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|Historic dual meet between USA and Iran will celebrate wrestling, cultural exchange in L.A.|
By Damian Secore BZA
Olympic and World champion Jordan Burroughs will shoot for his 54th straight win on Sunday. Tony Rotundo photo.
LOS ANGELES – Following the success of Wednesday’s “The Rumble On The Rails” in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, international wrestling’s spotlight shifts to the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena for the “United 4 Wrestling” exhibition featuring the United States and Iran national teams in a dual meet Sunday at 2 p.m.
The USA and Iranian lineups are filled with past Olympic and World Championship medalists, making this seven-bout match one which features many of the world’s best wrestlers from two of the globe’s wrestling powerhouses. Team USA has won more Olympic medals in wrestling than any other nation. Iran, meanwhile, took home three Olympic Gold Medals at the 2012 London Olympics.
Tickets for “United 4 Wrestling” are available at the LA Memorial Sports Arena box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com, and by phone at 1-800-745-3000. LA Sports Arena box office hours are weekdays from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. The LA Sports Arena box office (3939 South Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90037) is located on the south side of the arena, adjacent to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Three levels of ticket pricing are offered and start as low as $13, to $23 for mid-level seating, to $63 for seats closest to the floor.
The event is sponsored by the Semnani Family Foundation, an international humanitarian organization based in Salt Lake City and founded by Khosrow Semnani, a prominent Iranian-American philanthropist. The match is being staged in cooperation with California USA Wrestling and Beat the Streets – Los Angeles.
Prior to the USA-Iran meet, “United 4 Wrestling” will feature a celebrity red carpet, native Persian musical entertainment and a series of exhibition matches featuring some of the finest youth wrestlers in California.
The United States team is led by a pair of 2012 Olympic medalists, Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs at 74 kg/163 lbs. and Olympic bronze medalist Coleman Scott at 60 kg/132 lbs. Burroughs was a 2011 World champion and has an undefeated 53-0 record since bursting onto the Senior level after a successful career that included two NCAA titles as the University of Nebraska. Scott had an amazing 2012 season, winning the World Cup, winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, then a Special Wrestle-off for the U.S. Olympic Team.
Two other 2012 Olympians are on the U.S. roster: Tervel Dlagnev at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. and Sam Hazewinkel at 55 kg/121 lbs. Dlagnev was a 2009 World silver medalist, and placed fifth at both the 2012 Olympics and the 2011 World Championships. He is a past University World champion. Hazewinkel was one of the nation’s best Greco-Roman wrestlers before he made the switch to freestyle in 2009. His father and his uncle were both two-time Olympians.
U.S. athletes Jordan Oliver at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. and Chris Pendleton at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. were runners-up at the recent U.S. Open. Both were college stars at national power Oklahoma State, with Oliver and Pendleton winning two NCAA titles each. Pendleton is a native Californian, having wrestled for Lemoore High School in Lemoore, Calif., where he was a 2000 California high school state champion.
Ames, Iowa resident Jon Reader, wrestling for the U.S. at 84 kg/185 lbs., placed third at the 2013 U.S. Open and was a 2011 NCAA champion for Iowa State.
Leading Team Iran is two-time World champion Mehdi Taghavi Kermani at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. Taghavi is a two-time Junior World champion and two-time Olympian.
The Iranian team will feature a pair of 2012 Olympic bronze medalists, Ehsan Lashgari at 84 kg/185 lbs. and Komeil Ghasemi at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. Lashgari is a three-time Asian Championships champion, claiming titles in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Ghasemi was also a two-time Junior World bronze medalist (2007 and 2008).
2011 World bronze medalist and 2012 Olympian Hassan Rahimi will be wrestling at 55 kg/121 lbs. Rahimi has won gold and silver medals at the Junior World Championships and captured the title at the World Military Championships.
2007 Junior World champion and 2012 Olympian Masoud Esmailpour Jouybari will compete at 60 kg/132 lbs. Esmailpour also earned a gold medal at the recent 2013 World Cup held in Tehran, Iran. Also on the team is three-time World Cup medalist Hassan Tahmasebi at 74 kg/163 lbs. and Hamed Tatari at 96 kg/211.5 lbs., who took fifth at the 2013 World Cup.
Some of these matchups are classic showdowns. The match at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. between Dlagnev and Ghasemi is a rematch of the 2012 Olympic bronze-medal match, won by Ghasemi. Two of the other matches feature battles between 2012 Olympians: Hazewinkel vs. Rahimi at 55 kg/121 lbs. and Scott vs. Esmailpour at 60 kg/132 lbs.
Since the 1990s, Iran has competed in wrestling in the United States 10 times, though not in Southern California. This included the 1995 World Championships in Atlanta, the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the 1998 Junior World Championships in Primm, Nev., the 1998 Goodwill Games in New York City and the 2003 World Championships in New York City. Iran competed in the World Cup held in the United States five times (1995 in Chattanooga, 1998 in Stillwater, 1999 in Spokane, 2000 in Fairfax, Va. and 2001 in Baltimore).
Actor Billy Baldwin, a high school and college wrestler and spokesman for USA Wrestling’s Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling (CPOW), has helped to organize a 1 p.m. celebrity red carpet event at the LA Sports Arena before Sunday’s wrestling action begins.
Toward the movement to keep wrestling as a core sport in the Olympics beyond 2016 through USA Wrestling’s Keep Olympic Wrestling and the 2020 Vision: Wrestling, Keep the Dream Alive campaigns, Baldwin has gained the endorsements of his brother, Alec Baldwin, actors Ashton Kutcher, Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum, Tom Arnold, Matthew Modine, Nate Parker and Steve Buscemi, entertainment TV host Mario Lopez, comedian Jay Mohr, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) athletes Chael Sonnen and Randy Couture, and former NFL player Mike Golic.
The Keep Olympic Wrestling campaign is also supported through public service announcements by past Olympians Mark Spitz, Janet Evans, Anton Apollo Ohno, Landon Donovan, Tommy Lasorda, Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner, and retired boxers Carlos Palomino and Armando Muniz.
“United 4 Wrestling” will showcase live Persian musical performances from Ali Akbar Moradi, the Kurdish master of the tanbur, or Kurdish lute, his two sons, Arash and Kourosh, talented kamancheh player Mehdi Bagheri, and Iranian virtuoso Abbas Bakhtiari.
Four youth wrestling exhibition matches will warm up the mats for the American and Iranian Olympians and international stars: Cade Olivas, 14, of Fontana taking on Randon Miranda, 16, of Palmdale at the 90-pound class; Daniel Long, 13, of Visalia vs. Jaden Abas, 13, of Bakersfield at 95 pounds; Zander Wick, 16, of Murrieta against Zahid Valencia, 16, of Pico at 126 pounds, and 9-year-olds Patricia Arana of Pacoima and Viviana Garcia of San Fernando squaring off at 55-60 pounds.
On Feb. 12, the International Olympic Committee Executive Board made a recommendation that wrestling not be a core sport at the 2020 Olympic Games. A final decision on the program of the 2020 Olympics will be made by the entire IOC in September. A global effort has been launched by FILA (www.fila-official.com), the international wrestling organization which represents 177 member nations and 10 million wrestlers worldwide, to retain wrestling as an Olympic sport.
Wrestling was one of the sports in the first ancient Olympic Games in Greece, dating back to 776 B.C., and the first Modern Olympics, in 1896. At the 2012 Olympics, 71 countries competed in wrestling and 29 countries medaled.
Wrestling has an ancient history in Iran, dating to when Persian kings would battle their opponents in epic matches. It is the No. 1 sport in Iran, attracting millions of followers and thousands of amateur competitors.
IRAN MEN’S FREESTYLE ROSTER
55 kg/121 lbs. – Hassan Rahimi
60 kg/132 lbs. – Masoud Esmailpour Jouybari
66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Mehdi Taghavi Kermani
74 kg/163 lbs. – Hassan Tahmasebi
84 kg/185 lbs. – Ehsan Lashgari
96 kg/211.5 lbs. – Hamed Tatari
120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Komeil Ghasemi
Coaches – Gholam Reza Mohammadi, Reza Leyegh, Mohammad Talaie, Ali Reza Rezaei
Technical Manager – Rasoul Khadem
Team Leader – Ali Bayat
Officials – Khatib Hojatollah, Ali Eftekhari, Ahmad Govari
Doctor – Sadegh Mahboubi
UNITED STATES FREESTYLE ROSTER
55 kg/121 lbs. – Sam Hazewinkel, Norman, Okla. (Sunkist Kids)
60 kg/132 lbs. – Coleman Scott, Stillwater, Okla. (Titan Mercury WC)
66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Jordan Oliver, Easton, Pa. (Titan Mercury WC)
74 kg/163 lbs. – Jordan Burroughs, Lincoln, Neb. (Sunkist Kids)
84 kg/185 lbs. – Jon Reader, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids)
96 kg/211.5 lbs. – Chris Pendleton, Laramie, Wyo. (Titan Mercury WC)
120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Tervel Dlagnev, Columbus, Ohio (Sunkist Kids)
Coaches – National Freestyle Coach Zeke Jones, Colorado Springs, Colo., John Smith, Stillwater, Okla.
Team Leader – Andy Barth, San Marino, Calif.
MATCHUPS FOR THE USA VS. IRAN DUAL MEET
55 kg/121 lbs. – Sam Hazewinkel (USA) vs. Hassan Rahimi (Iran)
60 kg/132 lbs. – Coleman Scott (USA) vs. Masoud Esmailpour Jouybari (Iran)
66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Jordan Oliver (USA) vs. Mehdi Taghavi Kermani (Iran)
74 kg/163 lbs. – Jordan Burroughs (USA) vs. Hassan Tahmasebi (Iran)
84 kg/185 lbs. – Jon Reader (USA) vs. Ehsan Lashgari (Iran)
96 kg/211.5 lbs. – Chris Pendleton (USA) vs. Hamed Tatari (Iran)
120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Tervel Dlagnev (USA) vs. Komeil Ghasemi (Iran)
ABOUT USA WRESTLING
USA Wrestling is the National Governing Body for the Sport of Wrestling in the United States and, as such, is its representative to the United States Olympic Committee and the International Wrestling Federation FILA. Simply, USA Wrestling is the central organization that coordinates amateur wrestling programs in the nation and works to create interest and participation in these programs. Its president is James Ravannack, and its Executive Director is Rich Bender.
ABOUT KEEP OLYMPIC WRESTLING
In the United States, the official website is http://www.KeepWrestlingInTheOlympics.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/officialkeepwrestlingintheolympics, and on Twitter @wrestlingvision.
The international links for FILA are http://www.fila-official.com/ on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/fila.official and on Twitter @FILA_Official.
ABOUT BEAT THE STREETS–LOS ANGELES
Beat the Streets – Los Angeles cultivates youth development in underserved communities by encouraging a desire for excellence, respect, teamwork, leadership, integrity and perseverance through the instruction of quality wrestling programs. Together with public support, BTS-LA strives to enhance young men and women’s lives in school, sports and community. More information can be found at www.beatthestreets-la.org
ABOUT CALIFORNIA USA WRESTLING
California USA Wrestling is the national governing body for the sport of wrestling in the state of California and, as such, is its representative to USA Wrestling. Simply, California USA Wrestling is the central organization that coordinates amateur wrestling programs in the State of California, and works to create interest and participation in these programs. California USA Wrestling is a non for profit 501(c)3 corporation. California USA Wrestling has more than 19,000 members. These members include athletes of all ages, coaches, officials, parents and fans striving together to strengthen the sport. Each year, California USA Wrestling charters over 400 wrestling clubs and sanctions over 200 local, state, competitions.
ABOUT SEMNANI FAMILY FOUNDATION
The Semnani Family Foundation focuses on tackling questions of global health, poverty and disaster relief, with particular emphasis on protecting women and children. During the past 20 years, the foundation has collaborated with more than 550 non-profit organizations in projects ranging from famine and earthquake relief to the establishment of vaccination programs and health clinics.
Media contact: USA Wrestling, Craig Sesker, firstname.lastname@example.org, 719-640-5815
Brener Zwikel & Associates, Inc., Toby Zwikel, email@example.com, 818-462-5599