Nigerian 70kg freestyle wrestler John Ogbonna Emmanuel has been rated number one by the United World Wrestling (UWW).
Emmanuel retained his status as champion at the African Wrestling Championships » that held in Port-Harcourt.
The Nigerian wrestler is followed by
Ikhtiyor Navruzov of Uzbekistan, and Egypt’s Amr Reda Ramadan Hussen .
In the 79kg category another Nigerian wrestler Agiomor Ekerekeme announced himself on the world stage as he won his first African title at the continental championships.
Ekerekeme is rated third in the world behind Iranian wrestlers Rashid Kurbanov and Ezzetollah Akabarizarinkolaei who occupy the first and second spots respectively.
Other Nigerian wrestlers on the world ranking.
Robert Daufa rated 7th in the World in the 92kg category
Soso Tamara rated 9th in the World in the 97kg category
Welson Ebikewenimo rated 10th in the World in the 57kg category
Gold medalist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games Sinivie Boltic rated 9th in the World in the 125kg category.
John Emmanuel, is still adding to his silverware. Last year, he won gold at the Governor Seriake Dickson National Championship in Bayelsa State in March and successfully defended his title during Governor Nyesom Wike National Wrestling Championship in Port Harcourt.
He became African Champion by defeating Maher GHANMI of Tunisia by 5-2 in the final of the 70kg category at the African Wrestling Championship in Morocco in August 2017 and should be counted among the hopefuls at the on-going African Wrestling Championship in Port Harcourt.
Iron Monkey, as he’s popularly known, shares his journey in the world of wrestling, amongst other interesting issues, in this lively interview with AKEEM LAWAL. Excerpts…
Retaining national title
I feel very happy because when I became the national at Governor Dickson National championship around April; people were saying it was luck. So I started training hard because I told myself I must win it back to back. To God be the glory, I won it back to back. No, I did not win all my fights because there were strong opponents too, but because I prepared for the worst that was going to happen and I trained very hard. I told my coach that I’m going to do my best to beat everybody 10-0, that nobody will score on me.
Preparing for competition
There is no other way than training. I trained very hard. When you know what to do and you put in more efforts and focus, it’s all yours. Coming second with my state during Governor Nyesom Wike National Wrestling Championship in Port Harcourt was not too bad but my aim was not that second because I believe we were better than many other states in the competition. But we came second because we didn’t have the number of athletes needed. We were supposed to have 90 wrestlers, but we came with few. To God be the glory, the few came second. In fact, it is a great achievement for us.
Coach Purity said we should be prepared that we are coming to Port Harcourt to dominate. Glory is to God, we dominated although we did not have the numbers of athletes needed. He said we should prepare our minds that everybody would win and to glory be to God, everybody won.
Ondo as hotbed for wrestling
From Ondo, we have the world wrestling championship silver medallist, Odun Adekuoroye, and Commonwealth gold medallist, Aminat Adeniyi .When you are training with people that have more records than you do, that have more experience, that one alone gives you confident because they have seen it all. They have attended the highest competition in this world, so I believe that with them, we are good to go. There are no other two ways, when they tell you to do something, you have to do it. When you need to know something, you ask them how to go about it because they know the right answer and they will explain to you how you will do it. And by the time you do it, it will be right. Secondly, when you watch their match, maybe Odunayo in Pro Wrestling League, you will be highly motivated to do more than her because when she is fighting, she always fights like a lion. So everybody wants to be like her and even more than her.
Being African champion for the first time
When I went for the national championship in Bayelsa, I prepared ahead. Even my coach said he was not training me for the Bayelsa Championship, because he knew what I have is more than that. He was preparing me for the African championship. I too made up my mind that whatever it takes, I would go there and break the record. As a first timer, I won gold at the African championship and I believe that I can do it again.
Ahead of 2018 African championship
When 50 people are going for a competition and it is just only one gold medal. Everybody will tell you they want to win that gold. If you ask them one after the other, nobody wants to win silver. I believe it is not all about saying it with your mouth, but putting it in action and taking your training more difficult than you do. You will be serious, focused on the training. I believe everything is in God’s hand, if you ask Him for anything, He will do it accordingly to how you feel that you want it to be and you work towards it.
I don’t put myself under unnecessary pressure because wrestling is in my blood. In fact, I like doing wrestling anytime, any day. There is no pressure that is more than God. If you train very hard, there will be no problem. When others are shaking, you will stay strong. I’m not under any pressure at all.
Breakthrough into wrestling
I used to fight a lot in primary school. Even, I used to be proud that nobody can defeat me. But I did not discover myself. Even the toughest guy in primary six, I was the only guy that defeated him. But when we got to JSS One, there was a girl that everybody was scared of. The girl, Bitola Makanjuola (2-time national champion 59kg), used to beat everybody in school, lock them, carry them up and smack them on the ground and I was surprised. That I’ve not seen any girl that can defeat me, that was how we started. One fateful day, we went to play football and I told my teammate to mark another person that I wanted to mark the girl. So as we were playing, she played rough against me and I warned her. She did it the second and third time and the next time she did that, I gave her a punch and she retaliated and we started fighting. Then I did not know what they called her arm throw. So she wanted to give me arm throw but I removed my hand. I said if this is your trick that you used to catch all these small boys, I’m not going to fall for it. Later, one teacher now came out and said we should explain ourselves. From that day I was imagining where this girl had her tricks, even though I did not fall for the trick; that I should go to where she used to learn. That was how I went to the stadium for the first time because of wrestling.
I’ve been going to the stadium before to catch fun, play ball, but that was the first day in my career. When I entered the hall in the Indoor Hall of the stadium, I saw all of them including the same girl, they were training. So I said this is the kind of training that this girl does to beat people. So after watching them, I made up my mind to join them in training so that I can use what I learn to do street fight (laughs). Honestly, it was not funny. I joined because of street fights, but when I joined the girl said ‘you have come now.’ She started laughing at me that she beat me at school and that was why I came to the stadium to come and learn. But she did not know my intention. So even when I joined, they told us that if you know you wanted to join, they would register you but you must not fight outside. I was so disappointed because that was the reason why I wanted to do the sport.
So since then, I started training and after my secondary school, I faced it fully. My first championship was schools sports and I won gold. In the Junior Cadet, I’ve won lots of gold medals.
Lessons from street fights
In the street where I live, if they know that one guy is champion, that he is learning how to fight in stadium, people will be planning how to defeat you to be number one in the street. Before I take on anybody, I will first warn him or her before I start. So later, I now thought that all the strength I’m using in fighting on the streets, I can use it in wrestling on the mat. Now, if anybody wants to fight me, I will just look at that person and laugh. My parents were not against my going into wrestling. It’s just that we are many and if one said he wants to do this, no problem.