Four wrestlers with connections to Nebraska will compete as members of Team USA at the 2018 United World Wrestling Freestyle World Cup in Iowa City, Iowa, this Saturday and Sunday.
Former Huskers Jordan Burroughs and James Green, current assistant coach Kendric Maple and Nebraska Wrestling Training Center athlete Dom Bradley are set to take part in one of the most competitive World competitions of the year.
Eight of the top countries in freestyle wrestling will battle in a dual-style championship at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on the campus of the University of Iowa.
Burroughs, who will be competing in his sixth World Cup, is confidant Team USA is the best in the World.
“We’re the team to beat,” Burroughs said. “We’re prepared, we’re here and we’re all ready to go.”
Other participating nations include Azerbaijan, Cuba, Georgia, India, Japan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Russia and Iran were both invited to the event, but will not be sending teams.
Iran, which has appeared in the past nine gold-medal duals, winning the last six, did not release an official word on its refusal to attend.
Late last week, Russia confirmed it would not attend because of a visa issue.
According to a release from USA Wrestling, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley learned Russia’s withdrawal occurred because the U.S. Embassy was unable to expedite the visa process from the Russian Wrestling Federation athletes.
“Due to the staffing reduction forced on the U.S. Mission in Russia by the Russian Federation, there is very limited appointment availability for visa interviews at this time,” Grassley learned via the Consular Section of the Embassy of the United States of America in Moscow, Russia. “In the current situation, the Embassy is not able to provide expedited appointments for sporting events.”
To ensure a full set of participating teams, USA Wrestling invited Mongolia and India to fill the spots of Russia and Iran.
Burroughs said it’s a “bummer” that those highly talented teams won’t be competing, but added it doesn’t change the significance of the event.
“It’s the World Cup. We’re trying to win the World Cup, we’re not just trying to beat Russia or Iran,” he said.
This is not the first time political tensions have affected the Freestyle World Cup. Last year, Team USA was initially banned from participating in the competition by the host nation of Iran in response to President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
The ban on the U.S. wrestlers was lifted just a couple weeks before the event, and the two countries later met in the gold-medal match.
Burroughs said the continued political drama is frustrating.
“This was the time that we felt we had the squad that could really come together and beat those two teams,” he said of Russia and Iran. “It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.”
This weekend’s World Cup will be Burroughs’ first competition since he took gold at the World Championships in August. Burroughs holds a perfect 23-0 record in World Cup events and was recognized as an individual champion each year.
Despite the long break between live competition, Burroughs said he feels great about his training cycle—which included practicing against some of the best wrestlers the country has to offer.
“I feel good, and my body feels good physically—just getting down to weight. Just getting ready to compete and get my mind right,” he said.
Burroughs will wrestle at 74 kg (163 pounds).
The other former Husker, Green, will be competing in his third Freestyle World Cup. He had a 4-0 record at the 2016 World Cup in Los Angeles and went 3-1 last year in Kermanshah, Iran.
This will be Green’s first competition since he had surgery earlier this year to resolve a reoccurring hip and lower back injury.
Burroughs said from what he’s seen and heard from Green, the reigning World silver medalist will be better off because of it.
“He’s in a place where he can really position himself to be a World Champion and feel 100 percent, and feel and his best” Burroughs said of his Husker counterpart.
Green will wrestle at 70 kg (154 pounds)
For Maple, a current Nebraska assistant, this will be his first World Cup appearance.
He’s had previous success at the freestyle level, winning the 2017 U.S. Open and 2017 Alexander Medved International in Belarus, located in Eastern Europe. He also finished second at the 2017 U.S. World Team Trials in Lincoln this past June.
The final wrestler named to Team USA with connections to Nebraska was Bradley, who graduated from the University of Missouri, but trains at the Nebraska Wrestling Training Center. He was a two-time NCAA All-American at 285 pounds.
Bradley also has a long list of accolades on the international freestyle level, including a gold-medal finish at the 2017 Pan American Games and bronze-medal finish at the Medved International.
Bradley will be an alternate at 125 kg (275 pounds) behind Nick Gwiazdowski from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Burroughs said he is appreciative of Maple and Bradley for joining the training center in Lincoln, as it makes the room easier to thrive in.
“This is the first time that we’ve had a squad of good guys. It was just me and James (Green), now we have a stable of high quality guys,” Burroughs said. “There’s no denying that we’re one of the top, if not the top (training centers) in the country.”
The United States will compete in Pool A against Japan, Georgia and India. Pool B will be Azerbaijan, Cuba, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
Schedule of Events
Saturday, April 7
10:00 am: Session I
2:00 pm: Opening Ceremonies
2:30 pm: Session II
Sunday, April 8
10:00 am: Session III
12:30 pm: Fifth Place Match/Seventh Place Match
2:15 pm: Bronze Medal Match
4:00 pm: Gold Medal Match