Politics are interrupting the international competition plans of two Team USA Wrestling members who live and train in Columbus.
Ohio State junior Kyle Snyder, an Olympic gold medalist, and former OSU wrestler Logan Stieber, a four-time NCAA champion, were scheduled to compete in Iran this month as reigning world freestyle champs. Those plans were scuttled Friday when Iran banned U.S. wrestlers from participating in the Freestyle World Cup on Feb. 16-17 in the western Iranian city of Kermanshah.
"I wasn't happy about it because I was excited to compete in the World Cup," Snyder said. "It's one of my favorite events, and I was going to get some matches that would have really been productive in my development. It could have helped my future in how I want to compete, and I could have learned about myself. But it is what it is. There's nothing I can really do about it. I'm not going to let it really affect me. I'm just going to go about the rest of my week and keep training. Now there will be a couple more Ohio State matches that I can make."
The official IRNA news agency reported that Iran's ban is a response to President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily banning visas for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran.
On Friday, IRNA quoted Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying a special committee reviewed the case and "eventually the visit by the U.S. freestyle wrestling team was opposed."
Stieber said in a phone interview that he learned of Iran's ban on Twitter before heading home to Columbus on a flight from Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he had worked out at the United State Olympic Committee training center.
"It stinks," said Stieber, a 2015 OSU graduate from Monroeville. "It would have been a great tournament to compete in. With all the political stuff going on, I can't say I'm surprised. It's unfortunate, but it's probably better and safer to let things cool down before doing that type of travel."
Snyder, a native of Woodbine, Maryland, won Olympic gold in August in Brazil. Last weekend, Snyder was in Russia, where he became the first American since 2009 to win the Yargyin Grand Prix. He returned to Columbus on Monday and wrestled for the Buckeyes against Penn State on Friday night.
"I have not competed in Iran before, so I was pretty excited about this opportunity," Snyder said.
Snyder said he'd like to add another international tournament to his schedule since he can't compete in the Freestyle World Cup, but that will probably have to wait until after the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments conclude in March.
Stieber won the freestyle world championship at 134 pounds in December at the international tournament in Budapest, Hungary. The Freestyle World Cup was supposed to be his next competition.
"The politics of what's happening now definitely overpowers any type of athletics," Stieber said. "I'll move on and try to find another tournament to compete in."