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American Wrestler: The Wizard, Classic Sports Movie

A universal truth in sports is that it has the ability to bring people of all walks of life together.  Another reality in athletics is that everybody loves a good underdog story.  When you put them both together you have the tonic for an excellent sports film.

American Wrestler: The Wizard takes this formula and adds a Persian twist.  Set in 1980 and based on the real life experiences of producer Ali Ashfar (who pulls double duty as the uncle of the protagonist), the 17 year old Ali Jahani escapes Iran through his family’s assistance to avoid forced conscription.  Sadly for young Ali, the U.S. (Petaluma, California specifically) is not at first the land of opportunity that is often written about.

In 1980, the Iranian hostage crisis occurred and all things Persian were the target of American xenophobia.  Ali (played brilliantly by newcomer George Kosturos) is expectedly bullied by his classmates and even suffers from a lack of support from the school’s principal (played by Jon Voight, who is deep into his Academy Award-winning career) but also faces passive aggression from his uncle who during the hostage situation lost his business and was ostracized from the home he had for years. 

Movie underdogs do not accept defeat easily and neither does Ali. After failing in trying out for multiple high school sports, he eventually finds a loophole where the amateur wrestling team has to at least give him a tryout.  Much to the chagrin of the wrestling coach (William Fichtner), Ali goes toe-to-toe with the school’s top wrestler and makes the team.

Ali, thorough the help of his unknown natural abilities and his uncle, who himself is a former amateur wrestler and becomes the surprise star of the squad, not only earning respect from his teammates but helping his uncle regain his own self-respect.

Sports really can do that.

Overall, the film may feel similar to other underdog storylines (despite being based on a real story), but it's ultimately a feel good sports film that teaches the right lessons not only in athletics, but also in what it means to be American.  This lesson seems to be more valuable now than ever.

Please check out the film at and see for yourself!

This post was sponsored by ESX Productions.
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