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Politicians take up Olympic wrestling issue

FILE - In this Monday Aug. 6 2012 file phoKeitani Graham Micronesicompetes against Charles Edward Betts United States right during

FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 file photo Keitani Graham of Micronesia competes against Charles Edward Betts of the United States, right, during the 84-kg Greco-Roman wrestling competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, in London. An official familiar with the decision says IOC leaders have dropped wrestling from the program for the 2020 Olympics. In a surprise decision Tuesday Feb. 12, 2013, the official tells The Associated Press that the IOC executive board decided to retain modern pentathlon and remove wrestling instead. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

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Updated: February 13, 2013 8:28PM

When wrestling was voted out of the Summer Games beginning with 2020, it took nearly everyone by surprise. So too was the case when baseball and softball were eliminated eight years ago.

But the U.S. reaction to both decisions differs, thanks in part to the greater influence of social media. On Tuesday (POUND)SaveOlympicWrestling was trending on Twitter.

A tweet with that hashtag from U.S. wrestler Jordan Burroughs -- “It’s not over yet. We will keep fighting to save the sport we love. Don’t stop dreaming and don’t stop believing” â(euro) “ has been retweeted almost 6,000 times.

Politicians chimed in as well. Three Midwestern congressmen, Dave Loebsack from Iowa, Jim Jordan from Ohio and Tim Walz from Minnesota said they would file a resolution in the House of Representatives to express their opposition to the IOC’s decision on wrestling.

Iowa lawmakers also conveyed their shock and disappointment Wednesday on the Iowa Senate floor. State senator Tod Bowman, who coached wrestling for 21 years at Maquoketa High School, said, “Iowa and wrestling: Those two words go together like apple pie and ice cream. The state of Iowa has a long, rich tradition of wrestling at every level.”

Eight years ago when softball and baseball were cut from the Olympic program, the public response fell far short of outrage, said Don Porter, president of the International Softball Federation.

“When softball and baseball were removed from the program back in 2005, there was not a whole lot of reaction in the U.S.,” Porter said. “I thought, by gosh, there should be a strong reaction from media and corporate sponsors.”

At the time Porter reached out to the six U.S. companies that were among the IOC’s top 11 sponsors for help with reinstatement efforts but received no response, he said. The sport’s bid to rejoin the Games failed.

“Now 25-35 million people in the U.S. participate in softball and baseball combined yet we’re not getting any real strong reaction with public,” he said.

Softball and baseball have since combined forces to improve their chances for 2020 inclusion. Though Porter doesn’t like to compare his sport to others, baseball and softball will now have to face off against wrestling.

The IOC executive board will meet in May in St. Petersburg, Russia, to decide which sport or sports to recommend for 2020 inclusion among eight candidates: wrestling, baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu. The final vote will be in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The World Baseball and Softball Federation has approached the various commissioners at Major League Baseball and in the professional leagues in Taiwan, Japan and Korea for help.

“We think getting them on board can open some doors that we’re not able to as far as commercially and television-wise,” Porter said. “It could really help.”

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