Iran defeated its two major rivals, Russia and the United States, at the 2014 Freestyle Wrestling World Cup in Los Angeles. On March 15, Iran defeated the host team 5-3 after beating Armenia 8-0 and Turkey 7-1. Iran went on to beat Russia 6-2 on March 16, taking the cup for the third time in a row. “We were able to execute our plan,” Iran’s technical manager Ali Reza Razaie told TeamUSA.org. “For each of our matches we had a plan. Ninety percent of our plan came through today.”
March 18, 2014
Only three U.S. athletes beat their Iranian counterparts. “I think we’re in a place now where that would give us some confidence,” U.S. coach Zeke Jones said after loss. “I think the next time we wrestle we will believe that we can beat them [the Iranians]. But we’re not going to do it if we don’t do the little things. We got to do the little things, fight for the center of the mat, control the tie-up, take charge of the whistle. Those are the things we talk about. They beat us to the punch on those things.”
Both President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei congratulated the team. “The victory of Iran’s national freestyle wrestling team… proves the athletic traits of the zealous and diligent Iranian youth in the international arena,” Rouhani wrote in a message.
The crowd in Los Angeles was split between Iran and U.S. fans. But Iran’s supporters also chanted “USA, USA” during the third-place match between the United States and Ukraine, according to TeamUSA.org. “I think that the fact that we were able to host the World Cup here and Iranian team is here again in such an important city like Los Angeles, I think it's a true testament to our relationship with the Iranian [wrestling] federation, and the fact that wrestling is popular all over the world,” said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender.
The Iranian and the U.S. wrestling federations have “positive and strong relationship built on years of competition,” Bender told The Iran Primer in 2013. U.S. participation in Iran’s 1998 Takhti Cup marked the first visit by an American sports team since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The team has competed in Iran ten other times since then. And Iran’s national team has competed in the United States more than 10 times since 1996.
The two federations actually teamed up to salvage wrestling for the 2020 Olympics after the Olympic Committee recommended dropping the sport in February 2013. The Iranian and American teams were scheduled to hold two friendly matches ― in New York on May 15 and in Los Angeles on May 19 ― to raise the sport’s profile before the committee makes a final decision in September. The Iranians beat the Americans 6 to 1 in New York.
Click here for more information on the U.S.-Iran wrestling relationship.