The organizing body of wrestling is fighting to keep the sport in the Olympics and shirtless Greco-Roman wrestlers is one proposal to spice it up.
Real Pro Wrestling
Earlier this year, the International Olympic Committee stunned the sports world when it voted to drop wrestling from the Olympics starting in 2020. The wrestling community will get a chance to appeal the decision to the IOC and the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) is proposing steps to modernize and streamline the sport.
One novel proposal would have Greco-Roman wrestlers wrestle shirtless. As the Swedish paper Bladet reported:
“We propose that wrestlers in Greco-Roman style should be shirtless. We think it will be more interesting and better for the spectators, ” said FILA acting president Nenad Lalovic.
I’ll drink to that. It would be no different than MMA, where guys (many of them former wrestlers) fight shirtless. The FILA run would not apply to freestyle wrestling, the more popular version. The UFC is among groups lobbying the IOC to keep wrestling as a core sport.
I asked Greco-Roman wrestler Akil Patterson, who is openly gay, what he thought of the idea:
Wrestling’s governing body is preparing for what could be the match of its life.
It is holding a special meeting in Moscow to discuss changes to modernize the sport in hopes of staying in the Olympics.
The meeting Saturday comes four months after the IOC executive board recommended that wrestling be dropped from the 2020 Olympics. Wrestling has a chance to regain its place by beating out seven other sports vying for one available spot.
All those sports are to make their case to the IOC at a meeting this month in St. Petersburg. The other candidates are sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding, karate, wushu, roller sports and a combined baseball-softball bid. The IOC will make a final decision in September.
The meeting is expected to consider an array of changes — from giving women more say in the organization and more chances to compete, to rule adjustments and possibly even to clothing changes.
The IOC’s recommendation to drop wrestling put the federation, known by the acronym FILA, on a crisis footing, forcing the resignation of President Raphael Martinetti days later.
Nenad Lalovic, appointed acting president, is expected to be confirmed as full-time president Saturday. Martinetti sued in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, opposing Lalovic’s appointment and the special meeting. The court rejected both moves.
Growing group of international wrestling federations form a partnership for unified effort to show that wrestling belongs on Olympic program.
The Save Olympic Wrestling Coalition has been formed by a number of international wrestling federations to show wrestling should remain on the Olympic program.
This is a unique partnership that will send a powerful message to the International Olympic Committee about the importance and relevance of wrestling to the Olympic Games. The coalition will initially be comprised of strategically identified federations to show that regardless of geographic or political differences, they are unified in a commitment to this effort.
Goals of the coalition include:
- Support the political campaign of FILA, the international governing body of wrestling
- Mobilize energy and resources in each country
- Promote Olympic wrestling through World Wrestling Month in May
- Support Acting FILA President Nenad Lalovic and his administration
- Assist with the continued development of Olympic wrestling
The following countries have committed their support to this effort:
Albania, Argentina, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Iran,Japan, Korea, Nigeria, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, United States and Uzbekistan.
Each of those countries will sign a resolution which states their cause and publicizes the key initiatives.
In the summer of 1996, the eyes of the wrestling world weren’t transfixed on ratings or politics. They were locked onto 27-year-old American Kurt Angle, who was putting the finishing touches on one of the most decorated careers in the sport’s modern history with an Olympic gold medal victory in Atlanta.
Now, the concern in the wrestling world is whether the sport’s tradition can earn it a spot in the 2020 Games and beyond — and it’s all Angle’s icy blue eyes are focused on.
“It’s all about politics and money, and there’s no more tradition or history that really interests the IOC [International Olympic Committee], or at least that’s the way it’s basically perceived now,” lamented Angle, who at 44 is on top of an entirely different world of wrestling.
There wasn’t much left to prove after Angle defeated Abbas Jadidi of Iran for the gold in ’96. He had already captured whatever championships there were at any level: a Pennsylvania state championship with Mount Lebanon High School, two NCAA championships for Clarion University, a gold medal in the World Championships, and the Olympic gold. He had risen so high in the sport that his head was crashing against the ceiling.
So, sports colleague supreme John Dudley once commented how there’s no middle ground when it comes to a youth’s initiation into wrestling.
He meant amateur wrestling, by the way. Not the Hulk Hogan/Rowdy Roddy Piper/Nature Boy Ric Flair/Sgt. Slaughter/Captain Lou Albano variety that once hoarded the attention of my Strong Vincent brethren.
I don’t remember John’s quote verbatim, but it was something along the lines of how you only needed one gym class session on the mat to learn if mankind’s oldest known sport was for you or not.
Win or lose, you immediately knew in your gut if you wanted to try it again.
Well, after all-the-way-back-to-kindergarten friend Brian Lipiec gleefully mangled my guts, I can emphatically tell you I never wanted to try it again. Since then, the closest I ever came to a half nelson was watching that Ryan Gosling movie of the same title.
Still, I’ve come to appreciate the sport since I began covering scholastic wrestling in the mid-2000s.
No, make that sincerely appreciate.
Basically folks, you have to have a different mindset to wrestle. And I mean that as a compliment.
As a life-long wrestler and supporter of wrestling, my first thought when hearing the Olympic committee had canceled wrestling for the 2020 Games was “this can’t be true.” Wrestling is an original Olympic sport, and one of the only true amateur sports still left in the world. In case you haven’t heard, wrestling has indeed been cut from the 2020 Olympic Games.
What does it mean? My first thought is outside of America, where wrestling in some countries, Russia and Iran, is the national sport. Some young people in these countries use wrestling as a way of escaping poor living conditions. Thinking about that puts a little perspective on the magnitude of the decision.
Wrestling may not be the biggest spectator sport, and no one expects to get rich doing it. And most who do it, do it just for the competition and the potential Olympic glory. America is the only country where wrestling is available in middle school, high school, and college; every other country has the Olympic Games.
The Bahamas Amateur Wrestling Federation (BAWF) has joined with federations around the Americas in a campaign to reinstate wrestling as an Olympic Sport.
The executive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted in February to drop wrestling from the Olympic program as of 2020. The surprise decision was a significant point when the Pan American Council of Associated Wrestling (CPLA) met in congress April 4 in Panama City, Panama. The Bahamas joined 27 countries at the congress, where several actions to campaign for the sport’s reinstatement in the Games were discussed.
“Wrestlers around the world are initiating programs in their countries and joining with other countries to save our sport,” said Clarence Rolle, president of the BAWF after attending the CPLA Congress. “Wrestling is popular around the world. We have 177 countries with recognized federations and wrestling is an original sport of the Olympic Games. It is an important link between the ancient Games and modern times. It is not even possible for us to imagine the Olympics without wrestling.”
There was a time in the not-to-distant past when Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was two million dollars in the hole. Today, it’s several billion in the black, thanks to the efforts of promotion president Dana White (and the checkbook of the Fertitta brothers).
Now, White tells NBC Sports he’s taking on a new fight.
“[Wrestling] needs to be more fan-friendly, it needs to be more exciting. I’ve met with a lot of the top guys in wrestling. Actually I met with them last Tuesday, and yeah, the UFC is joining the fight to help save Olympic wrestling. Not just Olympic wrestling, but colleges are dropping wrestling now. High schools have been dropping wrestling… I’ve personally funded tons of wrestling programs, and the UFC has funded tons of wrestling programs for high school kids. It’s in the discussion phase. These guys are going out and fighting the fight, and whatever they need from me and what I think I could do, [I'll do].”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board voted earlier this year to have amateur wrestling cut from future games in an effort to overhaul the entire program, focusing on “popularity, finances, tickets sold and governance” (see why here).
Jordan Burroughs began his wrestling career as a five year old and by 24 he has won an NJSIAA state title, two NCAA championships, a world championship and a gold medal at the London Olympics. Burroughs spoke with The Star-Ledger this week to talk about the International Olympic Committee’s decision to drop wrestling from the Games beginning in 2020, his recent experience in Iran at the wrestling World Cup and a March weekend, in 2006, when he won his state title.
The Star-Ledger: Some have said the reason for the IOC’s decision to cut wrestling is that is too elemental a sport and it doesn’t appeal to the general public for that reason. As a participant and a fan of wrestling, what is it that you appreciate about the sport?
Jordan Burroughs: I definitely appreciate the individual aspect of it. It is one of the few sports that is hand-to-hand combat. Everything you do is based upon your own training. If you have weakness, it is exposed, and your strength is evident. Unlike, say, football or basketball, it’s you on your own. When you compete, the commitment you’ve made to sport will show.