FILA Legends: 2012 Olympian Omid Norouzi

By Tim Foley

Omid Norouzi

Country: Iran

Place of Birth: Shiraz, Iran

Date of Birth: 1986-02-18

Height: 175 cm

Weight Class: 60kg


A Soldier’s Redemption

 Everything was according to plan. Iranian Omid Norouzi dominated his first two opponents at the 2009 World Championships. Heading into the 60 kg quarterfinals Norouzi was confident in his ability to beat Georgian Revaz Lashki,

Norouzi had scouted the Georgian. He knew what to expect and where his own attacks would be successful. He was mentally and physically prepared for battle, but when the final whistle blew Norouzi had lost the match and any chance for a world championship.

Norouzi’s was disappointed, but his rise within to the Iranian national team was already an impressive achievement. Unlike the thousands of wrestlers that pour out of Northern Iran, Norouzi grew up in Shiraz city, the capital of Fars province in the south of Iran. Like many Iranian wrestlers, however, Norouzi grew up with little in the way of wealth.

The future Olympic champion discovered wrestling at the age of nine. Pushed early by family members, Norouzi latched on to the Greco-Roman. He likes the style’s throw-or-be-thrown aesthetic style, and enjoyed studying famous wrestlers, Iranian and foreign, for hours.

“My cousins were wrestler and I was always with them. It is the reason why I am a wrestler. I preferred Greco-Roman because it is more interesting than freestyle,” says Norouzi.

“Greco-Roman techniques are more beautiful than freestyle. The match of Hassan Rangraz (2001 Greco-Roman world champion at 55kg) attracted me more to wrestling. Among foreigners I like Armen Nazarian’s (Bulgarian two time Olympic champion) style.”

Norouzi thrived in Greco-Roman wrestling. At the age of twenty he made the Iranian Junior World Team. He hoped to try his hand at major international competition for the first time, but this did not come to pass. Norouzi missed his chance to represent Iran at Asian Junior Championships  because on his obligation to serve within Iran’s military.

“I was a Iran Junior team member but I couldn’t take part in Asian and world championships in 2006. After that I [entered] military service and I couldn’t participate in competitions for two years,” says Norouzi.  “I had only personal trainings. After military service I won the Iran team trial in senior category.”

After Norouzi returned from his military service and resumed full time training in wrestling, he rapidly snapped back into elite form. His intense efforts at practices and training camps, as well as impressive results in tournaments, led him to capture a spot on Iran’s Senior National Team. His stellar results and aggressive made him a fixture on Iran’s wildly successful Greco-Roman national team.

After finishing the 2009 world championships in tenth place and 2010 World Championship in ninth, Norouzi’s Senior-level career took off. In 2010 became Iran’s first Greco-Roman gold medalist at the Asian Games in sixteen years. The next year, at the 2011 FILA Senior World Championships, Norouzi stood atop the medal stand victorious, a world champion.

He was wrestling better than he ever had before, and he could not have picked a better time, for the 2012 London Olympics loomed on the horizon.

Norouzi arrived at the London Games as part of a star studded contingent of Iranian Greco wrestlers intent on establishing themselves as the most dominant team in the sport. Norouzi looked to maintain his place at the top of the sport, but a tough task remained in front of him. His path to the Gold medal finals in the 60kg was littered with wrestling superstars.

Norouzi would face, and defeat one standout opponent after another. First he beat China’s Jiang Sheng, a fifth place finisher at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After Sheng, Norouzi had to go through three different world medalists in a row. In Norouzi’s own words, each match felt like the “final” of a tournament. Bulgaria’s Ivo Angelov, Kazakhstan’s Almat Kebispayev and Japan’s Ryutaro Matsumoto all fell to the Iranian, one after another, sometimes less than a half an hour separating matches.

Now in the finals, Noorozi knew that  to win Olympic gold, he would have to go through Revaz Lashki, the man who brought his first world championship to an end.

This time, however, nothing would deny Norouzi. His wrestling had progressed too far in the last three years and the Georgian had no answer for Norouzi’s positioning and aggression. The Iranian won his Olympic gold in straight periods.

After his Olympic triumph, Norouzi expressed his pride in his family and country.

“I hope to make my father and mother happy. I owe them and I like to make them happy by gold medal,” Norouzi said after his Olympic final. “Also I dedicate my medal to all Iranians. I act like a soldier for my country in all worlds and Olympic events.”

Norouzi, who redeemed himself against an old foe on the world’s biggest stage, and who seeks to represent his country with the dignity of a soldier, may get to do so in the next Olympics. Someday Norouzi would like to pursue more leisurely pursuits: hunting, fishing, a master degree in physical education, but for the moment all of his time is spent training for the 2016 Olympics.

There is always time to rest, but for now Norouzi is determined to march forward.