For the first time since the inception of Africa Wrestling Championships, Nigeria fielded 90 athletes – 30 in the Cadet, 30 in the Junior and another 30 in the senior category.
Nigeria had over 15 African Championships, 5 Commonwealth gold medalists, 3 Commonwealth silver medalists, 5 Commonwealth Bronze medalists, a World Wrestling Silver medalists and All Africa Games champions.
For five days, the Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic Centre in Port Harcourt, Rivers State played host to over 20 countries and over 500 wrestlers who were gunning for medals. The Championships was supported by the Rivers State Government under the leadership of Governor Nyesom Wike in collaboration with the Nigeria Wrestling Federation led by Daniel Igali.
Team Nigeria gave a good account of itself emerging victorious in four different categories. Nigeria were the overall winners in the cadet women’s wrestling, Junior freestyle wrestling, Senior male freestyle wrestling as well as Senior Female freestyle wrestling.
In the senior female freestyle wrestling, Nigeria won nine gold medals through Mercy Genesis (50kg), Bose Samuel (53kg), Ifeoma Nwoye (55kg), Odunayo Adekuoroye (57kg), Bisola Makanjuola (59kg),Aminat Adeniyi (62kg), Hannah Reuben (65kg), Blessing Oborududu (68kg) and Gofit Winnie (72kg).
The senior male freestyle wrestlers who most observers thought would disappoint Nigeria were not to be denied in the medals’ stake. Ekerekeme Agiomor who made his international debut hardwork was rewarded with his beating of South Africa’s Fredylan Marais to win a gold medal. Amas Daniel (six-time Africa champion), John Emmanuel (two-time Africa champion) and Melvin Bibo (Three-time Africa champion) wrote their names in the history books once more.
Replicating the form of the senior female wrestlers, the Cadet female athletes seems to have found worthy role models. ACLSports.com observed that seven medals out of nine came from Ondo State, Nigeria which harbours some of the best wrestlers in the country.
Those who won medals in the category are; Sunmisola Idowu Balogun (65kg), Tolu Ogunsanya (46kg), Yetunde Oluwatoyin (40kg), Esther Kolawole (61kg), Cecilia James (68kg) and Mercy Adekuoroye (53kg).
Others are Natasha Essien won silver medal, while Esther Asaolu (43kg) and Aina Ohida (49kg) won bronze medals.
The junior freestyle wrestlers were not left out winning 3 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals ahead of Algeria and Egypt.
During the opening ceremony of the African Wrestling Championships, the President of Nigeria Wrestling Federation, Daniel Igali charged athletes to exhibit the spirit of sportsmanship, stating the championships is not a do or die affair.
As it stands, there is no doubt Nigeria’s strength lies in the female teams and the country must do everything humanly possible in ensuring they attend international Grand Prix and invitational tournaments.
Meanwhile, Sunmisola Balogun, a 65kg Cadet Women’s wrestler is Nigeria’s only representative at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.
In total, Nigeria finished with 26 gold, 19 silver and 18 bronze medals while Egypt followed with 22 gold, 17 silver and 7 bronze medals, while in third place is Algeria with 16 gold, 10 silver and 11 bronze medals.