American Wrestlers go to Iran for the first time

Pictures of American wrestlers dominated the front pages of Tehran’s major newspapers after they took part in the Takhti Cup, the extraordinary international wrestling competition there on Saturday. Wrestlers Kevin Jackson, Zeke Jones, Melvin Douglas, Shawn Charles and John Giura were the first American athletes to compete in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

The cup is named after Gholamreza Takhti, considered the greatest of all modern Iranian wrestling heroes. He is the only man given the title of Jahan Pahlavan or Champion of the World. He wrestled before the Shah of Iran in the Koshti-e Pahlavan style, first winning the title Pahlavan-e Paytakt or Champion of  the Nation in 1950 at only 20 years old. The next year he competed in the FILA Freestyle Wrestling World Championships in Helsinki winning a silver medal, which he repeated the following year at the Helsinki Olympics. All the while he dominated the wrestling championships in Iran but after winning a gold medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, the first his country had seen, he was instantly catapulted to national celebrity. It was not just his success on the mat that that turned Jahan Pahlavan Takhti into a popular national hero but also his personality. He was generous to the poor, kind to the vulnerable and always humble in speech, embodying all the characteristics expected of a proper Pahlavan.