Six members of the national wrestling team left for Iran on Thursday to undergo a four-month training camp as part of their buildup for the 2013 Southeast Asian Games in December in Myanmar.
Two-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalists Margarito Angana Jr. and Jason Balabal banner the delegation sent by the Wrestling Association of the Philippines (WAP) in cooperation with the Philippine Sports Commission.
Joining them are many-time defending national champions freestyle wrestlers Alvin Lobreguito (55 kg.), Johnny Morte (60 kg.), Joseph Angana (6 kg.) and Greco-Roman stylist Noel Norada (60 kg.)
Angana and Balabal are looking to defend their respective crowns in the Greco-Roman events. Angana ruled the 55 kg weight class in the 2009 and 2011 editions of the SEA Games so as Balabal, who dominated the 84 kg. category in the same years.
“We still need long-term foreign training for our wrestlers as they currently have few sparring partners here. But with our recent inclusion in the Batang Pinoy and Palarong Pambansa, which will surely widen our grassroots base, we are confident that we will soon have enough wrestlers for all weight divisions across all styles,” WAP secretary general Karlo Sevilla.
“Perhaps in the next Olympic cycle or two, we will send our national wrestlers for foreign training for only a maximum of one month,” he added.
Lobreguito and Norada are from Quezon City while Morte and Joseph, the youngest of the Angana brothers, are products of Zamboanga City.
Also in the delegation are national coach Jimmy Angana, Iranian mentor Ashkan Ghaedrahmat and WAP President Albert Balde.
“This four-month foreign training is our longest ever. Our athletes have trained in Mongolia and Bulgaria in the past, for up to three months. I’m sure this will bear fruit come the 2013 SEA Games,” said Balde.
The WAP has nominated a total of 12 athletes for the SEA Games. The other members of the team are simultaneously undergoing local training in Tagaytay City.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, where wrestling is the national sport, has long been an international superpower in the Olympic and world-level competitions of the sport. In the 2012 Olympics, Iranian wrestlers won an astounding three gold, one silver and two bronze medals.