Relationships created within sports can lead to a life-long friendship


Assistant wrestling coach Rasoul Solati knows what it feels like to lose everything you once took for granted while on the run.

Solati had to very quickly and abruptly leave his wife and family behind to head to Turkey, where he would live for three years before finally arriving in America. 

Bethany Christain Services, a local Grand Rapids service that helps introduce immigrants to America and helps them get situated when they first arrive, was able to get Solati connected with wrestling coach and history teacher Brad Anderson through a volunteer at the office. Since then, Solati and Anderson have created a tight bond as they help each other appreciate what they have to give in this world. 

“Rasoul, literally with the clothes on his back, went to Turkey,” Anderson said. “After he got clearance to move to America, he came here, again, with just the clothes on his back.” 

Not only was Solati leaving his loved ones behind, but he was abandoning his wrestling and chemical engineer career. Solati was introduced to wrestling through those closest to him, leading him to a triumphant career in the sport. 

“When you have a very good friend or family member who is [in a] high [position in wrestling],” Solati said, “you look up to them as idols, and you want to work hard to be as good as them; this drove me to keep working.”

And work Solati did. Solati has now been wrestling for 21 years. Anderson was able to gather more information regarding just how talented Solati was and still is during his time in Iran. 

“Rasoul was, to my knowledge, the alternate for Iran in his weight class [for the 2004 Olympics],” Anderson said. “But he was a very good wrestler, very well-known in Iran. Wrestling is the national sport there, so wrestlers are famous the same way basketball and football players are famous in America.” 

Anderson offered Solati a position as an assistant coach for the wrestling team, and for the past five years, Solati has been passing down his intensive knowledge and love of the sport to the young athletes that step foot on the green mats. 

I try to take all my experience and all I know and transfer it to the guys.”

— Rasoul Solati

“I don’t think I’m stepping down [from my previous position],” Solati said. “I’ll always stay [in a] high [position]. Because sometimes, as an athlete, and after that, you must teach other people. So when I work with [wrestlers], I am very glad. I try to take all my experience and all I know and transfer it to the guys. So I don’t think this is stepping down.”

Solati’s chance to spread his knowledge to other wrestlers has also brought him another gift: junior Arash Kordbacheh. 

Arash found himself in a similar situation as Solati ten years ago when he moved to America from Iran. Being able to find a person who shares his culture and his language has been a wonderful opportunity for both Arash and Solati. 

Arash was introduced to wrestling in a peculiar way, but soon he came to love the sport he previously had no interest in. 

“After school, I was waiting for my dad to pick me up,” Arash said, “and Tommy Hendricks, a senior from last year, grabbed me and asked ‘Hey, do you want to wrestle?’ and I said ‘Yeah, I’ll wrestle you,’ and he was just beating me up. He told me ‘I do wrestling; you should try out.’”

Arash is grateful for the close relationship the past three years have created between him and Rasoul. 

“He’s like my personal trainer,” Arash said. “He’s great to have around. He’s a world-level wrestler in Iran, so he’s got a lot of wrestling IQ, and he’s been giving me some tips, really helping me with my stand-up game, and we’re going to keep building my game until senior year and see how far I can go in the tournament.”

But Arash hopes to take Solati’s and his friendship further after COVID-19 has abated. 

“Maybe we’ll go and get some kebobs or something soon,” Arash said. “He’s talked to me about his past a little bit, but we’ve mostly focused on wrestling. I’ll get to know him more throughout next season.”

Arash and Solati have their incredible bond because of wrestling. Solati’s dangerous journey to America reminds everyone to never take what they have for granted. Despite his tumultuous past, however, Solati keeps his head up high and proud.

“I can’t think about [my past],” Solati said. “I always live my life in the present. In Iran, I had my family, I had a home, I had work, I had students for wrestling; I had fun, but it is what it is. You can’t change the past, and I don’t know about the future.”