AP

U.S. wins men’s freestyle wrestling world cup for first time in 15 years

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Even without powers Iran and Russia in the field, the U.S.’ first men’s freestyle world cup title in 15 years still meant plenty to Jordan Burroughs.

“I’ve won every single tournament I’ve ever competed in,” the 2012 Olympic and four-time world champion said, “except this one.”

Burroughs moved to 27-0 in his six-year world cup career, then watched as teammate and 2016 Olympic champion Kyle Snyder clinched the team victory over Azerbaijan in Sunday’s final in Iowa City.

“I would always pick myself to go out there and wrestle when it comes down to the team,” said Snyder, the youngest Olympic and world champion in USA Wrestling history. “We have a lot of good guys, but I feel real confident in my ability to wrestle under those type of circumstances.”

The eight-nation annual meet lost some sting with the absence of Russia, Iran and Turkey, which combined to win four of the six Olympic men’s freestyle gold medals in Rio. Iran and Turkey withdrew in the winter.

Then the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. of trying to bar Russian wrestlers as the U.S. embassy in Moscow said it was unable to fulfill a late visa request by the Russian Wrestling Federation to travel to Iowa City.

Iran won the men’s freestyle world cup the last six years. Russia was runner-up three of the last five years. The U.S. men’s freestyle team ranked No. 1 at the 2017 Worlds, though.

“I wouldn’t want to come 12 hours to compete against these 10 guys that we have anyway,” Burroughs said. “We’re the best team in the world. People are like, well, Iran, Russia, they’re the best teams. We’re the best team. We’re the reigning world champions. We’re the team champs. If they wanted to win a world cup, they should have prepared and been here to wrestle us. … We flew all the way out to Iran, 15-hour flight, to get there [to the world cup and finish second] last year. They should have been here this year.”

This 10-man U.S. team included not only the Olympic champions Burroughs and Snyder, but also Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox, world champion Logan Stieber and world medalists James GreenThomas Gilman and Nick Gwiazdowski. Burroughs, 29, is the only man in that group older than 25.

“I think we’re the best team the United States has ever made, and we’re only going to get better,” Snyder said. “We’ve got people coming up in the developmental age groups. We have guys who haven’t made teams yet that are really, really good. I think this is the best team the United States has ever had, but I don’t even think it’ll be close to what we’re going to have when it comes to the Olympics and world championships in the future.”

Americans are preparing for the world team trials in June and the world championships in October in Budapest.

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United States 6, Azerbaijan 4
57kg: Giorgi Edisherashvili (Azerbaijan) dec. Thomas Gilman (USA), 8-7
61kg: Kendric Maple (USA) dec. Afghan Khashalov (Azerbaijan), 6-2
65kg: Logan Stieber (USA) dec. Haji Aliyev (Azerbaijan), 6-3
70kg: Joshgun Azimov (Azerbaijan) dec. James Green (USA), 4-4
74kg: Jordan Burroughs (USA) pin Gasjimurad Omarov (Azerbaijan), 3:15
79kg: Kyle Dake (USA) dec. Jabrayil Hasanov (Azerbaijan), 5-3
86kg: David Taylor (USA) tech. fall Aleksander Gostiev (Azerbaijan), 12-2
92kg: Aslanbek Alborov (Azerbaijan) dec. J’den Cox (USA), 4-4
97kg: Kyle Snyder (USA) tech fall Roman Bakirov (Azerbaijan), 14-3
125kg: Jamaladdin Magomedov (Azerbaijan) dec. Nick Gwiazdowski (USA) 4-3

Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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