Wrestling with the IOC's decision

By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
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The decision of the International Olympic Committee to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games was a little like removing turkey from the Thanksgiving menu. What’s next, the 100-meter dash?

As one might expect, money and politics played a role. And who could argue that the Olympic Games involve a lot of money – and therefore politics.

“There is no professional circuit, so wrestling embraces amateur athletic competition in its purist form, something the Olympics were founded upon,” wrote Lincoln High Vice Principal Mike Maul, a wrestler and longtime wrestling coach at Lincoln. “If the decision to remove wrestling from the Olympics does somehow stand, I think many will seriously question whether the Olympics really is the spectacle of athletics we want it to be, or if the rumored profiteering and corruption that has been connected with the event for years is more than just rumor.”

There are 25 “core” sports in the Olympics. Wrestling had been a part of that core in a way best described by Whitney High School wrestling head coach Daniel Parker.

“For its own reasons,” Parker wrote in an e-mail, “(wrestling) must remain, as it has been a part of the Olympics since, well, forever.”

It must be pointed out that this decision was not confirmed by the IOC’s general assembly. That is scheduled to take place this fall. If wrestling is indeed dropped, it must then lobby to get back into the 2020 Olympics as a “new” sport.

There are 26 sports in the Olympic Games and the 26th is reserved by the IOC to introduce something new. That means a sport carried over from the previous Games must be eliminated to make room for the newcomer.

Wrestling went up against taekwondo, field hockey and modern pentathlon as to which sport would be placed on the chopping block. The IOC reported it used 39 criteria to reach its decision and among those were television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy, global participation and popularity.

It appeared modern pentathlon would gracefully slip into oblivion – surprise!

Now, pentathlon is a very old sport as well; however, modern pentathlon is not. Whereas the old version consisted of throwing the javelin and discus, the long jump, a foot race and (wait for it) – wrestling, the new includes shooting a laser pistol, fencing, a 200-meter swim, running three kilometers and show jumping on a horse the pentathlete had never ridden before.

That last event nearly resulted in a horse being severely beaten by its rider because of a poor performance.

If wrestling is indeed dropped, it would then have to petition to be “introduced” again in 2020 alongside baseball, softball, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu (martial arts).

With a plethora of “sports” having little or no traditional connection with the Olympics, it would seem the IOC could have made a better decision than it did. Would anyone on the street look at a list of these non-core events and select wrestling as the one they were least familiar with?

It’s absurd to the point it would bring one to agree with Rocklin High wrestling head coach Torrean Tyus who wrote, “My thoughts on this subject are very angry.”

Only a pentathlete could think otherwise.