Cuba's Livan Lopez Azcuy (R) wrestles Azerbaijan's Jabrayil Hasanov in their Men's 66kg Freestyle bronze medal match on August 12, 2012 during the wrestling event of the London 2012 Olympic Games. (MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/GettyImages)
(USA Today) -- Wrestling, part of the first modern Olympics and a U.S. strength, was shockingly cut from the Summer Games on Tuesday, beginning in 2020.
The International Olympic Committee was expected to cut the sport of modern pentathlon but instead decided to remove wrestling based on criteria such as global participation and popularity.
"This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It's not a case of what's wrong with wrestling, it is what's right with the 25 core sports."
FILA, the international federation for wrestling, said in a statement that it was "greatly astonished" by the IOC executive board's recommendation. FILA said it would work to convince the IOC "of the aberration of such decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games."
The international federation said wrestling is represented in 180 countries, "with wrestling being the national sport in a fair amount of them and the only possibility for athletes to represent their country at the Olympic Games, thus contributing to their universality."
The loss of wrestling is a huge blow to the U.S., one of the most successful countries in Olympic wrestling, winning 124 medals. The U.S had two gold medalists at last summer's London Games: Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner. Coleman Scott added bronze along with Clarissa Chun in women's freestyle. U.S. women have won four medals since women's wrestling was added to the 2004 Athens Games.
The former Soviet Union won 116 medals in the Olympics, and Russia 51.
Wrestling featured 344 athletes competing in 11 medal events in freestyle and seven in Greco-Roman at the London Olympics.
Wrestling has a chance to be included in the 2020 Games, but that is likely a longshot so soon after Tuesday's announcement. It will now compete against seven other sports vying for Olympic inclusion: baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu. The federations of those sports will make presentations to the IOC's executive board in May and a decision will be made in September.
The last sports removed from the Olympics were baseball and softball, voted out by the IOC in 2005 and off the program since the 2008 Beijing Games. Golf and rugby will be joining the Games at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Wrestling is known as the world's oldest competitive sport. It dates to cave drawings of wrestling found as far back as 3000 BC and was part of the ancient Olympics in 708 BC. When the modern Games resumed in 1896, wrestling was one of nine sports on the program.