Iran announces freestyle World Cup roster

By Gary Abbott

CORALVILLE, Iowa (November 22) -- Iran’s lineup for the Freestyle World Cup has been released.

The Freestyle and Women’s Wrestling World Cup will be held at Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa, December 10-11. It is the first time that freestyle and women’s wrestling will be held together side-by-side at the World Cup.

The World Cup is the annual international dual meet championships, conducted by United World Wrestling. The top five teams in freestyle and the top five teams in women’s wrestling from the 2022 Senior World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia in September have confirmed their participation. There is also an All-World Team in each discipline, featuring the top available athletes from the World Championships in each weight class that were not from a nation that qualified for the World Cup.

The Iran World Cup team will feature five senior world medalists, as well as seven others who have won world medals at the age-group levels.

The team is led by two-time world champion Kamran GHASEMPOUR at 97kg. Ghasempour won world titles in 2021 and 2022 and also won U23 world titles in 2018 and 2019.

2022 World champion Rahman AMOUZADKHALILI will wrestle at 65kg. He has also won three age-group world titles, with a U20 title in 2021 and U17 world titles in 2018 and 2019.

Three-time world medalist Alireza KARIMI is competing at 86kg. Karimi won a 2019 World silver medal, as well as claimed world bronze medals in 2015 and 2018. He was also a 2011 U17 World silver medalist.

Two-time world silver medalist Mohammad NOKHODI will wrestle at 79kg. Nokhodi lost in the 2021 and 2022 World finals to Jordan BURROUGHS (USA). He was also a 2019 U20 world silver medalist and a 2017 U17 world bronze medalist.

The other senior world medalist on the roster is 2021 World silver medalist Amirmohammad YAZDANI at 70kg. He was also a 2015 U17 world silver medalist.

Other athletes on the Iran roster who have won age-group world medals include Armin HABIBZADEH (61kg), Aliakbar FAZLIKHALILI (70kg), Mohmmadsadegh FIROUZPOUR (74kg), Ali SAVADKOUHI (79kg), Amirhossein FIROUZPOUR (92kg), Amirali AZARPIRA (97kg) and Amirreza VALADI (125kg).

Iran, which placed second at the 2022 World Championships in freestyle, will be joined in the World Cup by the first-place United States, third-place Japan, fourth-place Mongolia and fifth-place Georgia, in addition to the All-World Team.

The rosters of the World Cup teams for the other nations have now all been announced by USA Wrestling.

Ticket packages for the 2022 Freestyle and Women’s Wrestling World Cup are currently on sale. The seating capacity for Xtream Arena for the World Cup will be approximately 5,300. Ticket packages include a Gold package for $275, Silver package for $200 and All-Session tickets for $90.

A special Presentation of Teams and Team USA Meet & Greet will also be held on Friday, December 9 at 6:45 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

Freestyle and Women’s Wrestling World Cup tickets -> https://worldcupiowacity.com/tickets/

Iran Freestyle World Cup team:
61 kg – Armin HABIBZADEH
65 kg – Rahman AMOUZAD
65 kg – Mohammadreza BAGHERI
70 kg – Aliakbar FAZLIKHALILI
70 kg – Amirmohammad YAZDANI
74 kg – Mohmmadsadegh FIROUZPOUR
79 kg – Mohammad NOKHODI
79 kg – Ali SAVADKOUHI
86 kg – Alireza KARIMI
92 kg – Amirhossein FIROUZPOUR
97 kg – Kamran GHASEMPOUR
97 kg – Amirali AZARPIRA
125 kg – Amirreza VALADI


With World Cup history on mind, Ukraine arrives in US

By Vinay Siwach

CORALVILLE, Iowa (December 2) -- In the last 10 months, Ukraine women's team has finished on the podium at the European Championships, U23 and U17 World Championships and qualified for the World Cup by finishing in the top five at the World Championships in Belgrade.

The wrestlers achieved this with little to no training before the Euros and with no training base for the rest of the year. A few trained in Budapest while another group was in Warsaw. If anyone was relatively lucky, they could train in western Ukraine.

So it was a commendable gesture from USA Wrestling to invite the Ukraine team to the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs two weeks before the December 10-11 World Cup despite being two of the strongest teams out there.

Throughout the year, United World Wrestling, along with Olympic Solidarity, the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine and the USOC, provided technical assistance to the Ukraine Wrestling Federation for the participation of Ukraine women’s team in major UWW events.

The World Cup was also part of the same plan the UWW Development Department and local organizing committees provided technical support for Ukraine.

“We remain committed and devoted to supporting all our national federations around the world," UWW President Nenand LALOVIC said. "Despite the current political problems, we remain one family through wrestling.”

Ukraine has been preparing for the World Cup with a full-strength team and will be heading to Iowa from Colorado for the competition.  

"The American team welcomed us very kindly," Oksana LIVACH (UKR) said. "We are in the Olympic Center in Colorado, there are very good conditions for training and we enjoy spending time here."

Amidst all the difficulties the team has faced, the wrestlers have held together, switching between wrestling and coaching during various tournaments. The World Cup will see them rise to the challenge once again when Ukraine takes on Japan and Mongolia in the group stages of the tournament.

After the World Championships, the wrestlers did participate in the U23 Worlds in Spain before arriving in the United States last week. The 26-member delegation was welcomed with open arms and are provided with the best facilities and training.

"There are many sparring sessions, the training is very interesting, you can learn something new, exchange experience," Oksana said.

The World Cup will not only be a way to show the strength of the Ukraine team, it will also mark the return of Ukraine's two biggest stars. Former world champion and three-time Olympian Yulia TKACH (UKR) is entered for the tournament, her first in almost three years.

Another wrestler who will be returning in over a year is Tokyo bronze medalist Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR) at 62kg. She has skipped all tournaments in between.

Both Tkach and Koliadenko will be leaders of the team which also comprises Oksana LIVACH (UKR), Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR), Alla BELINSKA (UKR) and other youngsters.

At the World Cup, Ukraine will open its campaign against Mongolia on Saturday afternoon and will fancy its chances of winning the dual and setting up a virtual final against Japan. As the best country in women's wrestling is sending a depleted squad with no senior world medalist, Ukraine will look to pull off an upset win if it wants to reach the final from Group A.

With the team already acclimatized to the US and the return of its senior wrestlers, Ukraine winning will not be a surprise.

"Japan is the strongest team in the world in women's wrestling," Tkach said. "I think the young team will also be strong and it will be interesting for us to compete with them. Our team is also quite young and strong.

"We believe in our team. We will see a good fight on the mat and it will show who wins."

Apart from the chance to win the World Cup, the team is motivated and united by the tough times everyone faced this year. The emotions ran high at the European Championships when it crowned three champions in Budapest despite the uncertainty of the lives back home. A big relief came when it qualified for the World Cup finishing fifth in Belgrade with three medals.

"This year was really very difficult for our team. Our girls performed really well," Livach said. "I think this season will remain in history and in our memory. The World Cup is the final point for this year and we want to end it on a good note. All the teams are very strong and everyone can and has a chance to win, just like our team."

The World Cup win will make the year even more historic for the country as it has never finished on the podium before at the competition. But that can change in Coralville.

"Our team has many young wrestlers who have the opportunity to prove themselves," Livach said. "Expect a worthy fight."