His team trailed by three points heading into the last of eight bouts wrestled in the dual meet. And American 286-pounder Kerry McCoy knew what had to be done.
Not only did his team need a pin or a technical fall -- worth four points either way, but McCoy's opponent, Ebrahim Mehraban of Iran, also had to be held scoreless to keep the Americans on pace for a shot at their ninth World Cup dual meet crown in last night's 12th annual event at the Baltimore Arena.
McCoy built a 5-0 lead before pinning his man in 2:31, hoisting the United States to a 16-15 victory over Iran, and sending the American fans into a frenzy.
"I couldn't let him score -- that was the first thing that came into my head. Then I figured, a win by a shutout will give us a chance to tie and go to criteria," said McCoy, 26, a native of Bethlehem, Pa., who is trying to win his third World Cup title in the five-team, round-robin affair. "But I knew if I had a chance to put him on his back, he wasn't getting off."
Entering the second day of competition today, Russia leads the way with 41 points, followed by the United States with 40 and Iran with 38. Russia meets Iran at 11:30 a.m. and the Americans face Turkey before taking on Russia at 5 p.m.
Michael Jordan would be very popular in Iran, but probably a distant second to the country's national hero, Ali Reza Dabier. The 2000 Olympic gold medalist was empowered by chants of "Iran, Iran" from his 3,000 or so countrymen -- who made up perhaps 70 percent of the Arena crowd -- and edged American defending champ Cary Kolat, 4-3, to gain the inside track toward the title.
Considered the two best 138.75-pound freestyle wrestlers, Dabier is a slick technician while Kolat is a stocky and powerful former two-time NCAA champ. Kolat won last year's crown at George Mason's Patriot Center in February 2000, dominating with a pin, two technical falls and a forfeit.
Dabier dictated the action early, leading 2-0 and, 4-1. Kolat turned him briefly to his back for two points with 36 seconds left. Dabier went into a defensive mode and was able to hold on for the victory.
"I just moved to this weight two months ago from a lower weight class. Naturally, I was concerned, but my hope was to God, and God helped me," said Dabier, who blew kisses toward heaven, and toward his fans after the bout. "I almost lost points at the end, but I was not as strong as I will be at this weight, later on."
Dabier's was one of three bouts won by Iran in the first four matches as the visitors took a 10-5 lead. Iran got a 3-0 decision over Teague Moore from defending champ Golam Mohammadi (119), who crushed his earlier opponent from Turkey, 11-0, and another decision from Mehdi Baraati (152). America's Kerry Bowmans (127.5) overcame a 1-0 deficit to beat Iran's Masoud Mostafa Joukar, 5-2.
The Americans, who trailed all the way, got decisions by defending champ Joe Williams (167.5) and Charles Burton (187.25), the latter by 3-2 in overtime against Ahmad Shekofteh, to come within, 12-11, with two bouts left. But Ali Reza Heidari (213.75) built a 3-0 lead on Dominic Black en route to a 4-1 victory, making the overall score, 15-12, and quieting the U.S. crowd.
Wrestled once per year, the World Cup is one of amateur wrestling's three major events along with the Olympics, wrestled every four years, and the World Championships, which is held every non-Olympic year.
The U.S. team dethroned Russia last year at the Patriot Center. Iran, whose fans purchased nearly 6,000 tickets for this year's event, were surprise silver medalists, with Russia taking the bronze.
"In Iran, there are two major sports -- soccer and wrestling. Dabier and Heidari are like Michael Jordan and Vince Carter in Iran," said Behrang Sohrabi, who was born in Iran before coming to America when he was 2 years old. "For me, it's a great event. It's my second year covering it. It's a dream come true to be able to spend time with them at the hotel, understand what they're about."
The 19-year-old Oakland Mills High graduate was on hand as both a fan and a reporter. He was among five representatives covering the event for Iran Sports Press Internet reporting service.
United States 16, Iran 15
119--Golam Mohammadi (Iran) d. Teague Moore, 3-0.
127.75--Kerry Bowmans (US) d. Massoud Mostafa Joukar, 5-2.
138.75--Ali Reza Dabier (Iran) d. Cary Kolat, 4-3.
152--Mehdi Baraati (Iran) d. Chris Bono, 2-1.
167.5--Joe Williams (US) d. Mehdi Akbarnejad, 4-2.
187.25--Charles Burton (US) d. Ahmad Shekofteh, 3-2, OT.
213.75--Ali Reza Heidari (Iran) d. Dominic Black, 4-1.
286--Kerry McCoy (US) p. Edrahim Mehraban, 2:31.
United States 24, Uzbekistan 5
Russia 19, Turkey 10
Iran 23, Turkey 8
Russia 22, Uzbekistan 11
Turkey 18, Uzbekistan 14