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American wrestlers shake hands with Iranian president

Feb 22, 2013, 7:30 PM EDT

Matt Kryger-USA TODAY Sports Matt Kryger-USA TODAY Sports

Members of the U.S. wrestling team shook hands and took pictures with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an awards ceremony on Friday, after they finished third in a tournament in Tehran.

The American and Iranian wrestling teams, which were in Iran’s capital to compete in a freestyle wrestling World Cup event, are fighting “arm-in-arm” for the survival of their sport after it was recommended to be removed from the 2020 Olympics schedule by the IOC in a vote last week during an executive board meeting.

The cooperation between the nations is being compared to the famous “Ping-pong Diplomacy” of the early-1970s, when U.S. and Chinese players competed against one another in friendly tournaments that many believe paved the way for then President Nixon to visit Beijing.

The U.S. and Iran have had poor diplomatic relations since 1979 Islamic Revolution, when protestors stormed the American embassy and held 52 people hostage for 444 days.

Iran ended up finishing first in the team event Friday, beating Russia in the finals, while Americans Jordan Burroughs, Obenson Blanc, Joseph Kennedy, Harold Metcalf, John Askren, Tervel Dlagnev, and James Bergman scored a 6-1 record against Belarus to take the bronze.

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