Come November 2017, River state will host the Governor Nyesom Wike Wrestling Championship which is like a flash back for President of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation (NWF) – Daniel Igali who dumped his own state and instead won the only gold medal for Borno state in any wrestling championship.
The NWF President in a chat with aclsports.com disclosed how a village boy of of seventeen years became a national champion.
Igali said he was in the village when a set of coaches scouted him. “They had heard of a kid in the village who was a good wrestler and two coaches were asked to come to the village to get me. I was taken from the village to Yenagoa for a tournament. Luckily for me I won my weight class in Yenagoa and I got an invite to Port Harcourt where I also won in the 52kg weight category but could not make the Rivers state team for the National Wrestling Championship in Makurdi”.
Igali said he was left out of the Rivers team but Coach Jackson Bidei begged the then director of sports to take him to Makurdi. “My coach, Jackson Bidei felt I had talent, he convinced the director of sports to allow me go to Makurdi for the national championships to observe and get experience. That’s how I went to Makurdi with the then Rivers state team. At the competition, other states had heard about me and made inquiries for me to compete for them to actually get hands on experience”.
“That’s how I was loaned to Borno state. And I ended up winning the gold medal. If am not mistaken, It’s the only gold medal Borno has won at the national senior level”, he said.
Igali recalled that he was told to ‘disappear’ in the quarterfinals when he was paired with then African champion. “Okoro Egbe was the then African champion and was the one that beat me at the trials in Rivers State. I didn’t wrestle him at that tournament. When I was to wrestle him at the quarter finals I was told to ‘disappear’. So I withdrew for him” the Olympian said.
“He lost subsequently and I beat everyone to win the gold and that was my first ever national tournament. At the age of seventeen, I got a call to resume camp (That was my first year on the national team). I went to the 1991 All African Games winning a silver medal in the Greco-Roman”.
He said a month after winning the National championships, Coach David Onoapo of Plateau state came to the village with an offer of employment. “I took the offer and competed for Plateau state from 1990-1994 when I left for Canada. I was the 1993-94 Plateau state Athlete of the Year.”