East Coast beats Midwest in Dinka Bor inter-regional U.S. wrestling competition

OMAHA—Hundreds flocked to Omaha, Nebraska during the Memorial Weekend to witness a historic South Sudan’s Dinka Bor wrestling which was held on Saturday, May 25, 2013. After an eventful evening marked by rich cultural festivities around wrestling entertainment and traditional dance, it was a clear win for East Coast with the top 3 wrestlers from East Coast defeating their Midwestern opponents.

pic 241The Midwest got 2 wins in the middle of the contest although the East Coast is yet to concede on one case later to be discussed in the article. But as of now, the overall tally stands at 3 wins for the East and 1 win for Midwest as opposed to the judges’ earlier ruling that awarded 3 wins for the East and 2 wins for the West. In any case, East Coast carried the day and Midwest has graciously conceded.

Below is the breakdown of the match including results as declared by the judges and dissents as articulated by the East Coast Chairman, Anei Nhial Anei, and his leadership team.

Wrestlers, their U.S. regions, Payams back in South Sudan, and wrestling outcomes

East Coast team

Midwest team


Yuot Mach Thon

(Kolnyang Payam)



Manyang Mabior

(Anyidi Payam)

Yuot won fair and square

Thuom Aluong Mathiang

(Makuach Payam)

Riak Mayen

(Kolnyang Payam)

Thuom won fair and square

Chol Majok Aguto

(Kolnyang Payam)

Deng Malual Deng

(Nyuak Payam)

Deng won but his win is conceded by the East on condition that the same rule applies to Leek’s and Alier’s situation which will result in a draw for Leek and Alier!

Gak Atem

(Pakeer Payam)

Lual Makuach

(Jalle Payam)

Gak Atem won fair and square

Leek Nhiany Leek (Anyidi Payam)

Michael Alier Maguet

(Makuach Payam)

Alier is declared the winner but his win is contested by the East because Leek’s touching of the ground with one hand is similar to Deng-Chol’s touching the ground with one knee which was not counted as a loss!

Mayen Chiengkou

(Baaidit Payam)

Garang Kongor

(Lith Payam)



Deng Makuek Deng

(Duk-Padiet Payam)

Ajak Gai

(Baaidit Payam)



Lual Deng Awan

(Pakeer Payam)

Achiek Maluk Deng

(Anyidi Payam)



Bul Ajak

(Lith Payam)

Marial manyang

(Makuach Payam)



Mayol Aguto

(Kolnyang Payam)

Wach Abit

(Lith Payam)



Jool Marol

(Baaidit Payam)

Atem Garang (Atem-Ajith)

(Ajuong Payam)


































The inter-regional wrestling initiative was planned and organized by the US East coast and Midwest teams. These men and women labored for almost a year to craft, plan and structure the details of the wrestling initiative. The leadership of both teams wisely allocated limited resources to capture the essence, spirit and core communal values. Indeed, the excitement was overwhelming and overflowing on Saturday. This wrestling initiative was one of the rare joyous moments here in the States because it galvanized and instantaneously transformed the crowd into a sea of elated and delighted people of one community.

pic 231It brought the long overdue unity, peace, and harmony among the participants and spectators either from East or West including from those who hail from communities that aren’t part of Greater Bor Community. The Chairman of Midwest team, Mr. Jacob Aguer Ajang conceded the defeat but also added “that winning and losing in this particular contest is the flavor of the day.” He stressed that “what is important is our culture and our children have learned from this experience we made available to them today.” He added that “it was a peaceful event that ended peacefully and those young men, 22 of them (11 from each team), and supporters from both East and West must be commended for showing restraint and professionalism during the contest.” He concluded that “we can show to the world and our people here and back home that our culture unites us and we will continue to champion it in the days and years ahead.” The Midwest Coach, Makech Kuol, who hand-delivered the flag to his Eastern Counterpart, Dau Nuul Garang, as a show of concession echoed his chair’s statement that “in the end, it is about our culture.” He stressed that “the point of doing this all along goes beyond individuals but rather it is about our community and the success of today’s function vindicates our long held view that wrestling can be done here in the States peacefully and successfully, and our community will rally behind it. It happened today.”

Echoing the statements made by their conceding Midwestern counterparts, the East Coast Chairman, Anei Nhial Anei, and his deputy, Nhial Kon Chaw, thanked Midwestern leadership, and community for welcoming and hosting East Coast guests in their community. They thanked the entire west for its hospitality and they offered to reciprocate should similar event happens in the East Coast next time. They of course celebrated their wonderful victory and they gave credit to not only wrestlers who put themselves forward to take on this difficult assignment but also to the selfless and tireless Head Coach, Dau Nuul Garang (Ayoom) and his Deputy, Mangok Mach Bol (Chieng Tiit Mior), for designing the winning strategy “that brought down Midwestern wrestlers on their backyard.” The East Coast, Chairman, Anei Nhial Anei, thanked all the leadership team members and the entire East Coast region for supporting the wrestlers. The chair thanked Michigan for coming aboard with full force and he actually said “all great things through which our community finds common ground begin in Michigan” and he said he “loves Michigan just like he loves New York, Massachusetts (Boston), Vermont, and the rest of the East Coast states.”

Humbled by compliments and accolades for coaching a winning team, Dau Nuul Garang, said “the only thing I am proud of is leading a team from a united community and leading wrestlers who listen to the advice and instructions from the coaches.” Dau said that he and his deputy Mangok designed a strategy that was supported by the leadership and by the players and that made his work a lot easier. Dau added that he has no desire in being thanked for coaching a winning team other than the fact that he has his culture and his community at heard and that was why he drove 24 hours to manage the wrestling mechanics on the field, and then drove back that same night 24 hours back East in order to work Monday evening because he did not have Monday off like everybody else. Dau said he is “proud of not only his team which has won but also of all who have participated in different ways to make this historic occasion a success.”

Nevertheless, it is not a surprise that those who invested in this event were proud of their accomplishments because they had to since unforeseen surprises could have happened such as people breaking their limbs or fighting breaking out during the occasion. But none of those happened and that was a huge relief especially for the chairs and coaches of both teams. It will be interesting to see how the larger Greater Bor Community and beyond will react to this historic event. It is highly likely that another region will challenge the East for future showdown.

As far as the specifics of this wrestling contest are concerned, the Sudanese communities in the United States have been waiting for wrestling contest between Yuot Mach of East coast and Manyang Mabior of Midwest. These Renowned wrestlers squared off on Saturday, May 25, 2013 in Omaha, Nebraska. They vowed to demonstrate to the world that one’s culture is more precious than the luxurious western life. Their wrestling dreams did not only excite and unite their community but it also rejuvenated Dinka Bor cultural activities here in the United States. This historic event attracted hundreds of spectators from various South Sudanese communities across the United States. It became clear that South Sudanese in the nearby provinces of Canada also attended the event. Over one thousand people converged at Omaha, Nebraska to witness Dinka Bor first historic wrestling contest in the United States of America.

The East Coast and Midwest region leaders took many months of preparations in order to ensure that all the activities, programs and entertainments were carried out efficiently and effectively as planned. The wrestlers were coached and trained by the wrestling experts in their respective regions. The East Coast coaching team was led by Dau Nuul Garang while the Midwest coaching team was led by Makech Kuol. Each team had conducted multiple rehearsals prior to this historic event. They held their rehearsals and practices to determine the best and strongest wrestler in the league. Both teams were also coached by renowned individuals specialized in one or more areas of wrestling. While the coaching specifics were in the domains of the coaches aforementioned, the strategies, policies, and directions of the events were left up to the chairs of each regional team who in this case were Anei Nhial Anei of the East Coast, and Jacob Aguer Ajang of Midwest. As alluded to, both teams were led and coached well, but the East Coast edged out in the end.

pic 161The wrestling between Yuot Mach and Manyang Mabior was the biggest highlight of the day. The duo competed in a physical combat reminiscent of Bor Town wrestling match. It is known that in a Dinka wrestling, the contesters engage in a freestyle wrestling. This means an individual can use any means necessary short of violence to take his opponent down. However, the East coast team was well prepared, and their wining strategies were premiered by Yuot Mach, Thuom Aluong and Gak Atem. In their sequences, they came out swinging and determined to win. They used strategic left hand grabbing and necks to score their victorious points. They wrestled down their opponents from Midwest. In fact, left hand grabbing strategy was primarily used by Yuot who grabbed and pulled Manyang near the ground, and quickly slammed his left leg and allowed him to hit the ground on his back in less than three minutes. However, Thuom and Gak used lifting strategy to throw down their opponents on the spot.

As it turned out as disclosed by Dau Nuul and Mangok Mach as Head Coach and Deputy Coach respectively, East Coast Strategy challenged wrestlers to prevent their opponents from reaching their legs at all costs while their counter-attacks were precisely to reach their opponents feet with the goal of lifting and throwing them down. In the end, Yuot used left leg slamming, Thuom, and Gak used lifting and the rest used different kinds of counter-attacks. But what was consistent throughout the wrestling contest was all East Coast wrestlers blocked their opponents from reaching their feet. It was a great strategy that was designed by coaches and they thank wrestlers for sticking to their instructions. As Dau put it, it was premised on “win whenever you can but if overwhelmed, root for a draw” and it earned them unquestioned victory.

The Community members and judges all agreed that this wrestling contest was a disaster for Midwest team because the first three wrestlers from Midwest all lost very badly because their defeats were unquestionable. However, Deng Malual Deng (Deng-Chol) revived the Midwest team. His victory over Chol Majok was classic and remarkable in terms of special techniques he used to wrestle his opponent down. Nobody in the crowd would have thought that Deng Malual would win over Chol Majok. Chol grabbed Deng’s leg and spun him and almost brought him near the ground. Miraculously, Deng changed his gears, refused to fall and instantaneously flipped over Chol when the duo almost were about a foot from the ground allowing Chol to hit the ground while Deng remained above him.

Further, one cannot simply dismiss the classic wrestling between Ajak Gai and Deng Makuek. These two muscular individuals were being applauded by the crowd for their competence and wrestling’s techniques that earned them delightful laughter and roars from the spectators and cheerers. Although Ajak Gai almost won, Deng Makuek’s resilience prevailed and even dominated at the last minute of the contest. When they ran out of time, both were exhausted and weren’t ready to continue anymore.

The judges were Bul Dau Gak, Lim Manyiel Lim, and Deng Garang Manyok; all three had decades of wrestling experience back home and were given full authority to issue the final and lasting verdicts. These judges explained rules and regulations of wrestling to contesters prior to a start of the contest. They were responsible for determining winners, losers as well as violations and disqualifications of reckless wrestlers. According to judges they have ruled that three Eastern wrestlers and 2 western wrestlers have won.

However, as referenced earlier, the East coast did not concede on the judges’ ruling that Leek Nhiany Leek was defeated and the East Coast is even challenging the inconsistencies that were inherent in the rulings made by the judges especially on two contests that are now claimed to be Midwest victories. The Chair of the East Coast team, Anei Nhial Anei, conceded that Leek has indeed touched the ground with one hand but he added that they were still up with Alier and shockingly one of the judges apparently ran and separated the two when in fact the presiding referee hasn’t blown the whistle and that is problematic. The chair of the East Coast team is also making further claim that Deng Malual Deng (Deng-Chol) who later faced Chol Majok Aguto hit the ground with one knee but the referee who was supposed to separate them, assuming the same logic used to separate Leek and Alier still held, instead told the East Coast cheering crowd that it wasn’t enough to be counted as a win for the East and loss for the West. Anei argued that “if that is not inconsistent then the judges will have to tell the world which is watching the wrestling contest online what inconsistency is as we know it.” Anei added that he wanted the judges to be consistent on the rule with regards to the knee on the ground and hand on the ground either as wins or losses and the result will give Midwest only 1 win and that is why he is not conceding on Leek’s claimed defeat. Anei argued that having it both ways isn’t helping the judges.

Making the logic for the East Coast dissent, Mr. Anei argued that winning has to be problem free as has been shown by the East Coast three leading wrestlers and using that same logic, he thinks Deng’s knee on the ground or Leek’s one hand on the ground both do not count. That logic puts Deng-Chol in the winning category and Leek’s and Alier’s in the draw because both could have been allowed to finish their wrestling just like the judges had allowed Chol and Deng to finish their wrestling which eventually resulted in Chol’s defeat. Anei contended that East has 3 wins and West with 1 one, period.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the contest was a disaster for Midwest and switch of 1 win from one side to the other does not take away the underlying fact that Midwest’s anointed top 3 wrestlers were wrestled down. To their credit, the Midwest leaders have conceded and they have handed the flag over to East Coast Head Coach, Dau Nuul Garang. The bigger picture is the event was historic and in the end it was a uniting event whose spillovers can help other community engagements beyond a particular wrestler winning or losing in this contest.

pic 2As for a little background information on how this began and transpired into this historic event, it was late last year that many people from Dinka Bor community of the United States were caught by surprise when the news broke that Manyang Mabior had wrestled down Yuot Mach back then in New York, in September of 2012. Indeed, it was a surprise that wrestling was not planned and announced in advance so that those interested could attend. To his credit, Yuot was a determined wrestler and he was absolutely determined to wrestle Ajang Garang, the living strongest man at Baai Bor in South Sudan. However, Mabior questioned the legitimacy of such claim and challenged Yuot on the ground that Ajang deserved a better challenger. He suggested that Ajang would wrestle with a tested man in the United States. And that led to such an abrupt wrestling contest last year in which Yuot touched the ground with his knees and he was declared the loser. And that led to this year’s bigger wrestling contest. Thanks to their fierce disagreements because it has now resulted in the promotion of Dinka cultural values, and indeed it positively impacted our community in the United States.

The Dinka Bor traditional wrestling contest has entered the 21st century with more professional individuals who are determined to promote their cultural values. And this was indicated by Yuot Mach and Manyang Mabior duking it out at grandeur arena in Omaha, Nebraska. We are all hoping that the United States team and South Sudan team will one day square off in national championship in Bor Town, South Sudan.

Traditionally, Dinka Bor wrestling contest is and has always been an opportunity to cement the cohesion and unity among Dinka people. Before the civil war, the youth used to organize wrestling tournaments during crop harvests, and even sometimes during drought, floods and famines. They would do this to not only ignite new spirit but also to excite, entertain, educate, and promote community and individual values. This sport dates back to many years up to a time when villagers sent their best and strongest individuals to compete against each other to determine the winning community in that given season. This sport was interrupted by the longest civil war in the old Sudan and it is good to see that the young generation is now reviving it here in the United States.

This story was written by Gabrial Pager Ajang, MPA’12 & (PhD student and Political and History instructor at Wright Career College), and contributed to by Akol Aguek Ngong, MBA’11, University of Vermont & (MPA candidate, expected 2014), Harvard University. Both Pager (Midwest) and Akol (East Coast) were on the ground in Omaha, Nebraska, watching wrestling contest live.







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