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U.S., Iran lead protest over IOC wrestling decision

The SportsXchange

It is a rare occasion that Iran and United States agree on anything, but leave it up to sports to unify bitter political enemies. And that's what happened when the International Olympic Committee decided to eliminate wrestling from the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Iran and the United States have forged a solid bond in an effort to reverse the IOC decision with wrestlers from the two countries leading a protest at this week's World Cup Tournament in Tehran.

On Thursday, wrestlers will lie on their mats in a show of unity to protest the IOC's decision.

"We'll be standing arm-in-arm with Iran, and we'll be standing with Russia as we will with lots of other countries," national team director Mitch Hull told Iranian Press TV on Tuesday. "Those [countries] really do make a difference because politically we're not always on the same page ... there's no doubt that we are all together in this effort and we consider Iran one of our strongest allies in the sport of wrestling."

The U.S. wrestling team arrived in Tehran on Tuesday and officials have had discussion with their counterparts from 10 of the top wrestling nations, including Iran.

"We have great confidence that we can work with the Iranian wrestling federation, Iranian wrestlers and the Iranian people to show the world that, no matter what's happening politically, we have the same goal and the same belief and passion about the sport of wrestling," Hull said.

U.S. freestyle coach Zeke Jones said the World Cup in Tehran has come at a "perfect time" given the IOC's recent decision.

"You'll have absolutely zero problem with the countries being unified on saving wrestling," Jones said. "The countries will do anything in working together to keep Olympic wrestling in the program."

Hojatollah Khatib, the director of Iran's Wrestling Federation, said the World Cup offers the "best opportunity to confront the decision" to drop the sport from the Olympics and that "we should resist the decision, determinedly."

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