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