IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Kendric Maple and Logan Stieber supplied the spark.
Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Dake, Kyle Snyder and David Taylor provided the exclamation mark.
The star-studded American team powered past Azerbaijan 6-4 to win the UWW Senior Men’s Freestyle Wrestling World Cup Sunday before a boisterous crowd of 6,378 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“This is a great team and they performed really well this weekend,” USA Wrestling National Freestyle Coach Bill Zadick said. “It was really exciting to win a heated finals match against a very good team from Azerbaijan. It was a barnburner and a great finish.”
The U.S. won its first World Cup since 2003, and its 14th since the event began in 1973.
Japan edged Cuba 6-4 in a hard-fought battle in the bronze-medal dual.
The World Cup victory marks the second major international team win for the U.S. men’s freestyle program in less than a year. In August, Team USA won the men’s freestyle team title at the world championships for the first time in 22 years.
“This is really meaningful to have an opportunity to win this,” said Burroughs, an Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion, after his win. “I’m undefeated in the World Cup in my career, but I’ve never brought home the big cup.”
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After 10-0 and 7-3 wins over India and Japan, respectively, on Saturday, the U.S. started Sunday by downing Georgia 8-2 in its final dual in pool play.
In the meet over Georgia, Burroughs, Stieber, Dake, Taylor and Snyder won by technical superiority.
The U.S. started the gold-medal match with a loss when reigning world silver medalist Thomas Gilman fell to Giorgi Edisherashvili, 8-7, at 57 kg.
Team USA’s fate changed when Maple took the mat next at 61 kg. and overcame two earlier losses in the World Cup to down Afghan Khashalov 6-2.
“I was excited for this match,” Maple said. “I didn’t wrestle like I felt I should’ve in my first two matches. I was a little upset with that, and I came back and tried to give us a spark. I’m glad Coach Zadick gave me a chance to redeem myself.”
Stieber, a 2016 world champion, then delivered a huge 6-3 win over three-time world champion Haji Aliyev at 65 kg. Stieber spun behind Aliyev for a late takedown to clinch the win as the crowd erupted.
“It’s special competing here,” Stieber said. “It was a great crowd with a lot of passionate fans. It was a great environment to wrestle in.”
Two-time world medalist James Green then had a 4-4 criteria loss to Joshgun Azimov after winning his three previous World Cup bouts of the weekend, tying the two countries.
Powerhouse Burroughs would break that tie, building a commanding lead in his 74 kg. match before turning Gasjimurad Omarov to his back for a dramatic fall at 74 kg.
“I’m not a pinner – it’s been a few years since I’ve pinned anyone,” Burroughs said while flashing a smile. “When he went to his back, I wanted to squeeze and make sure I finished it. It was awesome to be able to do it.”
Burroughs now has an individual World Cup record of 27-0.
Following the pin by Burroughs, Dake knocked off world medalist Jabrayil Hasanov 5-3 at 79 kg. Taylor followed by storming past Aleksander Gostiev 12-2 at 86 kg.
Azerbaijan got back in the win column when Aslanbek Alborov took the 4-4 criteria decision over Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox at 92 kg.
Though there would be one match that followed – in which Jamaladdin Magomedov took down reigning world bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski, 4-3, at 125 kg. – Snyder clinched the team title for the U.S. by dismantling Azerbaijan’s Roman Bakirov by a 14-3 score.
Snyder, an Olympic champion and two-time world champion, is now 11-1 in his World Cup record.
Craig Sesker is a sports writer based out of Cedar Falls, Iowa. He has covered three Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.