The Norman Transcript

National Sports

May 15, 2013

United States, Russia, Iran work to save wrestling from Olympic exodus

UNITED NATIONS — In Iran, Olympic wrestling champion Jordan Burroughs felt like Justin Bieber, LeBron James and Tom Brady all rolled into one.

Not so much in his home country, though the New Jersey native was greeted by more than a dozen television cameras Tuesday when the American team arrived at the United Nations for a news conference with the Iranian and Russian squads.

Wrestling’s leaders hope sports fans do a double-take when they see those three countries in the same sentence — to prove a point about the sport’s universality. The International Olympic Committee has recommended that wrestling be dropped starting with the 2020 Games, a decision that has a lot of people talking about the sport.

“It was like a double-edged sword. It’s bittersweet,” Burroughs said. “We’re fighting for our lives, but in retrospect, we’re getting more attention than we’ve ever received. Walking in here and seeing all these cameras, you’re like, ‘What the heck’s going on?’ It’s not a lot of times we get this much press.”

The United States will face fellow wrestling powers Iran and then Russia in exhibitions Wednesday at Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal. It’s not the first time a wrestling meet has sprung up at a famed New York City locale — this is the fourth straight year such an event has been held to raise money for wrestling nonprofit Beat the Streets, with the last two in Times Square.

And it’s not the first time the Iranians have competed in the U.S., though they hadn’t been back since the world championships in this same city a decade ago. But February’s unexpected IOC decision changed everything, and the organizers’ goal is for “The Rumble on the Rails” to be much more than just another charitable event or international exhibition.

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