2022 UWW World Cup

USA vs Iran - 2022 World Cup Preview & Predictions

USA vs Iran - 2022 World Cup Preview & Predictions

A full preview and predictions for the potential dual meet between Team USA and Iran at the 2022 World Cup on December 11.

Dec 11, 2022 by Jon Kozak
USA vs Iran - 2022 World Cup Preview & Predictions

The 2022 World Cup finals will go down Sunday, December 11 at 7:00 pm (ET) between Team USA and Iran. Before the two powerhouses take the mat in Iowa, check out a full preview and predictions for this incredible dual.

USA vs Iran expected matchups

57 kg: Zane Richards/Nick Suriano, USA vs Reza Momeni, IRI

61 kg: #7 Seth Gross/Daniel DeShazer, USA vs Armin Habibzadeh, IRI

65 kg: #4 Yianni Diakomihalis/Evan Henderson, USA vs #1 Rahman Amouzad, IRI

70 kg: Alec Pantaleo/Tyler Berger, USA vs #8 Amir Yazdani, IRI

74 kg: #8 Jason Nolf/Vincenzo Joseph, USA vs #18 Mohmmadsadegh Firouzpour, IRI

79 kg: #1 Jordan Burroughs/#14 Chance Marsteller, USA vs #6 Ali Savadkouhi, IRI/#7 Mohammad Nokhodi

86 kg: #7 Zahid Valencia/Mark Hall, USA vs #11 Alireza Mohammad Karimimachian, IRI

92 kg: #9 Nate Jackson/Jay Aiello, USA vs #3 Amir Firouzpour, IRI

97 kg: #2 Kyle Snyder, USA vs Amirali Azarpira, IRI

125 kg: #7 Hayden Zillmer/#10 Nick Gwiazdowski, USA vs #5 Amirreza Masoumi, IRI

57 kg: Zane Richards/Nick Suriano, USA vs Reza Momeni, IRI

Iran’s Reza Momeni has had success against Iranian wrestlers but is largely unproven on the senior level. Momeni’s best performance was most recently in the Iranian league where he recorded a win against Ahmad Javan, who was ranked in the top 10 at 57kg due to a past win over world silver medalist Alireza Sarlak. Momeni failed to move into the rankings with the win because again, he is largely unproven against international competition. For instance, this year Momeni failed to place at the Islamic Solidarity Games and was silver at the U20 Asian Championships.

This match at 57kg could prove key to the outcome of the dual and is a winnable match for either Nick Suriano or Zane Richards. Based on the inexperience of Momeni, I give Suriano and Richards the advantage in this match. Suriano’s gold at the 2021 Henri Deglane and silver at the 2021 Matteo Pellicone proves his style is highly effective against some of the best wrestlers in the world at 57kg. 

Prediction: Suriano/Richards by decision

61 kg: #7 Seth Gross/Daniel DeShazer, USA vs Armin Habibzadeh, IRI

Armin Habibzadeh, like Momeni, is a young up-and-comer for Iran but largely unproven on the senior level. Habibzadeh won a silver medal at the 2022 U20 World Championships but failed to place at the 2022 U23 World Championships where he went 0-1. Habibzadeh notably defeated USA’s Nic Bouzakis in a high scoring, 15-13 bout. Because of that result against Bouzakis, and Habibzadeh’s failure to place at U23 worlds, I give Seth Gross the edge here. Gross strives against wrestlers who don’t have “air-tight” defense and might be able to push for a tech fall in this match.

Prediction: Gross by decision

Habibzadeh’s win over Nic Bouzakis at the 2022 U20 World Championships:

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65 kg: #4 Yianni Diakomihalis/Evan Henderson, USA vs #1 Rahman Amouzad, IRI

The match at 65kg between Amouzad and Yianni is one of the most highly anticipated rematches of the entire World Cup. At the 2022 Senior World Championships, both Yianni and Amouzad cruised to the finals where they met in a highly entertaining and competitive gold medal match. Amouzad came out on top in that bout with a 13-8 victory over Yianni. The difference came in the second period as Amouzad was able to shut down Yianni’s offense and effectively impose his under-hook to generate offense.

Yianni has been vocal about his desire for the rematch with Amouzad and is sure to be prepared if the two meet on Sunday in Coarallvile. Yianni’s best success in their match at worlds came early in the first period during a scramble when Yianni was able to convert on a double-leg and take an 8-6 lead from the one exchange. For Yianni to get revenge on Amouzad, he’ll have to clear Amouzad’s powerful under hook and force more exchanges where he’s in on the Iranian’s legs. 

Prediction: Amouzad by decision

Amouzad’s win over Yianni Diakomihalis in the finals of the 2022 Senior World Championships:

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70 kg: Alec Pantaleo/Tyler Berger, USA vs #8 Amir Yazdani, IRI

Amir Yazdani won a silver medal at the 2021 World Championships at 65kg and worked his way up to the #1 ranked wrestler in the world at 70kg earlier this year. Yazdani earned that #1 spot after he beat James Green, 8-2 at the 2022 Yasar Dogu in February of 2022. He carried that ranking into the 2022 senior world championships in September but forfeited out of worlds after drawing Israel’s Josh Finesilver in the first round (Iran forbids their wrestlers from competing against Israel). Yazdani then went to U23 Worlds in October where he won a silver medal and lost in the finals to Georgia’s Giorgi Elbakidze.

It’s worth understanding that context to see that Yazdani is one of the best wrestlers in the world at 70kg, but he’s not unbeatable. At U23 Worlds, Yahya Thomas pushed Yazdani to the brink and was holding a 2-2 criteria lead with a minute to go in the match. Yazdani would ultimately go on to win 4-2 but showed his vulnerabilities in that match. Yazdani may be the slight favorite in this match, but Pantaleo or Berger are both capable of defeating the Iranian.

Prediction: Yazdani by decision

Yazdani's win over James Green at the 2022 Yasar Dogu:

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74 kg: #8 Jason Nolf/Vincenzo Joseph, USA vs #18 Mohmmadsadegh Firouzpour, IRI

Firouzpour moved into the top 20 at 74kg after he won the U23 world championships and defeated Azerbaijan’s Khadzhimruad Gadzhiyev in the finals, 5-2. Despite that result, I still give Jason Nolf an edge over Firouzpour based on Nolf’s performance over the past year at the senior level.

Nolf started off his 2022 by winning a silver medal at the Yarygin in Russia where he defeated 2021 world bronze medalist Timurz Bizhoev. He followed that performance up by making Final X after winning the world team trials. Nolf was also impressive in defeat against Kyle Dake at Final X New York in two close matches - 4-2 and 2-1. 

American fans should remain confident if Vincenzo Joseph takes the mat against Firouzpour instead of Nolf. Joseph also had a successful 2022 taking second at the US Open and World Team Trials at 79kg. In those tournaments, Joseph had notable wins over Alex Dieringer (twice), Taylor Lujan (twice), and Chance Marsteller.

Prediction: Nolf by decision

79 kg: #1 Jordan Burroughs/#14 Chance Marsteller, USA vs #6 Ali Savadkouhi, IRI/#7 Mohammad Nokhodi

The match at 79kg has the potential to be the best of the dual. Jordan Burroughs is the two-time defending world champion and has defeated Iran’s Mohammad Nokhodi in the finals of each of the last two worlds - 5-1 in 2021 and 4-2 in 2022. Burroughs also had a highly competitive match against Iran’s other 79kg wrestler Ali Savadkouhi at the 2022 Yasar Dogu in February. In that bout, Savadkouhi was less than 30 seconds away from defeating Burroughs until he was hit with a penalty point for grabbing Burroughs' singlet. JB ultimately went on to win the match, 2-1.

It’s also worth noting that Savadkouhi had an incredible month of competition in November at the Iranian Premier League. There, Savadkouhi took out both Nokohodi and world/Olympic champion Zaurbek Sidakov. Because of that recent success, I expect Iran to send out Savadkouhi against Burroughs in what should be an incredible match.

Prediction: Burroughs by decision

Burroughs' win over Nokhodi in the 2022 World Finals:

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Burroughs' win over Savadkouhi at the 2022 Yasar Dogu:

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86 kg: #7 Zahid Valencia/Mark Hall, USA vs #11 Alireza Karimi, IRI

As a three-time world medalist, Alireza Karimi is one of Iran’s most experienced wrestlers on this world cup squad. Prior to Hassan Yazdani moving up to 86kg in 2017, Karimi manned the spot for Iran in 2015 and 2016 where he won world bronze and qualified for the Rio Olympics. Karimi successfully transitioned up to 92kg and won a world bronze medal in 2018 and silver in 2019. In both world championships, Karimi lost only to eventual world champ J’den Cox.

Karimi then attempted to make the Tokyo Olympics for Iran at 97kg but didn’t have near the same level of success up in weight. At 97kg, Karimi was kept off the Olympic team after losing to Mohammadian and notably split matches with Kollin Moore. 

So how does Zahid Valencia stack up against Karimi? Valencia has established himself as a top 10 wrestler in the world at 86kg over the past 2 years. He has wins over past world/Olympic medalists Myles Amine, Azamat Dauletbekov, Sandro Aminashvili, and Fatih Erdin. So while Karimi is more credentialed, Valencia has the better recent results. Because of that, I’m picking Valencia here but this match could absolutely go Karimi’s way. This is a true “swing match” and could ultimately determine the outcome of the dual.

Prediction: Valencia by decision

92 kg: #9 Nate Jackson/Jay Aiello, USA vs #1 Kamran Ghasempour/#3 Amir Firouzpour, IRI

Kamran Ghasempour is a 2X defending world champion at 92kg and has defeated J'den Cox at each of the last two world championships. It's clear Ghasempour has established himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world regardless of weight and showcases incredible defense with an effective offense. It's clear Ghasempour is the favorite in this matchup and will be crucial to Iran's hopes of winning the World Cup.

Nate Jackson has steadily improved during his time on the senior level and shouldn’t be underestimated in this matchup. Jackson’s three-match series at Final X against J’den Cox was proof that Jackson is right there with the best in the world at 92kg. 

Jackson will need to effectively avoid getting caught in Ghasempour's under hook and finish quickly on his offensive attacks if he hopes to be successful against the Iranian. Ghasempour is dangerous from the front headlock, and like most Iranians, is highly effective in the hand fight and applying pressure with his under hook. 

Prediction: Ghasempour by decision

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97 kg: #2 Kyle Snyder, USA vs Amirali Azarpira, IRI

Kyle Snyder was able to defeat Iran’s best 97kg in both of the last two years at the world championships in tight, competitive matches. Snyder beat Mojtaba Goleij at the 2021 World Championships on a late takedown, 3-1. This past year, Snyder took out Mohammad Mohammadian 4-1 after taking an early lead and holding strong defense throughout the entirety of the match. 

With those matches in mind, Snyder is a big favorite in the potential matchup against Azarpira. Despite Azarpira winning the 2022 U23 World Championship, he’s still Iran’s 4th or 5th-best 97kg wrestler. Azarpira has recent losses to Mojtaba Goleij and Esmial Nejatian proving he’s at least a tier behind Snyder. 

Prediction: Snyder by decision

Snyder's win over Mohammadian at the 2022 World Championships:

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125 kg: #7 Hayden Zillmer/#10 Nick Gwiazdowski, USA vs #5 Amirreza Masoumi, IRI

Iran isn’t sending 2021 world champion Amir Zare, but Amirreza Masoumi is a worthy replacement. At only 18 years old, Masoumi impressively won the 2022 U20 and U23 world championships. At U20 worlds, American fans will likely remember Masoumi for his tech fall win over Nick Feldman. Then at U23 worlds, Masoumi won in the finals by tech fall over a Georgian opponent who tech falled Anthony Cassioppi. Beyond those performances, Masoumi also won the Takhti Cup (one of the toughest senior-level tournaments in Iran) and defeated multiple-time world team member Yadollah Mohebbi. All of that to say, Masoumi will be an incredible challenge for either Hayden Zillmer or Nick Gwiazdowski.

Prediction: Masoumi by decision

Masoumi's win over Nick Feldman at the 2022 U20 World Championships:

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Who Wins - USA or Iran? 

In the above predictions, I have Team USA winning 6 of the 10 matches. The way I see it is that Team USA is a considerable favorite at 61kg, 79kg, and 97kg while being the slight favorites at 57kg, 74kg, and 86kg. Iran is the clear favorite at 65kg and 70kg while being slight favorites at 92kg and 125kg. There are a number of swing matches throughout the dual but Team USA will be in the driver’s seat to win this potential dual and the World Cup.