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Trip to Iran back on for former PSU wrestlers Molinaro, Taylor

The trip to Iran is back on for former Penn State wrestlers Frank Molinaro, pictured at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and David Taylor, as well as the rest of the U.S. world freestyle team. Iran had previously banned the U.S. wrestlers from competing in the Freestyle World Cup, to be held Feb. 16-17 in Kermanshah, Iran, after President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban.
The trip to Iran is back on for former Penn State wrestlers Frank Molinaro, pictured at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and David Taylor, as well as the rest of the U.S. world freestyle team. Iran had previously banned the U.S. wrestlers from competing in the Freestyle World Cup, to be held Feb. 16-17 in Kermanshah, Iran, after President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban. AP, file

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 traveling 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.

USA Wrestling sponsored the first American sports team to compete in Iran after an absence of about 20 years, in 1998 when a U.S. freestlye team competed in the Takhti Cup, according to the organization’s website.

The U.S. has sent wrestling teams 15 times to Iran since the Iranian Revolution in 1979; and Iranian wrestlers have competed 16 time in the U.S. since the 1990’s.

“This tour continues a long history of goodwill and cooperation between the United States and Iran through wrestling, which is an impressive example of diplomacy between the people of these two nations through sport,” USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender said.

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.

This year’s Team USA roster includes two former Nittany Lions. Four-time All-American and 2012 NCAA national champion Frank Molinaro will be competing at 65 kilograms, while four-time All-American and two-time national champ David Taylor will be competing at 86 kg. Molinaro also placed fifth at the Rio Olympics.

Others wrestling for Team USA include: Tony Ramos, 57 kg; Logan Stieber, 61 kg; James Green, 70 kg.; Jordan Burroughs, 74 kg.; Kyle Snyder, 97 kg.; Nick Gwiazdowski, 125 kg.; and Zach Rey, of Bethlehem, at 125 kg.

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