Wrestling is way of life for Blackburn’s man from Iran

HOSSEIN Asgharyzadegan. Remember the name.

That may not be the easiest of tasks, perhaps, but a man from Tehran is aiming to bring wrestling to prominence in Blackburn.

“In which sport did Iran win three of their four gold medals at the Olympics?” Sue Barker asked on A Question Of Sport.

The answer was wrestling and, at, the age of 55, Asgharyzadegan – or simply Hossein as he introduces himself – has reignited a career that started in the land of his birth to represent Great Britain at next week’s Veteran World Championships in Budapest.

“I am not being big headed, but I think I can get a medal,” said Hossein, who lives in Hamilton Street. “I don’t know what colour it will be but obviously I will aim for the best one.”

Hossein simply exudes enthusiasm for wrestling.

Many people associate the term with the dramatised WWE, or perhaps the 2008 film starring Mickey Rourke.

But in Iran it is different.

Like most children in the country’s capital he took up the Olympic version of the sport at an early age, progressing to win honours in his native country. Then, he moved to Blackburn to study textiles in 1978, just a year before the Shah was replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini in the Iranian Revolution.

He continued wrestling in England for a period – training in Bolton with Blackburn’s Mark Dunbar, who went to the Olympics in 1980 and 1984. But a gap of almost 30 years followed before Hossein returned to wrestling after son Camron, now 19, became interested in the sport.

Elder son Byhrom, 25, has also joined the duo as they compete on the British circuit – mostly training back at Hossein’s old club, Bolton Olympic Wrestling Club, but also on occasions at MMA club East Lancashire Predators in Blackburn.

Having gained coaching qual-ifications, his ambition is to set up a wrestling club in the town.

Britain may not have won any wrestling medals at the Olympics in London, but as with every other sport at the Games the event took place in front of large crowds.

“Wrestling is getting bigger in England and by the next Olympics it could be even bigger,” he said.

“I really want to promote it in Blackburn. It is big in Bolton – there are a lot of girls involved too, not just boys – but Blackburn doesn’t have a club.

“It’s massive in Iran. There are probably 200,000 people wrestling, it is the national sport. They won three gold medals, a silver and two bronzes at the Olympics.

“Some move on to football, but everyone starts in wrestling first in Iran.

“I started when I was nine or 10 and I have still got medals I won as a junior. I was second in Iran in the college championships.

“I aimed to go to the Olympics when I was young but I came here and stopped after a couple of years to concentrate on my studies, and there was the revolution in Iran.

“But about five years ago my younger son was interested so I started wrestling again. Now all three of us enter events.”

Hossein is still eligible to represent Iran but also went to the Veteran World Championships under the British flag in 2010.

“I go back to Iran every year on holiday and I train with the national team,” he said.

“I could have represented Iran but this is where I live and where my sons were born, and I wanted to represent Great Britain.

“I went to the World Championships in Switzerland two years ago but I hurt my knee just before the start of the competition and had to withdraw.

“I was having a warm-up with a Russian and it got a bit more serious and unfortunately I went off the mat and got my leg stuck.

“I couldn’t go to the World Championships in Albania last year because I had surgery. But now I am fully fit! I am competing in both the Olympic and the Greco-Roman wrestling.

“I want to carry on, I don’t want to stop. Wrestling is a big part of my life.”

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