The Greco-Roman portion of the 2017 World Wrestling Clubs Cup is slated to begin this coming Thursday (December 14th) in Iran and unfortunately, the United States will no longer be participating.
Citing several factors, including confusion with Visas and questions about security, US National Team head coach Matt Lindland determined that sending the American delegation offered enough potential consequences to render traveling to Iran at the current moment a counterproductive outing for the Greco-Roman program. It should be noted that Lindland conferred with athletes who were expected to make the trip as well as USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender before arriving to his decision.
Below is Lindland’s statement to Five Point Move:
“We have decided not to attend the World Wrestling Clubs Cup after receiving notice that our Visas were scheduled to arrive overnight today (Saturday). To this point, we were unaware of how many Visas we would receive. We were informed that they were going to approve some, but did not tell us the names. Moreover, the logistics surrounding the event had all changed. The Clubs Cup was moved from Tehran to another venue five hours away, and then just minutes ago, word came down that the event is now returning to Tehran. The US freestyle team incurred a $100,000 cost due to similar changes and simply put, we cannot afford to repeat those circumstances. We need to know exactly what our costs are going to be.
“Other relevant, if not more important reasons have also influenced this decision. I have several wrestlers who are injured. But just as much, there are those on the team who have voiced concerns, and rightfully so. I am sensitive to why an athlete, or really anyone, might be hesitant to travel to Iran given today’s political climate. The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the travel ban in conjunction with the President of the United States declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel have exasperated unrest in the region, as if it has ever really been a peaceful one to begin with.
“This is one of those times as the National Greco-Roman coach when I have to consider a variety of components, but ultimately, my decision is based on protecting my athletes. I have to look out for them, I have to have their best interests in mind at all times, and that is what it all came down to. If there is even a remote chance that something could go wrong, I will not now, or ever, put my athletes in that situation. Is there a balance? Yes. Had this been the World Championships or the World Cup, we would have done more to come to a different solution because I would endeavor to not deprive my athletes of that opportunity. I work for a great organization and am fortunate to have a terrific boss in Rich Bender, who advised me to weigh my decision in regards to how our exclusion would impact our team’s performance at the World Championships. I made my decision centered around protecting my athletes, but that factored in, as well. How much would this affect our performance throughout the year? Not at all. I feel we have a great plan in place moving forward. We’re excited, we are ready to go, and if our men get to return home earlier for Christmas than they originally planned, that’s fine.
“But conclusively, there is a lot of unrest in the region right now and President Trump referring to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has unfortunately resulted in increased tension at best, and rioting, at worst, though that issue is not singular to the Middle East. I’m not nervous, but at the same time, I do not and will not put anyone in harm’s way.”
Lindland’s decision was not a long time in the making. As recently as Monday, the plan for the US Greco-Roman wrestlers (who were to represent the New York Athletic Club at the Clubs Cup like last year) was to leave the country on December 11th (today). Then on Thursday, Lindland was notified regarding the holdup with the Visas and was told that not every athlete on the list was approved. He was also not given the names of the athletes who were approved. Couple that with the recent political developments mentioned in his statement buoyed by the words of several Senior Greco-Roman wrestlers, and the picture of the timeline becomes clearer.
If there is a silver lining to the US not attending the 2017 World Wrestling Clubs Cup, it is the money saved. When reached for additional comments last night, Lindland made mention of a training opportunity for the US Seniors in Southeast Asia in 2018, one that may not have been as easy to pull off had the Clubs Cup been a go.
“On the positive side, I wasn’t necessarily sure how we were going to be able to schedule a trip to train in South Korea,” Lindland said. “I think we saved some money here and we can utilize those funds. We’re planning on going to South Korea, so to me, that is a real big positive.”
We’ll have more on this story in tomorrow’s Monday Roundup.