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#ThrowbackThursday USA Wrestling History Lesson: Kenny Monday

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | June 25, 2020, 3:17 p.m. (ET)

Welcome to a new weekly series on 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 Kenny Monday, a two-time Olympic medalist and three-time Olympian.

A native of Tulsa, Okla., Monday was a wrestling phenom from a young age, not losing a match from seventh grade through the end of his high school career. After wrapping up his college career at Oklahoma State, where he won an NCAA title, Monday tried his hand on the Senior international scene.

In 1988, Monday defeated reigning Olympic champion Dave Schultz in two-straight matches for the 74 kg Olympic spot. He went on to claim the Olympic gold medal with an overtime win over defending World champion Aldan Varaev of the Soviet Union, becoming the first African-American in USA Wrestling history to win an Olympic title!

The very next year, Monday won his second-straight gold medal, defeating 1988 Olympic champion Arsen Fadzayev of the USSR, who moved up a weight class for the 1989 World Championships.

In addition to his 1988 Olympic medal, Monday also scored a 1992 Olympic silver medal, despite an elbow injury. He also made an appearance at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he finished sixth.

After wrapping up his wrestling career, Monday had a short stint as an MMA fighter.

Below are some of his most notable international wrestling results:

  • 1988 Olympic Games (Seoul, Korea) – gold
  • 1988 Tblisi Tournament (Tbilisi, Georgia) – gold
  • 1989 World Championships (Martigny, Switzerland) – gold
  • 1991 Pan American Championships – gold
  • 1991 Pan American Games – gold
  • 1991 World Championships (Varna, Bulgaria) – silver
  • 1992 Olympic Games (Barcelona, Spain) – silver
  • 1996 Olympic Games (Atlanta, USA) – sixth

In 2001, Monday was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member, the highest honor, and in 2018, he became the fifth American freestyle athlete to be inducted into the United World Wrestling International Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Continuing his legacy, Monday has held a number of coaching positions, including co-head coach at Oklahoma State in 1992, while he was still competing, and later, he served as an assistant coach at OSU. He also coached at MMA gyms around the country, including Team Takedown in Dallas, Texas, and the Blackzilians in Florida. Currently, he is the head coach of the TarHeel Regional Training Center at the University of North Carolina.

Check out Monday's legendary match against Fadzayev for the 1989 World Championship title: