The decision by the International Olympic Committee to potentially remove wrestling from the Summer Olympic Games beginning in 2020 has not, predictably, gone down well with advocates for the sport.
But at the same time, those boosters say the proposal gives them an opportunity to prove wrestling’s worth to a wider audience.
“The possibility of losing wrestling from the Olympics has motivated the entire wrestling community – on the local, national and international level – to really step it up and promote what we do to the rest of society,” said Jason Planakis, head coach of the George C. Marshall High School wrestling team.
“It will also force some changes to our sport, to make it a little more enjoyable for the casual fan to watch,” Planakis predicted.
Wrestling was a fixture in the ancient Olympics of Greece as early as 708 B.C., and men’s Greco-Roman wrestling was a part of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. With the exception of 1900, the sport has been represented at all Summer Olympic Games, with events for women added in 2004.
In the 2012 Summer Olympics, there were 14 different wrestling events for men, down from a high of 20, and four for women. Over the course of 116 years, the United States has won the most medals in the sport, with the former Soviet Union winning the most gold medals.
The International Olympic Committee earlier this year began a process that could lead to the sport’s being removed in the future. It will have to compete against newer sports for a slot in the 2020 Games. Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid are competing to be the 2020 host city, with a decision expected later this year.
Jeff Mye, wrestling coach at Langley High School, said the discussion surrounding the proposal could turn out to be a positive for the sport.
“Wrestling has been all over the news, and people are now telling personal stories of how this great sport truly is, and how it has changed their lives in a positive way,” Mye said. “I believe this will only strengthen our sport and enlarge our community.”