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Wrestlers Focus on Competition, Not Politics


Freestyle wrestlers have put politics aside in Los Angeles, as 10 national teams face off in the Freestyle Wrestling World Cup. The match-ups Saturday pitted the U.S. team against Iran, and Ukraine against Russia.

There was fierce competition between the U.S. and Iran, whose teams met last May in New York, but then the Iranian team canceled a scheduled follow-up in Los Angeles.

That's all in the past, says USA Wrestling executive director Rich Bender.

“That didn't work out," he said. "And 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.”
ordan Burroughs of the United States takes down Ezzatollah Akbari Zarinkolaei of Iran during the 2014 FILA Freestyle Wrestling World Cup on March 15, 2014 in Inglewood, California.

ordan Burroughs of the United States takes down Ezzatollah Akbari Zarinkolaei of Iran during the 2014 FILA Freestyle Wrestling World Cup on March 15, 2014 in Inglewood, California.

The Iranian team beat the U.S., winning five matches to the Americans' three.

Iranian wrestlers had vocal supporters among Iranian Americans. Hundreds of thousands live in Los Angeles, and many cheered them on.

Earlier, teams from two other nations at odds also faced off. Ukraine met Russia in matches the Russians won 7-1. Russia's team leader declined to answer any political questions saying his focus was on wrestling.

“I thought it was spectacular, a really well-run event," said American fan Jeff Pfeffer. "Incredible turnout, a lot of exciting international fans. The energy was up. I think the United States did a really good job. All the teams did a really good job.”

Other nations taking part in the Freestyle Wrestling World Cup include Armenia, Georgia, India, Japan, Mongolia and Turkey.

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