Wrestling was left in a state of shock after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made a surprise recommendation on Tuesday to drop the traditional Olympic sport from the 2020 Games.
Contested in the first modern Olympics in 1896 and part of the ancient Games in Olympia, wrestling will now join seven other candidate sports battling for one spot in a revamped programme.
It is unlikely, however, that it will get a reprieve when the IOC session in Buenos Aires votes on the recommendation in September as this would defeat the purpose of Tuesday's vote.
"This is not the end of the process, this is purely a recommendation," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters following an Executive Board meeting. "It is the session which is sovereign."
"It was a decision to look at the core sports, what works best for the Olympic Games. This was the best programme for the 2020 Olympics. This is not about what's wrong with wrestling but what is good for the Games."
This is not about what's wrong with wrestling but what is good for the Games.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams
The vote came as a major shock after other sports, including modern pentathlon and taekwondo, were seen as more at risk of losing out due to their low global appeal.
"FILA was greatly astonished by today's recommendation of the IOC Executive Board not to maintain wrestling among the 25 core sports for the 2020 Olympic Games," the international wrestling federation said in a statement.
It said the federation was 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.
"FILA will take all necessary measures to convince the IOC... of the aberration of such a decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games."
Board members were given a report on each of the Olympic sports which provided details on 39 criteria such as popularity, finances, tickets sold, anti-doping and governance, before a secret vote.
"There were different rounds of voting necessary to come to this conclusion," said IOC vice president Thomas Bach.
"It is an extremely difficult decision to take. The common understanding is the purpose of this was to modernise, to look into the future of the Olympics."
The 15-member executive board needed four rounds of voting to decide on wrestling with pentathlon, hockey, canoeing and taekwondo also getting votes to be dropped from the Games.
IOC president Jacques Rogge did not vote.
Canoeing scored the fewest and was eliminated first with taekwondo cleared in the next round, leaving three sports in the decider. Wrestling got eight votes in the final round with hockey and pentathlon tied at three votes each.
"I am very surprised by the result," board member and president of the International ice hockey federation Rene Fasel said. "Personally, I do not know why but that is what the majority wanted."
The IOC said 25 of the 26 Olympic sports were elected as core sports for the 2020 Games which will also include rugby and golf, making their first appearance in 2016.
Wrestling joins baseball and softball, making a joint bid after being taken off the programme in 2005, martial arts karate and wushu, rollersports, wakeboarding, squash and sports climbing as candidates for the one open spot.
The IOC executive board will meet in St Petersburg in May to determine which of these will be put to the vote in September.
"We knew that today would be a tough day for American athletes competing in whatever sport was identified by the IOC Executive Board," said United States Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun.
"Given the history and tradition of wrestling, and its popularity and universality, we were surprised when the decision was announced."
USA Wrestling has already responded by setting up a Facebook page called 'Keep Wrestling in the Olympics'.
Wrestling had 344 athletes at the London Olympics, competing in greco-roman and freestyle disciplines. Women's events were introduced at the Athens 2004 Olympics.
Russian wrestling federation chief Mikhail Mamiashvili was shocked by the decision but was confident his sport would remain in the Games.
"I'm absolutely convinced this ancient sport will retain its status," Mamiashvili, who won an Olympic gold medal in 1988, said.
Olympic exclusion will be a major blow to the sport's popularity and financial stability as the Games are a global platform for the promotion of smaller, less established sports.
International Modern Pentathlon Union president Klaus Schormann welcomed the news.
"In the last few years we acted and took decisions to make our sport more telegenic and more compact," Schormann told Reuters. "So every good news is further motivation for us."
Madrid, Tokyo and Istanbul are bidding to host the 2020 Olympics with a decision also to be taken in September.