USA Wrestling standing “arm-in-arm” with Iran

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USA Wrestling reiterated its efforts toward having the sport reinstated to the 2020 Olympics schedule during a tournament in Tehran Tuesday, and explained that it plans to cooperate with every nation, from Iran, to Russia, to Cuba in order to see their goals met before an IOC executive board vote this May in St. Petersburg.

“We’ll be standing arm-in-arm with Iran, and we’ll be standing with Russia as we will with lots of other countries,” Mitch Hull, national teams director for USA Wrestling, told the AP. “Those [countries] really do make a difference because politically we’re not always on the same page, or politically with Russia. But in wrestling, there’s no doubt that we are all together in this effort and we consider Iran one of our strongest allies in the sport of wrestling…

“We have great confidence that we can work with the Iranian wrestling federation, Iranian wrestlers and the Iranian people to show the world that, no matter what’s happening politically, we have the same goal and the same belief and passion about the sport of wrestling”

The cooperation between the nations is being compared to the famous “Ping-pong Diplomacy” of the early-70s, which saw matches between U.S. and Chinese players – with the slogan “Friendship First, Competition Second” – that eventually paved the way for then President Nixon to visit Beijing.

On the U.S. side, officials created the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling Monday in hopes of mobilizing and energizing America in support of the sport’s reinstatement, while Iran’s Olympic Committee sent a letter of protest to the IOC last week regarding the decision.

Wrestling can be reinstated over seven other prospective sports, including  squash, karate, sport climbing, wakeboarding, roller sports, wushu, and baseball/softball’s joint bid, if they can make it through an IOC executive meeting this May that will pare down the best options of those eight sports. It would then need to win another vote among all the IOC members this September in Buenos Aires.

U.S. men’s gymnastics program undergoes changes

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 25: Members of the U.S. Men's National Gymnastics Team gather before day two of the 2016 Men's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at Chafitz Arena on June 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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U.S. men’s national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika‘s contract will not be renewed at the end of the year as USA Gymnastics makes changes after missing the men’s team podium at a second straight Olympics.

Mazeika was the U.S. men’s head coach at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, where the U.S. men earned team medals at a non-home Games for the first time. He then served as national team coordinator from 2009 through this year.

The U.S. men finished fifth at the last two Olympics.

USA Gymnastics will replace the national team coordinator role with a high-performance director “focused on sustained international success.”

“The coaches, committee members and staff did a thorough review of the existing structure and results, and then took a hard look at what is needed to prepare our athletes for success heading toward Tokyo and beyond,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a press release.

MORE: U.S. women’s national team coordinator named

Kayla Harrison begins MMA career

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12:  (BROADCAST - OUT) Judoka Kayla Harrison of the United States poses for a photo with her gold medal on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Two-time Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison has joined mixed martial arts promotion World Series of Fighting, which says she is moving to MMA but won’t set a debut fight for at least a year.

Harrison, 26 and all but retired from judo, has been asked time and again for years about her interest in pursuing MMA. That’s in part because of former training partner Ronda Rousey‘s overwhelming success after she switched from Olympic judo.

Harrison hasn’t responded to messages seeking comment.

Harrison will serve as a commentator and brand ambassador before getting into MMA competition. Her commentating debut will be at WSOF 34 in New York on Dec. 31 on NBC.

Earlier this month, Harrison reiterated that she had offers on the table to sign a mixed martial arts contract, with interest from at least three “big” promotion companies.

Harrison has taken boxing and jiu-jitsu lessons as far back as 2013, which should boost her MMA potential.

To compete in MMA, Harrison will require a weight cut from her Olympic judo class of 172 pounds.

Rousey competes at 135 pounds, the heaviest women’s weight class in UFC. WSOF plans to develop a women’s program as Harrison readies for her debut.

“I’m interested in MMA in an aspect where competitors are treated as competitors and not as celebrities or as showmen,” Harrison said earlier this month, while emphasizing her admiration for Rousey. “I’m not interested in being a talker or someone who is all about the show.”

MORE: Ronda Rousey sets comeback fight