February 8th, 2009 14:05 EST
US team named for Takhti Wrestling Cup
The U.S. freestyle wrestling team is to participate in the 2009 Takhti Cup, scheduled for March 12-13 at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Iran.
Since 1998, the United States regularly has participated in the Takhti Cup as well as frequent international tournaments.
"In Iran, wrestling and soccer are the two major sports," said Gary Abbott, director of communications for USA Wrestling in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "They know their wrestling as well as anyone in the world. They treat our athletes like kings."
Relations between the United States and Iran ended after Iranian militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held Americans hostage there for 444 days.
Abbott said Iran is one of the top wrestling powers in the world, along with countries such as the United States, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Competing in a wrestling-crazy society like Iran is special to Americans, who look forward to getting on the mats before large crowds in sold-out arenas.
"For the common citizen, an American wrestler in Iran is like Michael Jordan going over there," Abbott said, referring to the world-famous American basketball legend.
The U.S. freestyle wrestling team members are as follow:
55kg : Nick Simmons (Michigan WC)
60 kg: Shawn Bunch (Gator WC)
60 kg: Nate Gallick (Sunkist Kids)
60 kg: Mike Zadick (Gator WC)
60 kg: Coleman Scott (Gator WC)
66 kg: Trent Paulson (Sunkist Kids)
66kg: Josh Churella (New York AC)
74 kg: Travis Paulson (Sunkist Kids)
74 kg: Keith Gavin (New York AC)
74 kg: Zack Esposito (Blair Academy WC)
74kg: Ryan Churella (Michigan WC)
84 kg: Andy Hrovat (New York AC)
96 kg: Kurt Backes (Cyclone WC)
120 kg: Steve Mocco (New York AC)
Coach: Zeke Jones