Oklahoma wrestling community stunned by decision to drop sport from Olympics
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
2/13/13 at 8:01 AM
Ginnie Graham: Wrestling still worthy of being in Olympics.
IOC to drop wrestling from Olympics starting in 2020
The modern pentathlon, consisting of five events few can name, will remain in the Olympic Games, while a sport beloved in Oklahoma is out.
On Tuesday in Lausanne, Switzerland, the 15-member International Olympic Committee executive board voted to remove wrestling starting in 2020.
"To deny these guys who have worked all their life to do this, without much fanfare, the opportunity of being the best in the world, it should be a crime," said Cascia Hall coach Ernie Jones, who is in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. "I don't understand it. I'm mad about it."
The news was a stunning fate for a sport that has been in every modern Olympics since 1896, with the exception of 1900.
Kenny Monday, a Tulsa native and 1988 gold medalist in freestyle wrestling, learned the news from his wife, Sabrina.
"She woke me up at 6 o'clock this morning screaming," said Monday, a three-time All-American at Oklahoma State. "I think it's a tragedy.
"I can promise you I won't be watching the Games if wrestling is taken out. I won't be a part of that at all."
A sport was removed so a different one could be added. The modern pentathlon (shooting, fencing, swimming, show jumping and running) was thought to be on the chopping block, but wrestling got the boot instead.
The only way wrestling could be saved is if in September it is selected over baseball, softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu.
As of Tuesday evening, a "Save Wrestling" petition on Change.org had nearly 13,000 signatures.
"The IOC will hear from us in record numbers," Monday said. "The wrestling community has to come together to try to find a solution. The fight is on."
OSU wrestling coach John Smith, a two-time Olympic champion, criticized the decision-making process.
"One of the most disappointing things that I've learned today is that this decision came down among the executive committee of the IOC, and we had no representation from the United States on the executive committee," Smith said.
"The United States won the medal count, and there's no representation for our sport or our governing body in a vote."
Among the factors reportedly considered by the IOC were global participation and TV ratings.
"Every coach, parent and athlete has worked hard to grow the sport of wrestling over the past 20 years, and have succeeded," Oklahoma wrestling coach Mark Cody said. "Unfortunately, the International Olympic Committee does not recognize that work at the moment."
Monday, who also won silver in 1992 and placed sixth in 1996, pursued his Olympic dream from age 10. He attended the 2012 Games in London as a coach for former OSU wrestler Coleman Scott.
"I saw the Olympics was the biggest stage," Monday said. "That's what really kept me in it and that's what kept me motivated and inspired and working hard. It was keeping that big dream alive."
"I lived the dream, and that's what I sell and motivate with today - that same dream of being an Olympic champion and representing the United States of America."
For wrestling, the Olympics has always been the pinnacle, whereas baseball players want to compete in the World Series and football players in the Super Bowl.
"That would have been awesome to be in the Olympics," said Kyle Driscoll, a Cascia Hall senior and a defending state champ. "The fact that that option is gone is really heartbreaking."
Oklahoma Olympic wrestling champions
1972: Wayne Wells
An Oklahoma City native and the 1968 NCAA champion at the University of Oklahoma, Wells had to fight through the pain of injuries to his ribs, spleen and knee to capture gold in Munich. After finishing fourth four years earlier, he dominated the opposition in 1972, winning all seven of his matches, including three by pin. The championship match was the last of his career.
1988: Kenny Monday
An alum of Booker T. Washington, where he never lost a match, Monday competed in his first Olympics four years after winning an NCAA title at Oklahoma State. In the 163-pound final in Seoul, he came from behind to defeat the defending world champ, the Soviet Union's Adlan Varaev, in overtime. Monday was the first black wrestler to win Olympic gold. He also won silver in 1992 and placed sixth in 1996.
1992: John Smith
After winning two NCAA titles at OSU and a gold medal in Seoul in 1988, the Del City native barely qualified for Barcelona at 136.5 pounds. But once there, he was back at the top of his game, repeating as Olympic champion. Smith then retired from competing, having cemented his legacy as one of the all-time greats. Including Olympics, he was a world champion six straight years. He has coached at OSU for 18 years, was an Olympic co-head coach in 2000 and will be in London this year as a volunteer coach.
Other sports cut
The International Olympic Committee dropped wrestling from the 2020 Olympic program on Tuesday. Here's a look at some other sports that have come and gone from the Olympic program:
Baseball: 1992-2008; trying to return with softball for 2020
Golf: 1900-04; will return in 2016
Jeu de Paume (forerunner of modern tennis): 1908
Motor boating: 1908
Pelota Basque: 1900 (1968 and 1992 as demonstration sport)
Polo: 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924, 1936-present
Rackets (precursor to squash): 1908; trying to return for 2020
Rugby: 1900-1924; will return in 2016
Tug of War: 1900-1920
Source: Associated Press
Olympic wrestling medalists with ties to Oklahoma (Weights in kilograms)
Wrestler|| Hometown/college|| Weight|| Medal|| Olympics|
Coleman Scott ||OSU|| 60 kg (132 lbs)|| Bronze|| 2012 London
|Jamill Kelly ||OSU|| 66 (146)|| Silver|| 2004 Athens
|Bruce Baumgartner ||OSU||1 130 (287)|| Bronze|| 1996 Atlanta
|Kendall Cross ||OSU|| 57 (126)|| Gold|| 1996 Atlanta
|Bruce Baumgartner ||OSU||1 130 (287)|| Gold|| 1992 Seoul
|John Smith ||Okla. City/OSU|| 62 (137)|| Gold|| 1992 Barcelona
|Kenny Monday ||Tulsa/OSU|| 78 (172)|| Silver|| 1992 Barcelona
|Bruce Baumgartner ||OSU||1 130 (287)|| Silver|| 1988 Seoul
|John Smith ||Okla City/OSU|| 62 (137)|| Gold|| 1988 Seoul
|Kenny Monday ||Tulsa/OSU|| 78 (172)|| Gold|| 1988 Seoul
|Bruce Baumgartner ||OSU||1 100 (220)|| Gold|| 1984 Los Angeles
|David Schultz ||OU/OSU|| 74 (163)|| Gold|| 1984 Los Angeles
|Mark Schultz ||OU|| 82 (181)|| Gold|| 1984 Los Angeles
|Gene Davis ||OSU|| 62 (137)|| Bronze|| 1976 Montreal
|Wayne Wells ||OU|| 78 (172)|| Gold|| 1972 Munich
|Yojiro Uetake* ||OSU|| 57 (126)|| Gold|| 1968 Mexico City
|Shelby Wilson ||Ponca City/OSU|| 67 (148)|| Gold|| 1960 Rome
|Doug Blubaugh ||Ponca City/OSU|| 73 (161)|| Gold|| 1960 Rome
|Danny Hodge ||Perry/OU|| 79 (174)|| Silver|| 1956 Melbourne
|Tommy Evans ||Tulsa/OU|| 67 (148)|| Silver|| 1952 Helsinki
|Josiah Henson ||Bristow|| 63 (139)|| Bronze|| 1952 Helsinki
|Ross Flood ||Braman/OSU|| 123 (271)|| Silver|| 1936 Berlin
|Frank Lewis ||Cushing/OSU|| 72 (159)|| Gold|| 1936 Berlin
|Bobby Pearce ||Cushing/OSU|| 56 (123)|| Gold|| 1932 Los Angeles
|Jack VanBebber ||Perry/OSU|| 72 (159)|| Gold|| 1932 Los Angeles
*Wrestled for Japan 1Served as graduate assistant at OSU 1982-84
Original Print Headline: Stunning decision
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452
Cascia Hall wrestling team members Kyle Driscoll (standing) practices with McLean Mabrey at the school on Tuesday. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Former Oklahoma State University and two-time Olympic medal-winning wrestler Kenny Monday holds the gold medal that he won in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World file
Current OSU wrestling coach John Smith shakes hands after receiving his gold medal for wrestling in the featherweight class at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Smith also won gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Associated Press file