USA Wrestling Henson qualifies for...

Henson qualifies for quarterfinals at Takhti Cup in Iran as four U S athletes remain unbeaten

By Gary Abbott | Feb. 19, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)

1998 World Champion Sammie Henson (West Point, N.Y./Sunkist Kids) won his pool competition and has advanced to the quarterfinals at the Takhti Cup in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 19. In his second match of the day, Henson defeated T. Demit of Turkey, 8-2, clinching a victory in his pool at 55 kg/121 lbs. "He scored on a snap down go behind to make it 1-0 after one period," said U.S. coach John Peterson (Comstock, Wis.) "In the second, he gave up a point on a defensive takedown after he failed to finish a high crotch that he was in deep on. Then he scored on a single with two guts. Leading 8-1, he gave up a low level single leg." During the first session, Henson defeated R. Hajizadeh of Iran with a first-period 12-2 technical fall. Henson returned to the city where he won his World title, as he claimed the gold medal when the 1998 World Championships were held in Tehran, Iran. Henson was also a 2000 Olympic silver medalist. Henson has not wrestled since Feb. 2003, and chose to skip the U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials last year. Three other U.S. wrestlers are unbeaten after the first day of competition: Mike Mena (Bloomington, Ind./New York AC) at 55 kg/121 lbs., Yero Washington (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) at 60 kg/132 lbs. and Joe Heskett (Grover Beach, Calif./Gator WC) at 74 kg/163 lbs. Mena did not have a match during the second session. In the first session, Mena pinned Y. Sharbati of Iran. Mena completes his pool competition on Friday morning. Washington opened with a bye. He won his first match with a 10-0 technical fall against A. Ismailov of Azerbaijan. On Friday morning, Washington faces M. Akoundi of Iran to complete the pool. "Washington scored in the first period on a far knee pick," said Peterson. "He then scored on two guts, making it 6-0. In the second period, he hit a beautiful double leg for three points and his final point came of a snap down go behind." Heskett also opened with a bye. His first victory of the tournament came against M. Amini of Iran, 3-1. He will face an athlete from Afghanistan in his second pool match on Friday morning. "There was no score in the first period, although Joe Heskett dominated the action, wearing his opponent down. He failed to score on top when Amini was called for passivity," said Peterson. "Joe won the toss but broke his grip, giving up the first point. He then scored on a single leg and turned the Iranian opponent for a quick two points with one minute remaining. Then Joe held off any threat from Amini." Ramico Blackmon (Colorado Springs, Colo./Team Excel) finished the day with a 1-1 record at 74 kg/163 lbs. In his second bout of the day, Blackmon stopped B. Wissam of Iraq, 4-0. His morning session included a 4-0 overtime loss to D. Aliev of Russia. "Ramico defeated Wissam with a leg sweep to a two-point tilt in the first period. In the second, he scored on another leg sweep to make it 3-0. The final score came on a snap down go behind," said Peterson. Overall, the U.S. athletes won six of seven matches on the first day of wrestling. The morning session on Friday is expected to be a grueling test for the team. "In addition to the pool matches, the quarterfinals and semifinals will also be in the morning. It will be a real test on our conditioning," said Peterson. This is the fifth time that USA Wrestling has participated in the Takhti Cup, with U.S. teams participating in 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2003. The United States wrestling team was the first U.S. sports team to compete in Iran after the Iranian revolution when the team competed in the 1998 Takhti Cup. The U.S. also competed in the 1998 World Freestyle Championships held in Iran. Teams from Iran have also competed in the United States on numerous occasions during the last decade. These sports competitions have been held even though there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries. Coach John Peterson was the assistant coach of the 1994 U.S. World Team, and has coached a number of U.S. Senior teams on international tours. He was an Olympic gold medalist in 1976, an Olympic silver medalist in 1972 and a two-time World medalist. Serving as the U.S. team leader is Amir Bashiri (Atlanta, Ga.), who served as a team leader for Iran at the 2003 Freestyle World Championships. Bashiri is an Iranian-American who is an active volunteer within USA Wrestling Takhti Cup at Tehran, Iran, Feb. 19-20 First Day results 55 kg/121 lbs. - Sammie Henson, West Point, N.Y. (Sunkist Kids) - tech. fall over R. Hajizadeh (Iran), 12-1; dec. R. Demit (Turkey), 8-2 55 kg/121 lbs. - Mike Mena, Bloomington, Ind. (New York AC) - pin Y. Sharbati (Iran), bye 60 kg/132 lbs. - Yero Washington, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids) - Bye; tech. fall A Ismilov (Azerbaijan), 10-0; vs. M. Akoundi (Iran) 74 kg/163 lbs. - Ramico Blackmon, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Team Excel) - lost dec. to D. Aliev (Russia), 4-0, ot; dec. B. Wissam (Iraq), 4-0 74 kg/163 lbs. - Joe Heskett, Grover Beach, Calif. (Gator WC) - Bye, dec. M Amini (Iran), 3-1; vs. name not reported (Afghanistan)