John Klein: By cutting wrestling, IOC makes a serious blunder
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Thursday, February 14, 2013
2/14/13 at 7:05 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog
Related Story: IOC president to meet with head of wrestling's governing body
Original Print Headline: By cutting wrestling, IOC makes a serious blunder
Wrestling, alongside track and field, is at the core of the Olympics.
There are cave dwellings of wrestlers going back 5,000 years. In the ancient Olympics of Greece, dating back to 708 BC, wrestling was one of the sports.
Now, in an effort to modernize the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee has voted to eliminate wrestling.
They are going to keep a sport that involves women dancing with balloons and ribbons.
They are going to keep in-the-water dance troupes.
Ping pong, trampoline, curling and badminton will remain in the Olympics.
But wrestling, one of the original sports of mankind, is now out.
This is a bad decision in every possible way.
In an effort to streamline the Olympics, an effort we fully support, the IOC voted this week to get rid of wrestling. A better decision would have been to get rid of the IOC.
It apparently came down to a decision between wrestling and modern pentathlon.
If you have no idea what modern pentathlon is, you are not alone.
It is a sport that involves horseback riding, shooting and swimming. Where I come from, that's not a sport. That's a party.
This is not to belittle any other sports. It takes hard work, dedication and ability to excel at anything.
However, eliminating wrestling from the Olympics is wrong on just about every level.
We can make a better case for wrestling than most of the sports that will be included in the Olympics.
We understand the need for the Olympics to modernize and gain a wider television appeal.
In that area, wrestling has no one to blame but itself. Wrestling allowed itself to be pushed to the side when sports on television started to explode in the early 1980s (the birth of ESPN).
As college basketball, football and baseball took most of the air time, wrestling got less and less attention.
The implementation of Title IX helped erode the sport of college wrestling as colleges looked for ways to streamline men's sports and add women's sports.
In addition, some believe college wrestling evolved into more of a pushing and shoving match from the traditional folkstyle.
Whatever the reasons for the decline in interest in American collegiate style wrestling, wrestling has remained strong around the world.
That's what makes the IOC decision even more bizarre.
They are keeping lots of sports with limited worldwide interest.
In the case of ping pong, called table tennis in the Olympics, China won 11 golds in the last Olympics and the silver medals were all won by China, South Korea or Japan.
By contrast, wrestling is in nearly 200 countries, and 70 countries were represented in the sport at the last Olympics. Wrestling medals were won by 29 countries in the last Olympics.
Unlike many sports, wrestling remains popular in just about every corner of the planet. That alone should have been enough to keep it.
Instead, wrestling will now have to make an appeal with a handful of other sports, including baseball/softball, for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics and beyond.
Most experts believe the odds are long that wrestling will be reinstated.
This news was greeted by outrage in the wrestling community.
Oklahoma remains one of the sport's hot spots in this country.
In Perry, the self-proclaimed "wrestling capital of the world," this was crushing news. The Maroons are America's high school wrestling powerhouse, winning 55 state team titles and 159 state individual titles.
Jack Van Bebber, an Olympic gold medalist in 1932, is from Perry. So is Danny Hodge, an Olympic silver medalist and considered by many to be the greatest collegiate wrestler of all time.
Stillwater is home to not only the greatest collegiate wrestling dynasty in history but also the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Norman has been home to gold medalists and some of the greatest wrestlers in American history.
Tulsa's Kenny Monday went to three Olympics in wrestling, winning a gold and silver.
This is a state at the very heart of American wrestling.
One of the cornerstones of wrestling is fighting to the end of every match. The sport revolves around third period comebacks and drama. It is just you and your opponent. Nobody else to blame or credit. This is basic sports. Two competitors. One winner.
Many hope this latest challenge to the sport of wrestling can be overcome with a late flurry. For anyone who knows wrestlers and wrestling, betting against them would not be wise.
"To any young kid who hears there's not going to be wrestling in the Olympics, keep fighting," said OSU coach John Smith, a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Del City. "Keep working. Keep training.
"I'm going to fight for you. There's only one option with this decision, and that's to get it overturned. I'm going to live every day to make a difference in that final decision."
We're hoping one last shot will save wrestling.