TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — With wrestling on the way out of the Olympics, Iranian great Ali Reza Dabir likened his sport to a symbol of humanity.

The 2000 Sydney Games gold medalist said Wednesday he was disappointed by the International Olympic Committee’s decision to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympics.

“Wrestling is a popular sport. It’s the identity of Olympics,” Dabir told The Associated Press. “Do we destroy our historical sites which are symbols of humanity? No. Then, why should we destroy wrestling?”

Tuesday’s decision to drop wrestling, which still must be ratified by the full IOC in September, has been widely criticized by wrestling organizations around the world.

On Wednesday, IOC President Jacques Rogge said he would meet with the head of wrestling’s governing body to discuss ways the sport can fight to save its place in the Olympics.

Hamid Sourian, who won wrestling gold at last year’s London Games, remained optimistic about the future of the sport in the Olympics.

“Wrestling was one of the things human beings did,” Sourian said. “I think wrestling will remain as part of the Olympics. But if it’s finally dropped, then it will be very disappointing.”

The decision to drop wrestling from the 2020 Games has been criticized around the world.

The Wrestling Federation of India said it would do all that it can to reverse the decision, and the Russian Olympic Committee says it plans to appeal to the IOC to restore the sport.

Speaking after a two-day executive board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, Rogge said he has been contacted by Raphael Martinetti, the president of international wrestling federation FILA, and was encouraged by the sport’s determination to remain in the games.

“We agreed we would meet at the first opportunity to have discussions,” Rogge said. “I should say FILA reacted well to this disheartening news for them.

“They vowed to adapt the sport and vowed to fight to be eventually included in the 2020 slot.”

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press