"We were considered weak in some of the scores in the program commission report but strong in others," Samaranch told the AP. "We played our cards to the best of our ability and stressed the positives."
Klaus Schormann, president of governing body UIPM, lobbied hard to protect his sport's Olympic status and it paid off in the end.
"We have promised things and we have delivered," he said after Tuesday's decision. "That gives me a great feeling. It also gives me new energy to develop our sport further and never give up."
The IOC executive board will meet in May in St. Petersburg, Russia, to decide which sport or sports to propose for 2020 inclusion. The final vote will be made at the IOC session, or general assembly, in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Wrestling will now join seven other sports in applying for 2020, but it is extremely unlikely that it would be voted back in so soon after being removed by the executive board.
The other sports vying for a single opening in 2020 are a combined bid from baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu, a martial art.
"Today's decision is not final," Adams said. "The session is sovereign and the session will make the final decision."
Wrestling featured 344 athletes competing in 11 medal events in freestyle and seven in Greco-Roman at last year's London Olympics, with Russia dominating the podium but Iran and Azerbaijan making strong showings. Women's wrestling was added to the Olympics at the 2004 Athens Games.
Karelin noted in an interview with Vyes' Sport that Russians and Soviets have won 77 gold medals.
"It's understandable that a lot of people didn't like this," Karelin said. "I'm not a supporter of conspiracy theory, but it seems to me that the underlying cause here is obvious."
Tuesday's decision came via secret ballot over four rounds, with 14 members voting each time on which sport should not be included in the core group. IOC President Jacques Rogge did not vote.
Three sports were left in the final round: wrestling, field hockey and modern pentathlon. Eight members voted against wrestling and three each against the other two sports. Taekwondo and canoe kayaking survived the previous rounds.
"I was shocked," said IOC board member Rene Fasel of Switzerland.
"It was an extremely difficult decision to take," added IOC Vice President Thomas Bach of Germany. "The motivation of every member is never based on a single reason. There are always several reasons. It was a secret vote. There will always be criticism, but I think the great majority will understand that we took a decision based on facts and for the modernization of the Olympic Games."
Wrestling was featured in the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. Along with Russia's Karelin, it has produced such American stars as Gardner, Bruce Baumgartner, Jeff Blatnick and Jordan Burroughs.
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun also expressed surprise at the IOC decision, citing "the history and tradition of wrestling, and its popularity and universality."
"It is important to remember that today's action is a recommendation, and we hope that there will be a meaningful opportunity to discuss the important role that wrestling plays in the sports landscape both in the United States and around the world," Blackmun said in a statement. "In the meantime, we will fully support USA Wrestling and its athletes."
FILA said in a statement that it was "greatly astonished" by the decision, adding that the federation "will take all necessary measures to convince the IOC executive board and IOC members of the aberration of such decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games."
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