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Original Issue


"What did she say?" asked Dennis Hall with a lift in his voice
as he stood in a parking lot outside the Georgia World Congress
Center last night. In his left hand, Hall, the best Greco-Roman
wrestler in the U.S., held a silver medal, a consolation prize
for his 4-1 loss to Yuriy Melnichenko of Kazakhstan in the gold
medal match of the 125.5-pound division. Hall's postmatch
answers to the media had bordered on the formulaic. But now,
when the topic turned to his wrestling future, a reporter
relayed to Hall that his wife, Chrissy, had been asked if she
would support her husband if he wanted to pursue the gold in
Sydney in 2000. Hall stopped suddenly, and his eyes opened wide
with anticipation.

For the record, Chrissy said, "If he wants to, I'll be behind
him 100 percent."

For the record, Dennis, who was trying to become the third
American ever to win Greco-Roman gold (the other two came in the
watered-down field of the communist-boycotted '84 Games), smiled
and said, "Then I'm good to go. Sydney's a ways away, but I
haven't accomplished my goal yet, and that's to win a gold medal."

When the Olympics move to Sydney in four years, Hall will be 29,
Melnichenko 28. Both men sounded as if their rivalry--the Kazakh
has a 2-1 advantage--might develop into one of the sport's
enduring ones. "A lot can happen in four years," Melnichenko
said, "but I hope if we meet in four years, it will be in the
finals again."

The steely-eyed Melnichenko had a great game plan yesterday.
"I've been preparing for this match for an entire year," he said
later, hearkening back to his loss to Hall at the 1995 world
championships in Prague. He knew he had to take the partisan
crowd out of the match early to prevent Hall from gaining a
mental edge.

Melnichenko did it in a big way. As is his custom, Hall sprinted
from his locker room to the mat and began egging on the crowd.
"I've never had a crowd support me like that," he said. But 90
seconds into the five-minute match, Melnichenko caught an
exposed Hall and flipped him. He scored three points for the
lift-and-throw, and the three officials awarded him an
appreciation point for the fine move. Hall scored a late point
on a takedown, but in Greco-Roman, a four-point lead is all but
insurmountable, especially in a gold medal match.

Afterward Hall waved an American flag, hugged Chrissy and
slapped hands with 100 or so fans. "I'm not happy with the
silver," he said, "but it's still something I'll treasure for
the rest of my life. Sometimes things don't happen the way
you've planned, but you adjust and go on. That's the challenge."

On his way out of the arena, Hall spotted Floridian John
Vaughan, a big financial supporter of Greco-Roman wrestling in
the U.S. "We'll meet again," Hall told Vaughan, meaning Hall
hasn't seen the last of Melnichenko. "And it isn't going to
happen this way again, I promise you."

COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Melnichenko (left) all but wrapped up the gold with this early lift-and-throw. [Yuriy Melnichenko and Dennis Hall]