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Uzbekistan-native Hafizov discovered expanded opportunities and new home in the USA
By Mike Willis
U.S. Greco-Roman star Ildar Hafizov of the U.S Army WCAP program is preparing to compete in his fifth Senior World Championship. However, this is only the second time he’ll be representing Team USA. Hafizov emigrated from Uzbekistan in 2014 to seek a better life and more opportunities for his family.
“In 2014 we moved to the United States. My wife won the green card lottery, so we decided to move our family over,” Hafizov said.
It was while living in Texas that Hafizov received a call from Momir Petkovic, one of the coaches on the Greco-Roman National Team. Petkovic invited Hafizov to attend a training camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Hafizov gladly accepted the invitation.
“I went for two weeks, and that’s where I met Coach Shon Lewis. I had a conversation with him about wrestling for the United States. He told me about the Army World Class Athlete Program. Coach Shon kind of guided me, so I could join the army,” Hafizov said.
Lewis is the Head Wrestling Coach for the Army World Class Athlete Program, which allows top-ranked soldier-athletes to train for international competition while also serving in the military. This year, the WCAP placed four athletes on the Greco-Roman World Team and two on the Women’s Freestyle World Team. It has made a major difference in building USA Wrestling in all styles.
Hafizov represented Uzbekistan in the 2008 Olympics. The goal, which has been his passion since joining the WCAP program, is to represent his new country, the United States, in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.