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IOC makes poor choice

Posted on 03.27.2013

The executive board of the International Olympic Committee voted on Feb. 12,  to remove wrestling from the Olympic Games. This will take effect in 2020. The IOC’s decision shocked me, and from what I have seen and read on the issue, I am not alone.

Wrestling has been an Olympic sport for thousands of years. According to The New York Times, it has been a part of the ancient Olympic Games since 708 B.C. and was included in the modern Olympics, which started in 1896.

Wrestling is not an unpopular sport;  residents of 180 countries wrestle. At the London Olympics, wrestlers from 71 countries competed, and 29 different countries won medals.

Many people who follow wrestling are blaming the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) for the IOC’s decision. The consensus among many people in the wrestling community is that FILA presumed wrestling would never be eliminated because of its long Olympic history. This assumption resulted in FILA’s failure to prove the importance of wrestling to the IOC.

As a former college wrestler at the University of Indianapolis, and a ten-year participant in the sport, I was surprised and angered by the IOC’s decision. Several other sports should have been eliminated before wrestling. There will be disappointed athletes no matter what sport is cut, but other sports don’t rely on the Olympics as much as wrestling does.

No professional league exists for wrestling, unlike most other sports. Most kids who grow up playing sports dream of becoming famous professional athletes. Kids who grow up wrestling dream of competing in the Olympics. There is nothing higher than that for a wrestler. The IOC’s decision to eliminate wrestling from the Olympics is like the NFL deciding to do away with the Super Bowl, or baseball getting rid of the World Series.

My college wrestling career at UIndy has come to an end, but the things  wrestling has taught me will never go away. I have learned that I can push myself far beyond what I thought possible and that hard work pays off.

These lessons have transitioned well into other areas of my life. Most of my best friends I’ve met through wrestling. Wrestlers know what it means to work hard to cut weight, and they know the pride that is felt when their hard work pays off.  There is a sense of camaraderie and an understanding that I have failed to find anywhere else.

Also, every job I’ve ever had has been partly because of wrestling. I stand out to employers because of the reputation that comes with the sport.

An article in Forbes Magazine stated that elite athletes make the best employees. While the article discusses all elite athletes, it points specifically to Dan Gable’s legendary performance at the 1972 Olympics, where he won a gold medal without giving up a single point. The article asks, “can you imagine this same type of focus and determination on display in your office?”

Eliminating a sport that teaches so many valuable lessons, both personal and professional, doesn’t make sense to me.

The IOC should reverse its decision, and there is time to do so. The vote taken on Feb. 12 was not final. An executive board meeting takes place in May, and then a final vote will occur in September.

Cartoon by Scott Mitchell.

The international wrestling community reacted to the IOC’s decision by reaching out to former and current wrestlers, fans and supporters. Wrestling supporters are encouraged to voice their opinions to the IOC and sign the several online petitions that have been created.  The day of the IOC’s announcement, a Facebook page and a website were created for people to get the latest news on the issue and voice their support for wrestling.

Also, the President of FILA, Raphaël Martinetti has resigned. Many people in the wrestling community blame him for the IOC’s decision. FILA appointed  Lalovic Nenad as acting president and is seeking a way for wrestling to continue as an Olympic sport.

The IOC’s decision has caused former and current wrestlers from all over the world to join together. The United States and Iran are two countries that have different political views, but both countries have strong support for wrestling. Despite the political tensions between the two nations, they have been able to come together on this issue. In an interview with Fox News, Director of Communication from USA Wrestling Gary Abbott said that politics stay off the mat. “The sport breaks down barriers,” Abbott said.

The IOC needs to rethink its decision because the ability of athletes all over the world to come together, the way the wrestling community has, is what the Olympic Games are all about.


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