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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

David Boudia adjusts diving event, goal for world championships

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David Boudia earned diving medals at his last three world championships and the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, but that was on the platform. He competes on the global stage on the springboard for the first time at worlds this week.

“I don’t have a lot of high hopes,” Boudia, who is still learning the springboard after switching to it in the last year, said in a phone interview from South Korea, where he begins competition Wednesday (TV schedule here). “But I think my biggest goal is to walk away with an Olympic spot.”

An Olympic spot not necessarily for himself, but for the U.S.

Boudia, a 30-year-old father of three, and any other American will clinch 2020 Olympic quota spots by placing in the top 12 in their respective individual events this week. Those spots, and any others earned at later competitions in the next year, will be filled at trials in June in Indianapolis.

NBC Sports analyst Cynthia Potter believes Boudia, who left the sport to sell homes in 2017 and came back and suffered a concussion off the platform in 2018, can meet his goal of making Friday’s 12-man final in Gwangju.

“He would have to dive well, but not better than he’s been diving,” she said. “His springboard is really well-timed, rhythmic, and he’s for a long time known how to go into the water without making a splash.”

But challenging Rio Olympic gold and silver medalists Cao Yuan of China and Jack Laugher of Great Britain, plus defending world champion Xie Siyi of China would be very tough.

Boudia lacks their degrees of difficulty, for now. He hopes to switch out two of his six dives before his first competition of 2020, though he could insert one of them should he make the world final.

“I need a good six months, so from August to December is when we’re kind of really drilling the fundamentals of learning those new dives and getting them perfected,” he said.

Boudia rallied to beat Rio Olympic springboard diver Michael Hixon for the title in May at nationals, where the top two per event earned world berths. But Boudia competed there with about a month of competition dive practice, about half as long as he would prefer.

“Hix and I are going to have a lot of training to do if we want to be even close to cracking that top five,” at worlds, Boudia said in May, according to TeamUSA.org.

Boudia is the lone U.S. diver to earn an individual world medal in an Olympic diving event since 2009.

The U.S. produced breakthroughs at worlds so far. Sarah Bacon became the first American woman to earn a world title since 2005, taking the non-Olympic 1m springboard event. Murphy Bromberg and Katrina Young bagged bronze in synchronized platform, ending a decade-long medal drought in any synchro event.

But Boudia’s goal must be shared among the whole team — as many top-12 finishes individually and top three in synchro events to gobble up Tokyo 2020 quota spots. The U.S. failed to qualify full teams for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

“Getting in the top 12 in the four individual Olympic events is the big deal right now,” Potter said. “Whether you are on the awards stand or not, that would be icing on the cake for a lot of these divers.”

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Anita Wlodarczyk, one of track and field’s most dominant, sidelined

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Poland hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk, the only woman to win the last five combined Olympic and world titles in a track and field event, will not go for a fourth straight world championship this fall.

Wlodarczyk had season-ending, arthroscopic left knee surgery on Monday, according to Polish media citing her coach.

Wlodarczyk, 33, has the top 15 throws on the IAAF’s all-time list, and 27 of the top 29. Her world record of 82.98 meters (scribbled on her leg pre-op) is 11 and a half feet farther the second-best woman in history. She originally took silver at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds but was upgraded to gold after Russian Tatyana Lysenko was stripped for doping.

Wlodarczyk won a reported 42 straight finals between 2014 and 2017, then suffered three losses in 2018 and two so far this year in three lower-level meets before the operation.

Americans DeAnna Price and Brooke Anderson rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year. A U.S. woman has never finished in the top five of an Olympic or world championships hammer throw, which debuted at worlds in 1999 and the Olympics in 2000.

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