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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | WRESTLING

Angle on Stage With Comeback Win

July 31, 1996|Times Wire Services

Kurt Angle turned down a chance to attend the Academy Awards because "I couldn't let it interfere with my training," he said.

Not that he didn't want to go. Make that not that he doesn't want to go. He has acting aspirations and figures that a good performance with the U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team will help.

He got a leg up on that Tuesday when he learned the fear of losing can be an even bigger motivator than the fun of winning, defeating the Ukraine's Sahid Murtazaliyev, 4-3, to reach the Olympic semifinals at 220 pounds.

He is joined by returning U.S. Olympians Kendall Cross at 125 1/2 pounds and Townsend Saunders at 149 1/2.

Because of uneven brackets, Angle had to win three matches to make the semifinals, and Cross and Saunders won twice.

Angle's first two victories came unimpressively over Dolgorsuren Sumiyabazar of Mongolia, 4-0, and Wilfredo Morales of Cuba, 2-0, both in overtime.

Murtazaliyev beat former world champion Arawat Sabijew of Germany, 13-3.

Angel fell behind Murtazaliyev, 3-0, then had to open it up.

"I had to do what I had to do," said Angle of Pittsburgh. "He had just beaten a world champion, and I knew I had to pick up the pace. It got me going."

Angle got a takedown, then tied it with a two-point gut wrench 2:48 into the five-minute match. He scored the decisive, tie-breaking takedown with 49 seconds remaining.

"I knew I had it when I hit the gut wrench," Angle said. "He put his hands on his face, and he knew he was in trouble."

Angle, probably the best American hope for a gold medal with the exception of two-time super heavyweight champion Bruce Baumgartner, meets Konstantin Aleksandrov of Kyrgyzstan in today's semifinals. A big obstacle to the gold medal was removed when Russian Leri Khabelov, a former Olympic and world champion who dropped from 286 pounds, lost in the quarterfinals.

Cross, of Raleigh, N.C., put together solid victories of 10-0 over Talata Embalo of Guinea-Bissau and, 4-2, over Japan's Sanshiro Abe, an NCAA champion last winter at Penn State.

Saunders of Phoenix won 3-1 decisions over Yuksel Sanli of Turkey and Craig Roberts of Canada.

Out of the gold-medal chase after losing are Les Gutches, who upset 180 1/2-pound world champion Kevin Jackson in the U.S. team trials, but lost to former world champion Elmadi Jabrailov of Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals on Tuesday; and Rob Eiter at 105 1/2. Both are alive for possible bronze medals.

Eiter lost his second-round match, 9-2, to Armen Mkrchyan of Armenia but stayed alive by winning in the consolations.

Baumgartner and the four other U.S. freestyle team members begin competition Thursday.

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