IOWA CITY – Top challenger Russia and six-time defending champ Iran backed out of the chance to compete in the UWW Freestyle World Cup.
Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs thinks politics were only part of the problem.
“I wouldn’t want to get on a plane for 12 hours and have to face our team,’’ Burroughs said. “We won the world championship last year and this just keeps the momentum going.’’
The United States claimed its first World Cup since 2003 on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, defeating Azerbaijan 6-4 in the title match of the international dual championships.
A collection of athletes who embrace an attack-first mentality led the U.S. team to its victory.
The championship effort was highlighted by a rare pin by a 2012 Olympic champion in Burroughs, a 6-3 win by Logan Stieber over a three-time World champ and Olympic medalist and clinched in emphatic style by a 14-3 technical fall by Kyle Snyder, who has won Olympic gold and just completed his college career with an NCAA title for Ohio State.
“You come out here to do your job and if everybody does, it all works out,’’ Stieber said. “But, none of us wants to let the team down. We’re there for each other, making it happen together.’’
Team USA coach Bill Zadick sensed that.
“These guys care about each other and are working together for the good of the group,’’ Zadick said. “It’s a special team and this is just the beginning.’’
Burroughs sees that, too.
“I won my first NCAA title in 2009 when Kyle Snyder was just a baby. There are more guys out there coming, including one who trains in this building. Spencer Lee is going to be a World and Olympic champion some day in the not too distant future,’’ Burroughs said, referencing the Iowa freshman who won an NCAA title last month.
“This is just another step forward, and it’s meaningful to me. This is my sixth World Cup and the first time I’ve ever been in a position to hold the Cup.’’
Burroughs’ contribution came in the form of a pin in 3 minutes, 15 seconds.
“I’m not a pinner, but to get one here in the championship, it’s special,’’ Burroughs said. “It’s been a great weekend. That’s a good Azerbaijan team and there were good teams here.’’
Japan earned the bronze medal, beating Cuba 6-4 before the United States and Azerbaijan traded wins in the first four matches.
Wins by Kendric Maple and Stieber at 134 and 143 pounds preceded a string of wins by Burroughs, Kyle Dake and a technical fall by David Taylor which positioned Snyder to seal the deal.
“I can’t think of anybody I’d rather have up in a situation to clinch than me,’’ Snyder said. “It was all about the team though, us doing this together. It really was and it’s huge coming off of the world championship last fall. It makes a statement.’’
And whatever it took to make that statement topped the priority list for United States wrestlers.
Dake demonstrated that in his 5-3 decision in the final, grinding out a win after three dominating technical falls in pool competition.
“I had trained with (Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov) in the past, so I knew him and he knew me,’’ Dake said. “People want to see fireworks but sometimes that isn’t going to happen. You’ve got show some grit and find a way.’’
The United States found a way all weekend, finishing off a three-dual sweep of opponents in its pool with an 8-2 victory over Georgia on Sunday morning.
Iowa alum Thomas Gilman, who dropped an 8-7 decision in the finals, opened the meet by rallying for a 6-4 win over Teimuraz Vanishvili, collecting five push points to push his way past a 2-1 deficit after the first of the two three-minute periods and secure the victory at 125.5 pounds.
Rebounding from a 4-1 loss to World champion Yuki Takahashi of Japan on Saturday, Gilman didn’t get ahead of himself.
“The best way to get into a match and get up in a match is taking it one point at a time,’’ Gilman said.
He said he reached that conclusion as he watched teammates wrestle Saturday.
“Any time you get a chance to watch competitors likes Kyle Snyder and Jordan (Burroughs) work, study the way they attack and are continually working toward getting that next point, it helps,’’ Gilman said. “The way they approach it, the way they compete, there is a lot to learn from them. We’re all learning and it’s making a difference.’’
United States wrestlers hoisted a World Cup for the first time in 15 years on Sunday as proof.