Wrestlers prefer simplicity. There is the mat, the opponent, and the result.

Too much thinking about other issues can complicate the most basic of athletic competition.

So it’s no surprise that Kyle Snyder and Logan Stieber aren’t concerned about the political context of representing Team USA in Iran at the men’s Freestyle World Cup in Kermanshah, Iran being held Thursday and Friday.

“For me, it’s about the competition. I don’t care about anything else,” said Stieber, the former four-time NCAA champion at Ohio State and reigning world champion at 134 pounds.

The same is true for Snyder, reigning world and Olympic champion at 213 pounds while still competing for OSU as a junior this season.

“I don’t know if going (to Iran) is a political statement from me,” Snyder said. “Maybe some of the guys on the (U.S.) team feel that way, but to me, I’m just going over there to compete, nothing more than that.”

Snyder and Stieber are smart, well-spoken athletes who are very aware of the political climate, especially since Iran said on Feb. 3 that it was banning Team USA from participating in the World Cup in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order forbidding visas for Iranians.

Two days later, Iran lifted the ban on American wrestlers after a U.S. federal judge suspended President Trump’s order against travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran.

So Snyder and Stieber joined 12 other wrestlers on the U.S. team – including 2012 Olympic champion and four-time world champ Jordan Burroughs – that traveled to Iran this week under the supervision of coach Bill Zadick and Team USA officials.

“I don’t live in fear at any time in my life,” Snyder said last week before departing for Iran. “I feel good about traveling there.”

Snyder, a native of Woodbine, Md., said he had no second thoughts about going overseas once Iran lifted its ban, but Stieber initially hesitated before finally telling USA Wrestling he was committed to the trip.

“I had to think about it for a while,” said Stieber, a 2015 OSU graduate from Monroeville, Ohio. “They assured us the best they could about what’s going to happen and everything that’s going to go down. They feel comfortable with it. It may have taken me a second longer, but I’m in.”

Competition begins Thursday (at 1 a.m. here in Columbus) with the U.S. facing Georgia, then Russia, and finally Azaerbaijan in the evening. That’s Group A. The opposite pool consists of Iran, Turkey, Mongolia, and India.

Stieber’s potential match against 2014 and ’15 world champion Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan is projected to be the most highly anticipated match of the eight-nation competition.

Aliyev earned at bronze at the Rio Olympics last summer after moving down to 125.5 pounds, meaning he was ineligible to defend his world title at 134 pounds in December, won by Stieber.

“I didn’t think I could get a tougher draw that I got at the world championships, but this is probably tougher,” said Stieber, who’ll also have a difficult match against Dzhamal Otarsultanov of Russia. “For me, this is about having awesome matches against the best guys in the world.”

Iran has won first place in the past five World Cups, an event the U.S. has won 13 times, but not since 2003.

“The World Cup is a big event,” said Snyder, whose toughest match could come against Nurmagomed Gadzhiyev of Azerbaijan, the 2015 junior world champ. “I get to wrestle some of the best guys in my weight class. It always helps me prepare for the world championships. I like competing against the best guys, and I’m pretty good at making adjustments.

“For the team aspect of it, it’s cool, because the U.S.A. hasn’t won the World Cup in a while. We have a really good team this year. I think we can do it.”

If all goes to form, the U.S. and Iran would meet in the championship dual on Friday night.

“We have to make the finals to compete against Iran, but I’m sure that dual would be very intense,” Snyder said. “The Iranian nation will be watching. It’ll be fun to compete in front of them.

“Iran is big into wrestling. They pack the stands. It’s like their national sport. I think it’s cool that we’re probably going to be the only Americans that travel to Iran during this time period.”

The U.S. team reportedly received a warm welcome from fans and media upon landing at Shahid Ashrafi Esfahani Airport in the western Iranian city of Kermanshah on Monday afternoon.

This is the 16th time Americans have attended Iran-hosted wrestling competitions since 1998. The Iranians have also made 16 visits to the U.S. as guests of USA Wrestling since the 1990s.

“If (USA Wrestling) didn’t think it was safe, they wouldn’t let us go,” Stieber said. “They wouldn’t take it lightly. We’re not going to be walking around. We’ll stay at the hotel and the arena. There will be no touristy activities.

“But at the arena, I expect a great welcoming. They love wrestling. They’ll love Kyle, and they’ll love Jordan, and hopefully they’ll love me because of my aggressive style.”


Ohio State and Michigan State have waged some drama-rich battles on the basketball court in recent years.

Tuesday was not one of them.

Oh, Michigan State’s 74-66 victory wasn’t a blowout, but as I watched, one thought kept coming to mind: These aren’t great teams.

The Buckeyes are now 15-12 overall and 5-9 in the Big Ten, giving them the most conference defeats in Thad Matta’s 13 seasons as OSU coach.

And these aren’t the Spartans of old under Tom Izzo. They’re talented, but young, as shown by their 16-10 overall record and 8-5 mark in league play.

For OSU, it looks like a second straight season will end in the NIT instead of the NCAA tournament. Ugh.

Dispatch beat reporter Adam Jardy wrote in his post-game blog from East Lansing that the Buckeyes are going to have to figure out the rest of the season what they want to be known for.


The Blue Jackets are back on the ice tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nationwide Arena, but David Clarkson will not be in uniform for the home team.

Of course, the absence of the oft-injured Clarkson for the Jackets is nothing new, but it’ll be duly noted in Toronto where in July 2013 the Leafs signed Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75 million free-agent contract.

Clarkson was 29, happy, and healthy on the day he signed that mega-deal less than four years ago.

Now Clarkson is 32, and unable to play because of a back injury even though he’s still under contract with the Jackets since they acquired him in a 2015 trade deadline deal that sent Nathan Horton to Toronto.

Dispatch beat reporter Aaron Portzline recently sat down with Clarkson for an hour interview and wrote a compelling feature about the struggles of a veteran whose contract runs through the 2019-20 season.


My friend and colleague Mike Arace has been writing about hockey for more than 30 years. He knows of what he types.

The Jackets are 8-10-1 with a minus-6 goal differential since their glorious 16-game winning streak ended Jan. 5. They’ve also had the players tell their coach John Tortorella in a meeting to ease up a bit.

This has caused ripples of angst in central Ohio.

Not to worry, says Arace. He says the Jackets’ growing pains will help them in the long run. Check out his column in today’s Dispatch.


The Jackets (35-15-5) don’t expect forward Scott Harntell’s lower-body injury ot be serious, but it’s enough to give young Oliver Bjorkstrand another chance in the lineup.

Bjorkstrand was called up from the minor-league affiliate in Cleveland and is expected to take Harntell’s spot in the lineup tonight.

“If he gets a chance, this is a good opportunity for him,” Tortorella said. "As I stated, I thought he was going to crack (the lineup) earlier than right now. Maybe this is chance for him to push the door open.”


8: The number of players on the Crew SC roster who are under contract and under the age of 23.

Coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter will have to figure out how to juggle all that youth when the season begins March 4.

Crew SC will head to Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday before playing its first match in the Carolina Challenge Cup against Atlanta United on Saturday.


6: The number of weeks All-Star forward Kevin Love is expected to be out for the Cleveland Cavaliers following knee surgery on Tuesday. And that’s the minimum time if rehabilitation goes well.

Cavs general manager David Griffin might need to make a major move before the Feb. 23 NBA trading deadline in order to shore up the team’s depth.

In the meantime, LeBron James reminded fans not to panic.

“As long as I'm in the lineup, we've got a chance,” James said Tuesday morning. “We good. Kev is out for an extended period of time. J.R. (Smith) has been out, but I'm in the lineup. I'll be suiting up. We've got a chance against anybody. I ain't worried.”

5: The number of NHL coaches fired this season after the Montreal Canadiens got rid of Michel Therrien on Tuesday.

The Habs, leading the Atlantic Division, then hired Claude Julien, the coach who was fired by the Boston Bruins six days ago.

Firing Therrien and replacing him with Julien is the same exact move that Montreal made in January 2003.

Therrien’s firing Tuesday after a 1-5-1 February followed this season’s ouster of Julien by Boston, Ken Hitchcock by the St. Louis Blues, Jack Capuano by the New York Islanders, and Gerard Gallant by the Florida Panthers.

39: The number of NHL coaches who have been fired mid-season over the past 10 years. That’s more than the NFL, NBA or MLB over the same time span.

24: The number of years since the Montreal Canadiens last won the Stanley Cup.


Bravo: Ohio State junior Nathan Tomasello was named Big Ten Wrestler of the week after helping the Buckeyes to wins over Nebraska and Minnesota last weekend. He is the nation’s top-ranked 133-pounder, is 15-0 this season, and has won 58 of his last 59 matches.

Bravo #2: Rumor became just the second German shepherd to win best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club since that event began in 1877.

The dog’s win Tuesday at Madison Square Garden in New York City was the first for a German shepherd since Manhattan’s victory in 1987.

Bravo #3: At least Atlanta has a sense of humor in the wake of the Falcons’ crushing loss in the Super Bowl.

Officials at the Atlanta zoo have named a Madagascar hissing cockroach after New England Patriots quarterback Tom Bady.


Brick #1: Robert Meachem made more than $20 million in his eight-year NFL career as a wide receiver with the Saints and Chargers. On Monday, he began serving a 30-day jail sentence in Louisiana for failing to pay nearly $400,000 in alimony and child support.

Brick #2: Anaheim Ducks forward Antoine Vermette was ejected from a 1-0 road win over the Minnesota Wild after he slashed the leg of linesman Shandor Alphonso.


Look back: On this date in 1998, the legendary Dale Earnhardt won NASCAR’s Daytona 500 for the first time in his 20th attempt. He led for 107 laps, including the final 61, and afterward reveled in a raucous celebration.

Three years later, on the same track in the same race, Earnhardt was killed when he crashed on the final lap. That February day of 2001 is still a sad memory.


Thanks for reading. Offer any thoughts about Ohio State, Blue Jackets, Crew SC, and sports in general to me by email or on Twitter at the below addresses. Rock on.