Iranian wrestling at crossroads of Asian Games, World Championships

Iranian wrestling at crossroads of Asian Games, World Championships

The Asian Wrestling Championships – kicking off today in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – will be the first of four major events of the sport coming Iran’s way in less than six months.

Iran will then head to Konya, Turkey, for the fifth edition of the Islamic Solidarity Games, starting August 9, according to the Iran Daily newspaper.

However, with only a few days separating the Wrestling World Championships and the wrestling competitions of the Asian Games, both Iranian head coaches Pejman Dorostkar and Mohammad Bana are already facing a dilemma on who to pick for each event.

The world event will get underway in the Serbian capital of Belgrade on September 10 – four days before the wrestling contests of the Games begin in Hangzhou, China.

With the hectic schedule on their minds, both coaches decided to name a rather young, new-look squad for the Asian Championships, leaving out the majority of the wrestlers who represented the country at last year’s Tokyo Olympics and the World Championships in Oslo, Norway.

The Iranian Greco-Roman 10-man team steered by Bana will feature only two members of the squad that was crowned the Asian champion in Almaty, Kazakhstan, 12 months ago.

Nasser Alizadeh delivered an impressive senior debut by snatching the 87kg gold, while Mehdi Bali also grabbed the ultimate prize in the 97kg weight class.

Meanwhile, of the 10 Iranians at the freestyle event in Ulaanbaatar, only four have the experience of participation in the major events under their belts – Rahman Amouzad (65kg), Younes Emami (74kg), Mohammad-Hossein Mohammadian (97kg), and Yadollah Mohebbi (125kg).

In an interview with the official website of the Iran Wrestling Federation days before leaving for Mongolia, freestyle coach Dorostkar made it clear that he would consider the Asian Championships as “an opportunity to make a backup team for the future events.”

“We will participate at the Asian Championships with only half of our full potentials. Reza Mo’meni, Dariush Hazratqolizadeh, and Mohsen Mostafavi will take part in only their second international tournament,” added Dorostkar.

“Results will not be our priority [at the Asian Championships],” said the Iranian head coach, who, on his debut as the national team coach, led the country to the world third-spot finish, adding: “Our short-term objectives will be the Asian Games and the World Championships, while we’ll be eyeing success at the Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 Olympics in the long run.”

Asked about his approach on team selection for the Asian Games and World Championships, Dorostkar said, “The wrestlers will surely prefer to compete in the world event, but we will also have to take into consideration the priorities of the country’s sports apparatus and Iran’s National Olympic Committee (NOC).”

“Bana and I have been holding meetings on the issue with [NOC president] Reza Salehi-Amiri,” said Dorostkar, adding wrestling federation chief Alireza Dabir will have the final word on the matter.