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U.S. wrestlers banned from Freestyle World Cup by Iran

By Courtesy of Mark Palmer (Senior Wrestling Writer), 02/03/17, 11:00AM EST

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Iran on Friday banned U.S. wrestlers from participating in the Freestyle World Cup competition this month in response to President Donald Trump's executive order forbidding visas for Iranians, the official IRNA news agency reported.

This news comes days after USA Wrestling announced that it would be sending wrestlers to this international tournament, which will be held Feb. 16-17 in Kermanshah, Iran. In its Jan. 30 announcement, USA Wrestling's Gary Abbott wrote, "This is the annual World dual meet championship for men's freestyle wrestling and one of the most prestigious competitions each year in international wrestling." 

IRNA quoted Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying a special committee reviewed the case of the U.S. wrestling team and "Eventually the visit by the U.S. freestyle wrestling team was opposed."

The decision marks the first action taken by Iran in response to Trump's executive order banning visas for seven Muslim countries. Earlier this week, Iran said it would take retaliatory action.

Ghasemi said the policy of the new U.S. administration left Iran no other choice but to ban the wrestlers.

U.S. freestyle wrestlers have competed in Iran since the 1998 Takhti Cup in Tehran, which followed an absence of nearly 20 years, according to the Associated Press. Since then, Americans have attended Iran-hosted wrestling competitions 15 times. The American athletes were warmly welcomed by cheerful Iranian spectators and sport centers were packed as they appeared on the mats to compete. 

Iranian wrestlers have made 16 visits to the U.S. as guests of USA Wrestling since the 1990s.

The 2018 Freestyle World Cup is scheduled to take place at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.