LOS ANGELES (AP) — American Jordan Oliver had a late takedown to beat Russia’s Magomed Kurbanaliev in the opening match Sunday in United 4 Wrestling, a three-team exhibition at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
The matches were conducted using rule changes approved a day earlier in Moscow by the sport’s governing body in a bid to keep wrestling in the Olympics beyond 2016.
Under the changes, matches are now made up out of two 3-minute sessions instead of three 2-minute periods, and scoring is cumulative instead of the previous two-out-of-three system.
“We just found out about the new rules,” Oliver said. “We’ve been training under the old rules. It’s something we have to adjust to.”
The International Olympic Committee removed wrestling as one of the core sports in February. It is now one of eight sports competing for an open slot at the 2020 Games.
The United States, Russia and Canada competed Sunday, with Canada a late replacement after Iran pulled out Friday.
Jon Reader, an NCAA champion out of Iowa State topped Canada’s Tamerlin Tagziev 12-2.
“You’ve got to get used to it,” Reader said. “I love the new rules. In the first four matches, once the wrestlers hit the 5-minute mark, they were exhausted.”
Chris Pendleton, a two-time NCAA champion at Oklahoma State, needing 1:16 to score a technical fall over Canada’s Manjot Sandhu.
Opan Sat, a three-time European champion from Russia, said that there was some confusion about how points are awarded but was happy to be a part of a movement to save the sport. He won two matches Sunday.
“I was shocked (with the IOC decision) because for a lot of people, myself included, wrestling is a way of life,” Sat said through an interpreter. “I like the idea of having to periods because I have time to execute my moves.”
The lack of an Iranian team didn’t seem too disappointing to the few thousand spectators. Wrestling fans happily voiced their approval when actor Tom Arnold stepped to the center of the ring and announced that the Olympics should not “become `Dancing with the Stars.”
The event featured 13 matches. The United States’ male wrestlers went 3-0 against their Canadian counterparts and finished 2-2 against Russia. The Russian team was 2-0 against Canada. Among female competitors, the United States and Canada split their four matches.
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