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Americans Face Grueling Test

September 30, 2000

The four American freestyle wrestlers who can win Olympic medals Sunday hope they don't get struck down by the curse of Karelin.

Because of a curious schedule, Terry Brands, Kerry McCoy, Lincoln McIlravy and Charles Burton had only one match each Friday and today, then must wrestle three times Sunday to win medals.

The four won their pools today to advance to the quarterfinals Sunday. Going into gold-medal matches later today for Sammie Henson and Brandon Slay, the United States was 12-0 in freestyle since Friday.

"This is what we came here to do," U.S. Coach Bruce Burnett said. "You've got to know that our guys came here to wrestle. They're conditioned and, technically, they are great right now."

Still, while it might sound easy for trained athletes to wrestle three times in a day, it isn't. Should each match go into overtime, that's 27 minutes on the mat apiece, with only a 30-second time-out in each match.

Unlike the last two days, the matches will go almost nonstop. Each would wrestle two times in the morning, then come back after a 90-minute break for the medal matches that afternoon.

Even the best-conditioned athletes can crumble under such a workload--maybe even Karelin, the three-time Greco-Roman Olympic champion from Russia.

Brands made sure he didn't spend any more time on the mat than necessary today, defeating Chvitsa Polychronidis of Greece, 8-1, at 127 3/4 pounds.

McCoy, who had to beat 1999 world freestyle wrestler of the year Stephen Neal just to win the U.S. heavyweight trials, also was an easy winner, 10-0 over Rajab Ashabaliyev of Azerbaijan in 4:52. Burton won by the same score at 187 1/4 pounds over Gregory-Herve Martinelli of Switzerland.

McIlravy started slowly before beating Yuksel Sanli of Turkey, 6-3, at 152 pounds.

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