TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — In a rare gesture of goodwill, members of the U.S. freestyle wrestling team shook hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday after finishing third in a tournament.
Iran and the U.S. have found a common ground in wrestling lately after the sport was kicked out of the Olympics, with both countries intent on seeing it restored to the program.
Iran won the freestyle wrestling World Cup on Friday after beating Russia 6-1 in the final, with the Americans finishing third after defeating Belarus by the same score. Ahmadinejad then attended the awards ceremony, shaking hands with some members of the U.S. team and posing for pictures.
Iran’s public sports broadcaster showed parts of the ceremony live.
American wrestlers Obenson Blanc, Joseph Kennedy, Harold Metcalf, Jordan Burroughs, John Askren and Tervel Dlagnev won their matches against Belarus. Ivan Iankovski had the only win for Belarus, defeating James Bergman.
The tournament has been a unifying force for the participants following a decision by International Olympic Committee to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympics. That provided a common goal for Iran and the U.S. The two nations, both prominent in wrestling, have not had diplomatic relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution after the U.S. Embassy was stormed, leading to 52 Americans being held hostage for 444 days.
Iran won the World Cup title behind victories in the final from Hasan Rahimi, Masoud Esmailpour, Sadegh Goudarzi, Ehsan Lashkari, Hamed Tatari and Komeil Ghassemi. Alan Gogaev defeated Mahdi Taghavi for Russia’s only win.
Earlier Wednesday, Russia won the Greco-Roman title after beating Iran in the final. Turkey finished third.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.