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Lowney Gets Two Big Wins

September 25, 2000|From Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia — This was Rocky on a wrestling mat, and the ending keeps getting better.

An inexperienced American, barely out of his teens and eight years younger than any of his teammates, beats a five-time world champion and Olympic favorite. Then he moves one victory away from the gold-medal match.

It just doesn't happen, especially not in the Olympics.

Garrett Lowney made it happen.

In one of the greatest upsets in Olympic wrestling, and certainly in the United States' undistinguished Greco-Roman history, Lowney stunned 213 3/4-pound favorite Gogui Koguachvili of Russia, 8-3, Sunday in overtime.

Lowney didn't let down today, beating Genadi Chkhaidze of Georgia, 2-0, in overtime to move into the semifinals. Chkhaidze had previously eliminated two-time Olympic champion Andrzej Wronski of Poland.

"A lot of people are looking at me and saying, 'Who is this guy?' " Lowney said. "No one in the world had heard of me, except the coaches in the United States. They didn't think anything of me here."

They do now. Lowney made sure he didn't have a letdown Monday following one of the greatest upsets in Olympic wrestling history.

"My coaches talked to me about that," said Lowney, who took a 1-0 lead in the second period on a takedown and added a point in the overtime on a reversal. "They said to come out with the same mind-set."

Lowney wrestles 1996 Olympic silver medalist Mikael Ljungberg in the semifinals.

Koguachvili had won the last three world championships since also failing to win the gold medal in Atlanta in 1996 and was considered a virtual lock to win in Sydney.

"This is the toughest weight class in the Olympics," U.S. Greco-Roman Olympic Coach Dan Chandler said. "There is a lot of intensity out there. Garrett kept his intensity and he kept focused."

Matt Lindland, whose summer-long legal appeal to make the team went all the way to the Supreme Court, won three matches at 167 1/2 pounds (76 kg) to win his four-man pool and advance into the semifinals tonight.

Rulon Gardner, who beat 1996 silver medalist Matt Ghaffari in the U.S. trials, was a 7-2 winner today over Omrane Ayari of Tunisia at heavyweight (286 pounds, 130 kg). Gardner had two more matches later in the day.

Ghaffari took three-time Olympic champion Alexander Karelin into overtime before losing 1-0 in Atlanta, but Gardner said, "I'm not the next Matt Ghaffari. I'm Rulon Gardner."

Gardner was happy with his first Olympic match, saying, "I did what I wanted to do; start slow, then pick up the pace and grind the guy down."

Kevin Bracken reached the quarterfinal round at 138 3/4 pounds (63 kg), but was eliminated from medal contention by losing, 11-5, today to Varteres Samourgachev of Russia.

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