INGLEWOOD, Calif. – In front of a boisterous crowd of about 3,000 fans in The Forum, the United States beat Ukraine, 7-1, to finish with the bronze medal at the 42nd FILA Freestyle Wrestling World Cup in a nearly flawless final day at the Forum. Iran won the first-place match, 6-2, over Russia.
The United States wanted to make an impressive showing in its home country, but a pool loss to Iran Saturday cost the Americans a chance to compete for the Freestyle Wrestling World Cup championship. The top 10 freestyle wrestling countries convened outside of Los Angeles for the event, which was held in the United States for the first time in 10 years.
The crowd split its support between Iran and the United States. A strong Iran contingent gave its support to the United States team in the third-place match against Ukraine. The Iran fans chanted “USA, USA,” when the U.S. wrestlers entered the Forum floor. They cheered wildly for the United States in each match against Ukraine.
Iran rewarded its fans with dominating matches against the Russian team. Iran won three of the first four matches against Russia. Iran won its final three matches in a row.
The United States won the first six matches against Ukraine. World champion and Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs dominated his match in the 74-kilogram class, winning 15-4 over Giya Chykladze. Burroughs went 5-0 in the event and is now 15-0 in his career in the world cup. He scored three pins, a technical fall and a 7-1 win this weekend.
“That was the thing we talked about was getting a fast start, right?” U.S. coach Zeke Jones said. “In our minds, those first five weight classes were critical for a team score.”
Nick Marable won the closest match against Ukraine, beating Andriy Kvyatkovsky, 3-2, in the 70-kilogram division. The match was tied 2-2 after the first three-minute period, but Marable scored the winning point with a minute left in the second period. His win put the United States up 5-0 and guaranteed a third-place finish.
“I think it was critical,” Jones said. “That guy came to wrestle. Nick started off with a takedown quick. That was good. I think he needed to keep building on it. Nick was the aggressor in the second period. That was the difference. It was what we needed at that time.”
Clayton Foster won his match in the 86-kilogram class over Ibragim Aldatov and gave the United States a 6-0 lead.
“I don’t change things up. I keep things simple,” Foster said. “We’re knocking on the door of a world championship. That’s what it’s going to show. We’re knocking on the door.”
After beating Ukraine for third place, Jones talked about how his team is improving in international competition. He wants the United States to start challenging for world championships, but he emphasized how important it is to improve along the way.
Angel Escobedo, Jimmy Kennedy and Brent Metcalf won the first three matches against Ukraine and gave the United States a commanding 3-0 lead.
The United States lost only one match on the final day of the Freestyle Wrestling World Cup. The U.S. team shutout Turkey in the morning session and extended its streak to 14 straight matches against Ukraine. J.D. Bergman lost the only match against Ukraine, a 4-1 fall against Pavlo Oliinyk at 97 kilograms.
“The key is improvement. If we look back on this weekend, we need to ask ourselves, did we get better?” Jones said. “In a number of areas we did. Like anything, it’s not enough. We always want more. Until we’re the best team in the world in a dominating fashion, we won’t stop improving.”
In session one Saturday, the United States defeated Armenia, 7-1. The only match the United States lost was in the 70-kilogram weight division, in which Marable lost, 10-7, to Davit Apoyan. The United States then defeated India, 6-2, in its second match in session one.
“I’m grateful. God’s allowed me to heal fast,” said Bergman, who won his match, 11-0, over Saywart Kadian in the 97-kilogram division. “I hurt my back in January and I didn’t think I was originally going to be here. We’re never 100 percent. That’s unrealistic. But relatively I feel great.”
In session two Sunday, the United States lost to Iran, 5-3. Metcalf, Foster and Burroughs were the only Americans to win their matches against Iran.
The loss to Iran knocked the United States into the third-place match at the world cup. Iran and Russia won their pools and advanced to the first-place match.
“We were able to execute our plan,” said Iran’s technical manager Ali Reza Razaie. “For each of our matches we had a plan. Ninety percent of our plan came through today.”
Burroughs won his match, 7-1, over Ezzatollah Akbari Zarinkolaei. Metcalf won, 11-8, and Foster won, 7-5.
“I think we’re in a place now where that would give us some confidence,” Jones said after the first two sessions on Saturday. “I think the next time we wrestle we will believe that we can beat them. But we’re not going to do it if we don’t do the little things. We got to do the little things, fight for the center of the mat, control the tie-up, take charge of the whistle. Those are the things we talk about. They beat us to the punch on those things.”
The United States won its match, 8-0, over Turkey in session three Sunday. Escobedo and Burroughs pinned their opponents in the match against Turkey.