It’s a sad day.
Starting in 2020, there will no longer be any wrestling featured in the Olympics. No more brute strength, blazing speed, or awe inspiring technique to see. No more Jordan Burroughs chasing John Smiths’ records, or seeing Kurt Angle break down after winning gold. Long gone are the days of wondering if Cael Sanderson and Dan Gable can continue their college dominance on a world stage, or if anyone will ever beat Alexander Karelin. The young athletes who bleed, sweat, and cry to one day realize their dream of Olympic Gold are now out of luck.
How could this not inspire you?
The International Olympic Committee Executive Board (which, by the way includes the vice president of the International governing body for the Modern Pentathlon and NO wrestlers) feels that sports like fencing, ping pong, synchronized swimming, and the pentathlon (a bizarre competition featuring épée fencing, pistol shooting, freestyle swimming, show jumping on horseback, and a cross country run) are more important and substantial than wrestling, the oldest sport, and the one that grew up with the Olympics.
While there may have been some potential warning signs, this is not the time for pointing fingers. Over the past 10 or so years I have been very blessed to be heavily involved in the sport; from training and honing my wrestling technique for MMA competition, to working with young wrestlers as a strength and conditioning coach. Here are some things I have seen in that time that I believe no other sport can claim, as well as very valid reasons wrestling should continue to be in the Olympics.
Long Term Benefits
In a recent Forbes article entitled “Why Wrestlers make the Best Employees”, Steve Cooper points out numerous beneficial characteristics taught through wrestling. Work ethic, mental toughness, self control, emotional intelligence, focus, and determination are just a few that you see in wrestlers. In my years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach, I have known numerous parents who have kept their children wrestling in high school in addition to their primary sport simply for the life lessons and character building wrestling provides.
Unfortunately, our society as a whole has become “soft”. Video games, PE classes resembling nothing close to physical education, and medals and awards for the person in last place have taken out the incentive to strive and work towards greatness. Wrestling instills those qualities back into those who compete. Over the past 10 years, I have heard the phrase “wrestling saved my life” many, many times. For those lacking confidence and pride or needing an outlet to stay occupied and out of trouble, many times wrestling could be the answer.
“More enduringly than any other sport, wrestling teaches self-control and pride. Some have wrestled without great skill—none have wrestled without pride.” ~Dan Gable
If you want to be a NFL or NBA star, choose your parents wisely: a general prerequisite is a 6’+ and 200lb+ frame. If you want to be a modern pentathlon athlete(for some crazy reason), you would need a pool, horse, pistol, and a fencing sword and mask. Want to be a wrestler? You need a buddy to train with and a wrestling mat…which you will find at almost any high school or gymnasium. For all the athletes out there who weren’t born tall or big, there is a 121lb weight class in the Olympics, a 125lb weight class in college and a 106 in high school. All it takes to wrestle is hard work, and determination.
From an Olympic standpoint, wouldn’t the IOC want to represent the most countries, with the highest amount of parity as possible? The modern pentathlon had 26 participating countries in the 2012 games. Wrestling had 29 different countries MEDAL. There is no NFL or NBA in other countries. Olympic sports are the pinnacle of many international athletes careers’ and it is wrong to take that away from them, especially wrestling which is the unofficial national sport in some countries.
Since the news, the wrestling community has immediately mobilized to get to work. #SaveOlympicWrestling has trended on twitter. All the USA greats-Gable, Smith, Brands, Sanderson, etc have issued statements on how they plan on moving forward and fighting the decision. There has been no complaining, no finger pointing, and no sob stories. Some of the toughest men and women in the country are prepared to work hard and battle the IOC in honor of the sport they love.
Wrestling has influenced so many men and women positively since it’s existence. It will continue to do so whether it is in the Olympics or not. However, we must do all we can to preserve this historic, treasured, and incredible sport. Whether you are a casual observer, a diehard fan, a competitor, or your son or daughter competes in wrestling, please sign the petition below. Do it for the athletes around the world who had their life’s work taken away from them, the coaches who have invested so much into their athletes, and most importantly, the young athletes who just had their dreams snatched away from them.