In Tehran, Iranian wrestler Ali Reza Dabir, a gold medalist in 2000 Sydney Games, called wrestling "the identity" of the Olympics.
"Do we destroy our historical sites which are symbols of humanity?" he told The Associated Press. "No. Then, why should we destroy wrestling?"
The Wrestling Federation of India said it would do all that it can to reverse the decision, and the Olympic committee in Greece — the birthplace of the ancient and modern games — condemned "a decision that is clearly in total opposition to the history of the Olympic Games and of sports in general."
On Tuesday, U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun questioned the IOC decision "given the history and tradition of wrestling, and its popularity and universality."
There are potential scenarios that would work in wrestling's favor.
IOC officials said it's possible the executive board could decide in May to put three sports forward for consideration, including wrestling. Then it would be up to the assembly to approve wrestling or not.
If the board decides to keep wrestling off the list, the IOC assembly — which has resisted past attempts by the board to impose changes to the sports program — could reject the proposed list of 25 sports altogether. That would mean the current 26 sports, including wrestling, would stay and the whole process would go back to square one.
Modern pentathlon — a five-sport discipline dating back to the 1912 Games — had been widely expected to face removal from the program but lobbied successfully to save its status.
IOC member Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, who served on the executive board for eight years, said such decisions are inevitably swayed by politics.
"Some people are better at lobbying than others," he told the AP. "There is a political dimension to this. There are people who have connections, who have this and that. We may like it or not, but in a multi-national organization like this decisions get made in ways that are not completely logical."
Associated Press writers Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran, Jim Heintz in Moscow and Elena Becatoros in Athens contributed to this report.
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