NEW YORK, NY - MAY 19:  Jordan Burroughs of the USA and Peyman Yarahmadi of Iran battle during the "United In The Square" Beat the Streets Wrestling on May 19, 2016 in Times Square in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Iran lifts ban on U.S. wrestling team

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Iran has lifted a ban on U.S. wrestlers, allowing them to take part in the Freestyle World Cup later this month in the Iranian city of Kermanshah, Iranian media reported on Sunday.

The Sunday report by state TV quotes Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying that the ban was lifted after the “discriminative restrictions” on Iranian nationals travelling to the U.S. was suspended by a U.S. federal judge.

The wrestlers were originally banned Friday from the Feb. 16-17 competition after President Donald Trump temporarily suspended travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran. The Trump administration is now appealing to reinstate the travel ban. On Sunday a judge in San Francisco rejected the government’s request for an immediate reinstatement. Formal arguments in the case begin on Monday.

Regardless of tensions between their governments, American and Iranian wrestlers have frequently hosted each other in competitions and have a working relationship that goes back decades.

At least one Iranian parliamentarian, Ali Mohtari, was critical of the original decision to ban the U.S. team. In a posting on Twitter, Mohtari argued that Iran should do the opposite of Trump and instead make a point of welcoming the American wrestlers.

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Iran bans U.S. wrestlers from entering country for meet

INGLEWOOD, CA - MARCH 15:  Jordan Burroughs of the United States takes down Ezzatollah Akbari Zarinkolaei of Iran during the 2014 FILA Freestyle Wrestling World Cup at The Forum on March 15, 2014 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran on Friday banned U.S. wrestlers from an important international tournament this month in response to President Donald Trump‘s executive order forbidding visas for Iranians, the official IRNA news agency reported.

IRNA quoted Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying a special committee reviewed the case of the U.S. team for the freestyle World Cup, and “eventually the visit … was opposed.” The competition, one of the sport’s most prestigious events, is set for Feb. 16-17 in the western Iranian city of Kermanshah.

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.

USA Wrestling, the sport’s domestic governing body, said in a statement it hasn’t officially been told it won’t be allowed to compete. The group added that if that is the case, USA Wrestling is “extremely disappointed” in what it calls an “unacceptable situation.”

“Wrestling is about competition and goodwill through sport, and is no place for politics,” the federation said.

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

The Iranians have made 16 visits to the U.S. as guests of USA Wrestling since the 1990s. The 2018 freestyle World Cup is in Iowa City, Iowa, and the Iranian team is expected to qualify.

“Though we had hoped for a different outcome from Iran’s Foreign Ministry, we appreciate the complex nature of this decision,” said Nenad Lalovic, president of United World Wrestling, the sport’s international ruling body, said in an email to the AP. “We are currently working to find a solution for the freestyle World Cup as soon as possible.”

Wrestling is extremely popular in Iran and is rooted in an ancient practice of combining the sport with physical education and meditation.

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Jordan Burroughs reacts to Iran barring U.S. wrestlers

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19:  Jordan Ernest Burroughs of the United States of America reacts against Augusto Midana of Guinea-Bissau during the Men's Freestyle 74kg Weightlifting contest on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 2 on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs felt a number of emotions when he learned Friday morning that the U.S. wrestling team has been barred by Iran from competing at a meet there in two weeks.

Iran’s announcement came in response to President Donald Trump‘s executive order forbidding visas for Iranians.

“Bummed, first and foremost,” Burroughs, whose last meet was the Rio Olympics, said by phone Friday morning. “I just wanted to compete. It’s been a while since I competed. I was excited to return to the mat. This was going to be a prestigious event that I got to do with my team members.”

Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio after gold in London, still believed on Thursday that the U.S. would be sending a team to the Freestyle World Cup in Kermanshah, Iran, from Feb. 16-17.

U.S. coach Bill Zadick told him on Thursday that everything was going according to plan. Flights were booked. Singlets were made. Burroughs was scheduled to travel Wednesday.

“Not only is this costly in terms of our training and competition schedule, but this is expensive,” Burroughs said. “This is an expensive lesson learned to buy 20 tickets to Iran, have them revoked and probably no reimbursement.”

Burroughs looked forward to competing in Iran, where wrestling is a national sport. Iran earned a combined 11 wrestling medals at the last two Olympics, its most of any sport, despite entering zero women’s wrestlers.

“There is such a common respect for wrestlers in Iran,” Burroughs said. “They love wrestling. They’re huge fans of mine. I’m bummed about that. I really wanted to be part of something great in what I consider a great country. Obviously, my views and our country’s views are different.”

The U.S. has sent wrestlers to meets in Iran a total of 15 times since 1998, with Burroughs part of the contingent at the 2013 Freestyle World Cup in Tehran.

“No one out there — Donald Trump or the prime minister of Iran — is purposely slighting the U.S. wrestling team,” Burroughs said. “This is a much bigger picture and a much bigger story than our wrestling tournaments, but I’m bummed because I think this was a great opportunity for us to show goodwill toward them by coming into a country where our governments may have opposed each other.”

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