Russia will not attend UWW World Cup, making way for Mongolia and India –


Former Iowa wrestler Thomas Gilman takes questions ahead of the UWW Freestyle World Cup, set for April 7-8 in Iowa City.
Cody Goodwin/HawkCentral

The UWW Freestyle World Cup is just a week away, and one of the world’s super wrestling powers will, officially, not be attending.

In an announcement on Friday, USA Wrestling, the national governing body for wrestling in the United States, said it has received confirmation “from contacts in U.S. Congress that the issues affecting the Russian wrestling team’s participation in the Freestyle World Cup will not be resolved.”

As such, Russia has been ruled out of the World Cup, the second major country that was originally invited to the international dual competition but will ultimately not make the trip — Iran made the decision to not send a team.

In their places will be Mongolia and India, two teams USA Wrestling invited earlier this week in case Russia could not make the trip. The visa process for both Mongolia and India is underway, according to a release from USA Wrestling.

“It is extremely unfortunate that Russia will not be able to compete at the Freestyle World Cup this year,” USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender said in the release. “With the reality of this situation, USA Wrestling is pleased that the wrestling federations of Mongolia and India have responded to support the World Cup and are making plans to be here for the event.

“We will have an outstanding competition showcasing international wrestling in Iowa City next weekend, and we are excited to host those nations that will be attending.”

The U.S. edged out Russia for the team title at the 2017 Senior World Championships last August. Kyle Snyder, the United States’ representative at 97 kilograms (roughly 213 pounds) defeated Russia’s Abdusalim Sadulaev for the world title, giving the U.S. 54 points over Russia’s 53 for its first Senior world team title since 1995.

Iran was invited as a replacement for Turkey back in January, and only recently told USA Wrestling that it would not be attending. Iran’s backing out means there will be a new World Cup champion, as Iran has won the last six Freestyle World Cups. The United States hasn’t won since 2003, but took second in 2017 and 2015.

Earlier this week, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the United States was attempting to bar its freestyle team from competing in the World Cup, which is set for April 7-8 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

The ministry claimed the U.S. did not schedule visa interviews, accused the U.S. of “direct and open discrimination,” and called it unfit to hold international competitions.

“We estimate this U.S. move as yet another notorious example of efforts to prevent Russian athletes from participating in international competitions,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We hope that the world sports movement will pay attention to this crying circumstance. It is clearly no longer possible to hold international competitions in the United States —they are playing unfairly there.”

USA Wrestling responded by stating it had not received information from the Russian Wrestling Federation or the international wrestling federation United World Wrestling that Russia is not attending, yet still maintained “an expectation and hope that Russia will participate,” according to a statement.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley inquired about the situation, and was answered by the Consular Section of the Embassy of the United States of America in Moscow, Russia. 

According to a release, Grassley’s office was told: “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. In the current situation, the Embassy is not able to provide expedited appointments for sporting events.”

The response also stated that the Russian Wrestling Federation’s late visa requests didn’t allow the U.S. Embassy time to expedite the process for the team.

Iowa City is the ninth U.S. city to host the World Cup. This will be the 30th time the United States has hosted the international dual competition.

USA Wrestling said it will provide complete updates on the composition of the new delegations, the changes to the competition schedule and other important information as it becomes available.

“There will be outstanding competition showcasing amazing athletes and teams at the World Cup,” Bender said, “and we look forward to hosting the world in Iowa City next weekend.”

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

Jets host free agent center Travis Swanson – 247Sports

During the 2018 offseason, the New York Jets have made moves on their offensive line, as they signed Spencer Long from the Washington Redskins to be the team’s center. Even with Long’s signing, though, the Jets are doing their due diligence with another free agent center.

The Jets announced Friday via Twitter that unrestricted free agent center Travis Swanson, formerly of the Detroit Lions, visited the team on Friday. Swanson, a former third-round draft pick of the Lions in 2014, worked with quarterback Matthew Stafford, and also blocked for running backs such as Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.

(Photo: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire, Getty)

Swanson has played in 53 games in four seasons with 42 career starts, but his 2017 season ended on Injured Reserve. Although the Lions called the injury a concussion, Swanson’s representatives disputed that claim. According to a report by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Swanson and his representatives have a medical note claiming that he did not actually suffer a concussion, but apparently had an adverse reaction to medicine he was given to treat concussions. They claim that Swanson’s symptoms subsided once Swanson was taken off the medication. The Lions stand by their diagnosis.

Swanson, however, does have a history of head injuries. In 2016, Swanson missed extensive time at the end of the season with an injury to his brain.

Seeking to fill the void left by Nick Mangold, the Jets addressed the center position earlier in the offseason when they signed Long away from the Redskins to the tune of a four-year, $28 million contract. Presently, the only other center on the roster is Jonotthan Harrison, who joined the Jets in 2017 from the Indianapolis Colts. Adding Swanson would help to add depth for the Jets at the position, and also give the team another starting-caliber offensive lineman.

As of the end of March, the Jets’ projected starting offensive line includes Long, Kelvin Beachum at left tackle, James Carpenter at left guard, Brian Winters at right guard, and Brandon Shell at right tackle. In addition, the team also has Harrison, Ben Braden, Brent Qvale, and Korren Kirven in reserves. In 2017, the Jets’ offensive line proved to be a significant pain point for the team, significantly in the interior. While the Jets’ O-Line struggles were overshadowed by the abysmal play of their fellow Meadowlands residents, the New York Giants, the Jets struggled to run the ball up the middle efficiently, and also gave up most of the pressures they allowed on their quarterbacks between the tackles.

Swanson, 27, played college football at the University of Arkansas.

Paraplegic vets who train at Zablocki VA in Milwaukee bring home sled hockey gold for Team USA – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Josh Misiewicz grew up a hockey kid in northern Illinois, but after losing his legs to an IED in Afghanistan one of his first thoughts was that he’d never play the sport again.

“You don’t know what to expect” said Misiewicz, who was injured in 2011. “You don’t know anything, if you’re ever going have a girlfriend again, you have no idea.”

Not only did the former Marine find love, Misiewicz also found gold after returning to the ice as a member of Team USA’s sled hockey team, which captured the gold medal this month at the 2018 Paralympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“The camaraderie of this team, and to play for Team USA and win a gold medal — it’s a huge honor,” he said. 

On Friday Misiewicz, along with teammate and fellow Marine veteran Travis Dodson, described how they found both redemption and Olympic glory in the sport that pulled them from depths of despair. They train at Zablocki VA Medical Center near Miller Park in Milwaukee.

“I don’t know where I’d be,” said Dodson, who lost his legs to a grenade in Iraq in 2007.

“I don’t know how my life would have turned out after being injured without hockey.”

Sled hockey, or sledge as it’s called outside the U.S., was invented at a Stockholm, Sweden rehabilitation center in the early 1960s by a group of disabled players who wanted to continue playing the game, according to USA Hockey.

Players sit in specially designed sleds atop two hockey skate blades, and use two sticks instead of one.

The sticks have metal pics on the butt end for players to propel themselves, and goalies wear gloves with metal picks sewn into the backside to allow them to maneuver.

“Those picks just aren’t used for moving on the ice,” said team doctor Mike Uilein, who treats Misiewicz and Dodson at the Adaptive Sports Clinic at the Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Along with injuries from the picks, sled hockey players also cope with muscle overuse and injuries sustained in collisions with rink boards or other players at speeds up to 30 mph.

“That’s a car crash,” Uilein said.

Dodson, 32, grew up in New Mexico, where the closest he ever got to playing hockey was high school golf.     

“I didn’t even know the rules,” said Dodson, who saw his first sled hockey game while competing in cross country at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, where Team USA captured its second consecutive of three total sled hockey gold medals.

“I thought, ‘I’m in the wrong sport. I need to go play that,’ ” Dodson said.

En route to this year’s gold-medal finish, the team beat Japan 10-0, the Czech Republic 10-0 and Korea 8-0 in group play before defeating Italy 10-1 in the semifinals.

But to capture gold they’d have to beat the Canadian team, who they lost to in the 2017 world championship.

“That’s why they were the number one seed coming into the Olympics,” Uilein said.

In the gold medal match, the U.S. team was trailing Canada 1-0 with less than a minute left in regulation play when they tied the game with 37 seconds left.

“When we scored, I mean they were 37 seconds away from winning the gold medal and we were 37 seconds away from losing the gold medal,” Misiewicz said.

Team USA went on to win 2-1 in overtime, capturing an unprecedented third-straight Paralympic gold medal.

“Our emotions were on a high and we knew we were gonna pull it off,” Misiewicz said.

“We had one goal and that was to win gold.”

For now Misiewicz and Dodson will bask in that gold glory before preparing for a run at a fifth team gold meadal.

“There’s more work to do. We want another,” Dodson said.

“This one’s done and over and we’re glad we got it, buts it’s time to get moving on to the next one.” 


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Ex-Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls joins New York Jets – –

Thomas Rawls found a new home.

The ex-Seattle Seahawks running back signed with the New York Jets, the team announced Friday.

An undrafted rookie in 2015, Rawls burst onto the scene in Seattle as a between-the-tackles fill-in for an injured Marshawn Lynch. The 5-foot-9 wrecking ball averaged an NFL-high 5.6 yards per carry, going for 830 yards and four scores his opening season.

Rawls runs likes a bowling ball wrapped in barbed wire, seeking out contact and delivering menacing blows for a player his size.

Unfortunately, the bruising physical style that makes Rawls so fun to watch has also held him back. The 24-year-old has been unable to stay healthy the past two seasons. Rawls started just 10 games the past two years after being slated to take over the full-time duty. He earned just 58 carries and averaged 2.7 yards per carry in 2017.

In New York, Rawls will attempt to prove he can stay healthy while battling for a roster spot. The top of the Jets running back corps includes free-agent signee Isaiah Crowell, and incumbents Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire.

ATP Miami Open Finals Preview: Alexander Zverev vs. John Isner – Tennis Magazine

Alexander Zverev is 3-0 in his career against John Isner. (AP)

Much like the women’s final, the men’s title match will feature two very good players who, after sputtering out of the gates in 2018, few expected to make season-changing turnarounds in Miami.

The 32-year-old Isner and the 20-year-old Zverev are players from different generations, but they have a long history together. It goes back to Zverev’s days as a tween tagalong of his older brother Mischa’s at the Saddlebrook Academy in Florida, when Isner was training there. Maybe that familiarity has helped Zverev, because he’s 3-0 against the more-experienced American. Their best and closest contest, which went to three tiebreakers, came in the second round in Miami 12 months ago. If this match is anything like that one, entertainment-wise, we’re in for something good. 

Match point from Zverev’s win over Carreno Busta in Miami: 

Like Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko, Zverev and Isner have looked like their old, better selves over the last 10 days. Zverev has left the loopy, spinny, passively uncertain game of the last six months behind, and has played with the flat, two-winged attack that brought him two Masters 1000 titles in 2017. For his part, Isner played one of the most single-minded and tactically astute matches of his career to end Juan Martin del Potro’s 15-match win streak in the semifinals. After witnessing that display, Zverev joked that maybe they could outlaw the serve and just play from the baseline in the final. But would he be able to handle Isner’s 117-m.p.h. forehand?

If Isner plays with that same relentlessness and quality in the final, he should win; there’s not much anyone can do if he’s not only hitting his spots on his serve, but also playing lights out from the back of the court. But the chances of Zverev’s level staying where it’s been this week—i.e. very high—seem like a better bet to me. Winner: Zverev

Winner: Zverev

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Michigan football running back duo has caught eye of Jay Harbaugh – Detroit Free Press

Orion Sang, Special to the Detroit Free Press
Published 5:48 p.m. ET March 30, 2018

For running backs Karan Higdon and Chris Evans, the focus of the offseason has been on mostly one thing: pass protection.

Higdon said Thursday night, after Michigan’s fourth spring practice, it’s been one of the things he’s concentrating on the most.

Evans went even further. When asked what specifically he has worked on this spring, he held out his hand, counted each finger off and repeated the words ‘pass protection’ over and over again.

More: Michigan football players praise Shea Patterson

The junior believes he lost playing time last season because he wasn’t good enough at protecting the quarterback. So, like his backfield mate, he has worked on changing that.

“(Jay Harbaugh) didn’t necessarily say it, but I know based off the tendencies and him saying the opportunities that I get, that he doesn’t really trust me out there in pass protection,” Evans said. “So what I’ve gotta do is pass protection, pass protection, pass protection. I’ve just got to beat it until I get it down.”

It appears their work has caught the eye of Harbaugh, the running backs coach. According to him, the team’s two leading rushers from last season are “doing a great job” this spring while polishing the parts of their game that needed more attention to detail.

Michigan running back Chris Evans (12) celebrates his touchdown with teammate defensive line Khaleke Hudson (7) during the second half at the Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Saturday, November 4, 2017. (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)

That includes more precision in their routes coming out of the backfield or empty sets. And, of course, it includes pass protection.

“They’re both super tough,” Harbaugh said. “Just getting them to play with the technique that we’re looking for and from right now to if you compared it to last spring, it’s significantly better. Even these four practices have been incrementally better.”

That isn’t the only similarity between the two. Both say they’ve gotten bigger with the help of new strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert. Higdon is close to 200 pounds after weighing “about 190, 195” after the bowl game. Evans, a sophomore, is at 214, up from 210.

Then there’s the bond they share off the field. Such a close friendship might seem unexpected, considering Higdon and Evans have competed for carries the past two years.

More: Michigan football’s Chase Winovich likes changes in program, Jim Harbaugh

On the field, the duo took a combined 299 carries for 1,679 yards and 17 touchdowns as the backbone of Michigan’s ground game.

And yet, despite that natural rivalry, their relationship has flourished. Off the field, they both coach youth football teams, collaborating on different ideas for their players. When they have time, Evans said, they’ll get together during the weekend to hang out and talk about … pass protection. What else?

“We’re real tight,” Evans said. “When stuff goes wrong on the field, we talk. Even off the field.”

Added Higdon: “We’ve grown a lot closer. Obviously, we compete a lot, and we compete at a high level against each other. But we’ve been able to push each other and learn off each other and just build that relationship, that friendship and keep each other going, keep each other motivated and make sure whoever’s on the field at whatever time (will) succeed.”

Oct. 28: Michigan running back Karan Higdon rushes for a touchdown in the first half against Rutgers at Michigan Stadium. Higdon rushed for two TDs in the 35-14 win. (Photo: Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports)

According to Higdon, that relationship has developed since Evans arrived on campus two summers ago. He feels it’s been the strongest this year, as he enters his final spring at Michigan.

Unlike Evans, this will be the final go-around for Higdon. He briefly considered leaving early for the NFL, and says he got a lot of great feedback. But he came back, and he’s set numerous goals for himself. One of those is carrying the title of offensive captain — which he’s already gone about trying to earn by being more vocal and leading more by example.

According to Higdon, he felt he had been doing that before, but in a selfish manner. Now, he wants to be more contagious.

“Selfish manner meaning I was focusing on what I needed to do to help the team, and not really what other guys — what we could do together — to help the team,” he explained. “So I was making sure I was at my best, so I could give the offense my best. And this year, along with that, I’ve been able to find a balance between doing that for myself and the guys around me, because I know the game more. And when you know the game more, you can help more.”

Besides earning the captaincy, Higdon didn’t want to disclose any of his other goals for the season. But it’s safe to assume he feels the same way as Evans about how last year ended, and improving in pass protection and becoming a better leader is how he hopes to end his final season on a better note.

“(Donovan) Peoples-Jones just said after practice today, ‘We’ve got to remember the feeling after all the losses we had,’” Evans said. “We always keep that in the back of our heads, just roll with it. Remember the locker room quiet, everybody down. We’ve just got to remember that feeling through spring ball and work harder.”