Is removing wrestling from the Olympics a mistake?Published 4:44pm Thursday, February 14, 2013
Veteran wrestling coaches and officials were shocked by the announcement earlier this week that wrestling would be eliminated from the Olympics.
In a secret vote, the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, decided that it would drop the sport as of 2020.
The announcement drew swift and sharp criticism around the world and locally.
The origins of wrestling date back before the Olympics. Drawings on cave walls depicted wrestling.
The ancient Greeks understood the importance of wrestling and made it the centerpiece of the original Olympic Games.
When the Olympics were resurrected by Pierre de Coubertin in 1896, Greco-Roman was one of the events. Freestyle wrestling was introduced to the games in 1904 in St. Louis.
Wrestling has remained one of the central sports of the Olympics ever since providing many memorable moments for countries around the world.
So why would such an iconic sport get dropped from the games?
Many believe that politics played a tremendous part in its demise. Others believe that the IOC is just trying to modernize the Olympics. By removing wrestling from the 26-event Summer Games, it can add another sport later.
Many are crying foul, however. Already plans to try and get the IOC to reconsider its decision are already under way.
Brandywine Athletic Director Van Statton, who wrestled and was a wrestling coach, was shocked by the decision.
“First of all, you are taking the oldest sport in the Olympics and wrestling even dates back further than that and you are getting rid of it? Amateur sports is supposed to be devoid of politics and that’s the part that really gets me,” Stratton said. “But if you look at the make up for the International Olympic Committee right now, it really favors the Eastern Block teams and countries. The United States is not really represented well in it and especially in sports like wrestling.
“I just feel like there was a lot of politics that went into it. A lot of people are going to downplay that, but I just look at a lot of sports that are still in the Olympics and give me a break. I know every part of the world has its own little niche and their own little thing. Canada loves pushing that little thing across the ice and blowing on it or whatever, but I just don’t see where that generates more of a fan base than wrestling does around the world.
“I just think they took one of the primary sports of the Olympics and discarded it for no reason. Nobody will give a logical explanation other than it makes it a more streamlined Olympics. What does that mean?”
Long time wrestling official Jim McCloughan of South Haven was also disappointed with the decision. McCloughan, who was a combat medic in Viet Nam, said that wrestling saved his life and many others.
“I never started wrestling until college,” he said. “I was never even introduced to wrestling until college. I played basketball in high school. Bangor didn’t even have a wrestling program when I was there.
“I would not be alive and many other guys would not be alive if it wasn’t for wrestling. And I’m not talking about the physical part, it was more the mental discipline I learned from wrestling that allowed me to go in to very tough situations and not only come out alive, but bring some one else out alive too. That’s how important wrestling is to me.”
“It’s not a sport where a certain country dominates that particular sport. I think there are more medals being given out, spread out amongst countries than any other sport. They haven’t made the final decision yet, I’m still in hopes that they come to realize that this a very, very popular sport and one of the originals, which I think should stay in.”
Wrestling and the Olympics are a topic that hits close to home in Dowagiac where the late Chris Taylor won the bronze medal in 1972. The school’s football field is named after the Olympian.
Niles wrestling coach Todd Hesson and Brandywine wrestling coach Rex Pomranka were equally disappointed.
“It’s one of the original sports from both the ‘modern’ Olympics and the ancient games in Greece. The Olympics were built around wrestling. You’re going to replace it with a ‘glamour’ sport? One that is more marketable? The Olympic Committee may want to rethink that decision,” Hesson said.
“I was in shock,” Pomranka said. “It was the first sport of the Olympics and you are going to cut it out? I know the coaches associations are going to appeal and try to get it back in. There are so many countries that have wrestling that don’t have anything else. How are they supposed to medal?
“What a blow. This is the heart of the Olympics. When you think of the Greeks and that, it was man on man and you are taking it out of the Olympic? It’s really the only think I like to watch in the Olympics.”