Location: Good Ole USA
Registered: October 24, 2002
Just inducted into the Division II Hall of Fame.
From the Kearney Hub
Without wrestling, I’d be dead by now,’ says Hall of Fame inductee
By BUCK MAHONEY, Hub Sports Editor
KEARNEY — Ali Elias lost seven matches while wrestling for the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Four were injury defaults. Two others came at the national tournament.
Former coach Ed Scantling doesn’t hesitate to say that Elias is “without a doubt” the best wrestler ever at UNK.
“He just came to us a little late in life. If he’d been a little younger, a little more flexible, he probably would have avoided a couple of those injuries,” Scantling said.
And without the injuries …
“I’ve got to believe those coaches around that would remember him would readily agree, without those injuries, he would have been a four-time champion.”
Elias will be inducted into the NCAA Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame tonight at the Kearney Ramada Inn.
“It’s a dream. It’s unbelievable,” Elias said of his Hall of Fame selection. “This is the big one. Not very many people get chosen. ... and I’m very excited for it.”
Elias, who legally changed his name from Amiri-Eliasi, won the 150-pound NAIA national championship in 1990 and the NCAA Division II national title in 1991. The next two years, he finished third and second while wrestling with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 1992 and a ruptured pectoral major his senior year.
“Wrestling is a tough sport, especially in the lower classes. You need both arms and both legs to perform well, and I had one side. My left side was basically 50, 60 percent,” he said.
Elias dealt with the injuries as he’s dealt with life. He never sat out, making the best of what he had available.
It’s been tougher for him in life.
A Kurd who grew up in Iran near the Iraqi border, he fought in the Iran-Iraq war but spoke out against the government. He then fled the country to Germany.
Already well-known in wrestling circles — he was a junior world runner-up and a high school world champion in 1978 as well as a five-time Iranian national champion and a member of the national team — Elias made his mark on the mat in Germany.
While living in Germany, he posted a 125-1 record, losing only when he moved up a weight class to wrestle the No. 3-ranked wrestler in the world.
While in Germany, he was selected for a cultural exchange team that wrestled in America. That eventually led to his coming to Kearney, where he enrolled as a 27-year-old freshman.
“Without wrestling, I’d be dead by now,” Elias said. “Through wrestling, I achieved my personality, my education, my friends. It made me a physically and mentally tough person.
“I came from a different culture. I had a lot of friends who became addicted to drugs. If you don’t have a goal, society is going to beat you. Because of wrestling, I stayed on the right path. I stayed focused and did well.”
Scantling, now UNK’s dean of education, saw Elias’ focus up close.
“He had an intense desire to be successful. It drove him to be in the best shape of anybody I’ve ever been around. He would work out for six hours a day. Practice was just fun for him,” Scantling said. “And he was able to set goals for himself outside the wrestling world. He was on a mission to get an education and become an educated man. … He used wrestling as a vehicle to accomplish his goals of having a career and make something of himself.”
Since leaving UNK, Elias has been a teacher and wrestling coach in Texas, Florida and now Maryland. He lives in Silver Springs, Md., just north of Washington, D.C., and he teaches at the Bullis High School, a private school in Potomac, Md. He’s also the coach of a club team.
“That’s what I always wanted to do. What I planned 20 years ago was to be a teacher and a coach,” Elias said.
He continues to work out daily with his students — “I’m addicted to workouts,” he said — and he gave Shootfighting, a mixed martial arts similar to ultimate fighting, a shot. He had a 20-2 record from 1995-2000, and held the world title in 1999.
But he has never strayed from teaching, something he couldn’t have done in Iran.
“His desire was to impress on the wrestlers we had on our team at the time the importance of education. He went out of his way to tell our wrestlers to get an education and what an opportunities they had by being Americans, the freedoms they enjoy and the right they had to get an education,” Scantling said. “We learned as much from Ali as he ever learned from us.”
Registered: December 13, 2005
Isn't America great. Here is another adopted son, from the axis of evil no less (sic), recieving a standing ovation at the Div. II national championships. Ali Elias, you are an American. I don't care where you were born. Congradualtions for a well deserved award of recognition for your contribution to a great way of life. Please I pray, don't close our borders so tight that more, just like you, can't get in.
Registered: March 21, 2005
Well said, moosehead. I would also add a note to all incoming immigrants. Please follow the example of this fine man, Ali Elias. Don't come here to see what you can take. Come here to see what you can give and you will find you don't have to take. It will be given to you. GOD BLESS AMERICA.
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