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HITTING THE MAT: IOC wakes a sleeping giant with decision to cut wrestling

aaron hittingmat

In the wake of tragedy I find solace in the fact a group can come together and unite stronger than ever.

The International Olympic Committee made the shocking decision to drop wrestling from the 2020 Games on Tuesday.

For sports, not just wrestling, this is a tragedy.

I didn’t know what to say, just that I felt my heart sink. That pain turned to pride, though, as I have seen the wrestling community burst into action and show the world what exactly makes a wrestler a wrestler.

I believe wrestling will be back in the Olympics, I have to. I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t here. I’ll never be an Olympic champion and neither will millions of others, but the sport has done so much for so many of us. It pulls at the fiber of our being and our will. We find out who we are and what we’re made of.

There isn’t a better character-building sport than wrestling. No sport demands more sacrifice than wrestling, none. It’s not for everyone, but it belongs in the Olympics.

It’s a special family and you have to be in it to understand it. We aren’t going to let gold medal dreams die on our watch.

Since Tuesday the IOC has been caught in a media firestorm over their decision. The slogan #SaveOlympicWrestling has flooded social media like Twitter and Facebook. Even people who don’t like wrestling agree it was a bad choice.

Some of the most prolific names in wrestling have rallied to defend it including gold medalists Dan Gable, Cale Sanderson and Tom Brands. These are some of the toughest athletes in history and they don’t know how to quit, not on the mat or for a cause, especially one like this.

I think the IOC has realized they’ve chosen the wrong group to pick a fight with.

Sanderson has one of my favorite quotes about this ridiculous situation when he spoke on the Jay Mohr Fox Sports Radio show earlier this week.

“To eliminate wrestling from the Olympics is taking a lot from the games, there is no question about it,” said Sanderson. “It’s changing everything about what the Games stand for.

“Wrestling is the epitome of sport. It’s man against man, you against me, one on one. You take what you were born with and worked hard to develop and match that up against me, an opponent of the same weight class and let’s see who wins.”

The IOC executive board had a secret ballot vote and decided to retain modern pentathlon, which was previously considered the event most at risk of being cut. What you may not know is that the son of the former IOC president is also the international modern pentathlon vice president and is a member of the IOC board.

They had an inside track to defending their sport, but there is some negligence on the part of FILA, wrestling’s governing body. They got caught sleeping on this situation, but who could blame them? Who would have thought wrestling would ever be cut from the Olympics?

See MAT on Page 8

How is one of the oldest Olympic sports, a sport that goes back to the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, not one of the 25 core sports? This decision sickens me and is an embarrassment to the IOC.

It now appears that 2016 will be the last year for wrestling at the Olympics. There is still a chance wrestling could be brought back, but based on the history of the IOC it is unlikely to be overturned.

“This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said to the Associated Press. “In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It’s not a case of what’s wrong with wrestling, it is what’s right with the 25 core sports.”

Evidently Mr. Adams, the rest of the world adamantly disagrees.

We must now be relentless to defend wrestling. If we don’t, who will? It was one of America’s most successful sports at the Olympics. Only swimming and cycling athletes have won more medals.

I’ll leave you with the ending remarks from a speech given by former Ohio State head wresting coach Russ Hellickson in 2001 at a farewell ceremony for the Marquette University wrestling program.

“...I am Wrestling, do not weep for me.

No political agenda or political interpretation can ever destroy me.

My merit and my worth is no threat to any cause, but rather through my values, I am a model for others.

I am Wrestling, do not weep for me.

Celebrate what I am, celebrate what I have been, celebrate what I represent, and celebrate the many ways I have impacted your life. I will survive this test as I have survived others, I am forever etched into the very fiber of all mankind.

The world needs me.

Time is on my side.

History guarantees me.

I am Wrestling, do not weep for me.”

You can do your part to help save Olympic wrestling by signing petitions online, one of the biggest is https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/put-pressure-ioc-overturn-their-decision-drop-wrestling-olympics-2020/ClDPYshl or you can e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

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