We speak of formal amateur wrestling, as mostly seen on the high school and college levels. If you have, you know it is one of the most demanding of sports, a total, all-out commitment of body and mind. It requires discipline and skill, it makes an athlete understand his or her body. It is the kind of sport that ought to be encouraged.
Thus we are stunned and disappointed at the proposal by the International Olympic Committee to eliminate wrestling from the Summer Games, starting in 2020. Apparently the IOC had to drop a sport to make room for rugby and golf, and picked wrestling. Why?
Some have blamed FILA, the sport’s international federation, for not selling the sport; others point to bad rule changes and/or corruption on the part of the IOC, a not unprecedented happenstance.
Whatever the cause, the effect will be to hurt youth wrestling programs here and around the world (180 countries wrestle). The New York Times reports that participation in U.S. high school wrestling has increased by more than 40,000 wrestlers in the past decade, to more than 270,000, including 8,200 women. College programs have increased as well.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s the uproar across the world. This may be the only thing the U.S. and Iran agree on. Ex-wrestlers from novelist John Irving and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to members of Congress and Wall Street barons have opposed the decision.
The match is not over; the final vote is not until September, when, hopefully, it will be reversed.
Wrestling was in the ancient Olympics in the eighth century B.C. It’s been in the modern Olympics since the Games were reinstated, and it should so remain.