada and the United States. Now 39 years old, the odds are against Cross, but he has shown that he still has tremendous physical skills and techniques, even after a decade away from the sport.

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 2006 Reza Yazdani vs. Taras Danko bronze medal match at 84 kg/185 lbs. in men's freestyle at the World Wrestling Championships in Guangzhou, China. Many other entertaining and historic matches are in the archive section for the Bout of the Week.
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