The wrestling community was understandably galvanized and in an uproar as never before last week.
Hopefully, its uprage isn’t coming too late.
The source of the sentiment, of course, was the decision by the International Olympic Committee’s executive board to drop wrestling beginning in 2020.
It was a shocking decision. Wrestling was at the heart of the early Olympics and it’s still highly popular around the world. More than 70 countries competed in wrestling at the London Olympics and 29 of them won medals.
Retained as Olympic sports, with far less participation, were modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey.
It just didn’t make sense. Not only is wrestling clearly one of the Olympics’ core 25 sports, but it’s an inexpensive undertaking that is easy to understand and televise and can make for great drama.
Who can forget, for example, Rulan Gardner’s gold medal in Sydney, when he beat Russia star Aleksandr Karelin, who was considered all but unbeatable?
There are many arguments that can be made in favor of wrestling, but none were made when the Executive Board voted because no one in the wrestling community saw its exclusion as a possibility.
By contrast, modern pentathlete fans (yes, there are some) knew that their sport was in trouble and lobbied hard and successfully to remain.
Plus, five of the 15 members of the board had been athletes or officials of that sport’s five events.
Make no mistake about it, however. Losing wrestling will be a crippling blow not just to the United States, but to Russia, Iran and other hotbeds of the sport. At London, Russia won 11 of its 82 medals in wrestling.
Wrestling is not quote as prominent in the United States as it was in the last century, but it still is the sport’s all-time medal winner with 124, including 50 in gold.