USA wrestling faces, dodges Iranian travel ban

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 at 4:57 PM

Making national headlines this week, United States wrestling encountered a new foe, far from the mat they compete on. Following an executive order by President Donald Trump on Jan. 27, which suspended travel from seven countries, including Iran, the U.S. wrestling team would be blocked, denied entry visas, as what CNN called, a “reciprocal measure.”

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nahram Ghasemi would state, “Eventually the visit by the U.S. freestyle wrestling team was opposed.”

But set for competition on Feb. 16-17 in the Iranian city of Kermanshah, the U.S. plan to attend was denied only for a short period of time, leaving Edinboro’s own athletic director Bruce Baumgartner at the front of it all.

Shortly after the president’s executive order, federal court judge James L. Robart would hear the order in court and eventually, and temporarily, block it, stopping the travel restriction that covered seven predominantly Muslim countries.

As the current president of U.S. wrestling, Baumgartner was glad to see progress so quickly, but understands nothing is official yet.

“I think there was a lot of dynamics, so I hope [the reversal] continues because they (Iran) can change their mind any day.”

Following Robart’s ruling, Trump would call him a “so-called judge” and stated that such a decision to allow Muslims from those countries will lead to “death & destruction.”

Thankfully, for U.S. wrestling, Robart’s decision, for now, has been enough.

Zarif, the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, made a statement after the ruling, confirming that visas would be granted to U.S. athletes.

Baumgartner would speak on some of the additional and possible causes of Iran’s new stance, stating: “There are bylaws that if you run a world championship, or an Olympics, or world cup, that it’s under the rules of the UWW (United World Wrestling) [and] that you must let countries in or you can’t host it... I think the UWW may have been considering moving it to another country so that everybody could participate.”

From possible pressure by the UWW and changes on the executive order front, these wrestlers are back in. But Baumgartner spoke on situations that were not so easily resolved. 

“It was frustrating in 1980 when the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Olympics and very frustrating when in 1984 Soviet-related countries boycotted the Olympics in L.A.,” he said.

“Sportsmen and sportswomen out there competing for pride of country, yes, patriotism for their country, yes, but politics, no. It’s a great competition (the Wrestling World Cup) and I’ve competed all over the world and in many different countries; it’s always about doing the best you can and winning your match.”

Michael Lantinen can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com. 

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