Wrestling diplomacy: Ukraine vs Russia, U.S. vs Iran

Wrestling diplomacy: Ukraine vs Russia, U.S. vs Iran ...
usatoday.com 12/03/2014 Sports

Keywords:#Ahmadinejad, #Armenia, #Georgia, #Greco, #India, #International_Olympic_Committee, #Iran, #Iranian, #Japan, #Jordan, #Jordan_Burroughs, #Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad, #Mongolia, #Olympic, #Olympics, #President, #Roman, #Russia, #Russian, #Turkey, #USA, #USA_TODAY, #Ukraine, #Universal, #Usatoday.com, #Vladimir_Putin, #World_Cup, #Wrestling

Gary Mihoces, USA TODAY Sports 7:52 p.m. EDT March 11, 2014
Russia will take on Ukraine. The USA will go against Iran.

Amid conflict between the respective governments, the matchups are scheduled for this weekend in the 10-nation Freestyle Wrestling World Cup in Inglewood, Calif.

"Wrestling's had a history of bringing together countries with varying political viewpoints. This is just a great example of where wrestling has been common denominator," USA Wrestling executive director Rich Bender said Tuesday.

"I'm not sure if it's naively so, but we think this is a classic example of the use of sport for the betterment of mankind. The fact that the Russians and the Ukrainians are going to compete is an opportunity for maybe bigger and better things to happen, and for wrestling to be at the center of that."
Last year, the USA, Russia, Ukraine, Iran and other wrestling powers formed an alliance to halt the elimination of their sport for the 2020 Olympics.

At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with international wrestling leaders to discuss development of the sport, according to a press release by the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles. Putin said the sport is as significant to the Olympics as Mozart and Tchaikovsky are to music.

"I remember well a few years ago. I took part in wrestlers' training, and what exciting tricks they demonstrated in freestyle and Greco-Roman style," said Putin. "Wrestling is an amazing show, but it is necessary to promote it properly on television and use modern PR tools and techniques."

The World Cup on Saturday and Sunday is to be televised on tape-delay on the Universal Sports Network on March 24 at 8 p.m. ET. Initial competition will be in two five-team pools. The matchups were set by random draw last month.

Russia, second at the 2013 World Championships, is in Pool B with Ukraine, fourth the worlds. The USA (fifth at worlds) is in Pool A with Iran, which won the world team title last year. Team USA includes 2012 Olympic gold medalists Jordan Burroughs (163 pounds) and Jake Varner (213).

Iran hosted last year's World Cup, just after the announcement that wrestling was on the Olympic chopping block.

"Our sport was certainly under fire, and the wrestling powers from around the world formed a pretty strong bond to save our sport," Bender said.

Then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to the 2013 World Cup. He presented the bronze medal to the U.S. team. "I think that's what Pierre de Coubertin (found of the International Olympic Committee) had in mind,'' said Bender.

Bender has not met Putin.

"But I'm certainly well aware of his support of our effort this past year to solidify our spot on the Olympic program moving forward," Bender said.

Also participating will be India, Armenia, Turkey, Georgia, Mongolia and Japan.

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