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Young Cuban Wrestlers Aspire For Gold

Young wrestlers form lines at the start of their practice in a park in Old Havana, Cuba on Oct. 13, 2014. The children are candidates to enter the Sports Initiation School, the first stage of sports training in Cuba, and specialize in wrestling.

When asked why they chose wrestling in baseball-loving Cuba, they shout in unison: "To be like Mijain Lopez!" Lopez has won two Olympic gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling, as well as five world championships, and is one of Cuba's most heralded and popular athletes.

Ramon Espinosa / AP

A former member of the national wrestling team, instructor Michael Guerra, center, shows his students basic defensive moves on Oct. 13.

Ramon Espinosa / AP

Young wrestlers practice during a training session on Oct. 18 in an auxiliary gym, in Old Havana, Cuba. The Kid Chocolate Hall where they normally train is closed for repairs so Guerra moved the class to a nearby park. Recently he was able to convince the neighborhood sports director to lend him the space so the boys could wrestle on mats instead of the cement surface of the park.

Ramon Espinosa / AP

Young wrestlers Braimond Sanchez, Raimel Lazaro and Junior Lazaro strike a pose, during a training session on Oct. 16.

Ramon Espinosa / AP

Maibel Arias watches her son,Yodimilerís, practice on Oct. 13.

Ramon Espinosa / AP

Two young boys wrestle during a training sessionon Oct. 18.

Ramon Espinosa / AP

Eight-year-old Yodimiler Arias, along with fellow wrestlers, listen to instruction from their teacher on Oct. 15. Yodimiler's mother said the U.S. flag motif wrestling suit was sent by her cousin in the United States.

Ramon Espinosa / AP

Young wrestlers wrap up their practice session with wheelbarrow pushups on Oct. 15.

Ramon Espinosa / AP