Photo: Matt Ghaffari (right) takes on Alexander Karelin of Russia. Photo courtesy of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Welcome to a new weekly series on TheMat.com called USA Wrestling History Lesson. Each week, we will highlight one athlete that has wrapped up his or her wrestling career, sharing the impact that they’ve had on the sport.
This week, we take a look at Matt Ghaffari, one of the most decorated Greco-Roman athletes in USA Wrestling history.
Ghaffari emigrated from Iran to the U.S. as a teenager and put together solid high school and collegiate careers before taking on the international styles at the Senior level.
Originally dipping his toe into freestyle, Ghaffari placed at both the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Trials at heavyweight but a man named Bruce Baumgartner stood in his way. In 1989, he changed his focus to Greco-Roman, leading him to become an American legend.
Between 1990 and 1998, Ghaffari made seven World and Olympic Teams. Below are his results:
- 1990 World Championships (Ostia, Italy) – sixth
- 1991 World Championships (Varna, Bulgaria) – silver
- 1992 Olympic Games (Barcelona, Spain) – 11th
- 1994 World Championships (Tampere, Finland) – sixth
- 1995 World Championships (Prague, Czech Republic) – bronze
- 1996 Olympic Games (Atlanta, USA) – silver
- 1998 World Championships (Gaevle, Sweden) – silver
Ghaffari was SO close to a gold medal at the ’96 Olympic Games, taking Russian legend Alexander Karelin into overtime of the Olympic finals before falling short, 1-0. Ghaffari also went head-to-head with Karelin in the finals of the 1991 and 1998 World Championships.
In addition to being the only American with four World/Olympic medals in Greco-Roman, Ghaffari also owns eight Pan American Championships gold medals (one in freestyle) as well as gold medals from the 1991 and 19995 Pan American Games.
In 2013, Ghaffari was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member, which is the highest honor.