Thirteen years ago, the last time the Iranian wrestling team came to the USA, I was there. My parents bought me tickets to the 2000 world cup of wrestling at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia. To this day, it still may have been the greatest birthday present I ever received.
The wrestling I got to watch was thrilling, all of my heroes were right there, mere feet away (I almost became apoplectic when Lincoln McIlravy climbed into the crowd and sat next to me to sign autographs). The arena was filled almost to capacity, and much to the surprise of eighteen year old Mike Riordan, they were mostly Iranian, and they were going fucking nuts.
Not nuts at anything in particular, but whenever an Iranian was on the mat the place was a mad house. I say the following without a hint of hyperbole: Iranian wrestling fans may be the best sports fan on the globe. During that tournament I was treated to a match between two world champions as Iran's Ali Reza Heidari faced off against Russia's Kuramagomed Kuramagomedov. When Heidari won the match, the joyful screams of the Persians shook the building.
They weren't just enthusiastic either, they were knowledgeable of the sport and clearly loved their wrestlers. In Iran's match with the Ukraine, I saw one Iranian winning a match by a considerable margin when he got sloppy on a gut wrench and the Ukrainian stepped over and pinned him. The Iranian was distraught, he knew he had lost to an inferior opponent. As he walked off the mat and past his fans in the crowd, they reached out over the railings and spoke condolences to him in Farsi. Their was no resentment for his loss among the fans, only concern for his state of mind. I'll always find this to be deeply touching.
Now the Iranians are back, there fans will undoubtedly be right there with them, cheering their team on to a likely victory. I discussed the Iranian lineup in my weekly column on Intermat this week, and the prospects aren't great for the Americans. This is almost the exact same team that crushed us in Tehran a few months ago. I chronicled this drubbing here (if you are ever going to read something that I have written, please read that).
Aside from the live stream, this event will be covered by NBC Sports Network. The Rumble on the Rails is part of the Beat the Streets Foundation annual gala. Their cause is a noble one, please visit their site to find more.
The following are the match ups for the event
USA vs Iran
USA vs Russia