US-Russia-Iran Compete on May 15 at New York's Grand Central Station
U.S. wrestling officials said the Iranian national team will compete in May on American soil for the first time in a decade as part of an effort to impact upcoming votes on the sport's Olympic future.
Rich Bender, executive director of USA Wrestling, confirmed Tuesday teams from Iran and Russia will meet May 15 at New York's Grand Central Station.
A USA Wrestling - Iran event will be held at the Memorial Sports Arena, Los Angeles, on May 19.
"The political differences our countries share (Iran, United States) are obvious and well-documented," Bender said of the events. "From a wrestling standpoint, though, the U.S. and Iran have one of the strongest relationships of anyone in the sport.
"This is a chance to show how wrestling unites nations. It's classic diplomacy."
The International Olympic Committee executive board voted in February to remove wrestling from the list of 25 core sports for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics.
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The sport's leaders, blind-sided by the move, are trying to help wrestling regain global support in time for a final IOC vote in September. The first step is a meeting in Russia in late May, when a group of eight sports will be whittled down as recommended contenders for a single spot for the two Olympic cycles.
The "Rumble on the Rails" is part of the fourth annual Beat the Streets wrestling gala in New York.
In 2010, an all-star meet was held aboard the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier docked on the west side of Manhattan. In 2011, the U.S. beat Russia in Times Square. Last year, Times Square hosted another U.S.-Russia dual meet with a wrestle-off for America's final weight class in the 2012 Olympics.
The U.S. will face Iran at 3:30 p.m. ET in a freestyle wrestling dual. At 6:30, the Americans will meet Russia in a meet that features all three sport disciplines — men's and women's freestyle, along with Greco-Roman.
Bender said the biggest challenges this week is ensuring the Iranians make the trip.
Team members from Iran are in the process of finalizing entry-visa requirements, he said. Since the U.S. and Iran lack normal diplomatic relations, Iranians are forced to go to another country with an American embassy for the visa application and interview.
"I think they're going to Dubai, from what we know," Bender said. "We're told all of this is happening in the next 24 hours."
Bender said officials also hope to try experimental rules during the U.S.-Russia match.
"There's talk of maybe one, 5-minute period, there's talk about the possibility of one point for a push-out or step-out, two points for a takedown that finishes," he said. "Some won't be determined until much closer to the event.
"The Russians have their ideas about the rules and we do, too. Hopefully, we end up with the best of both."
With thanks to USA Today