BERLIN- The local wrestling community this week reacted with shock and disgust to a decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to drop one of the oldest Olympic sports from the 2020 games.
On Tuesday, the IOC executive board voted to drop wrestling from the Olympics in 2020 after deciding it no longer met the criteria of its list of 25 core sports, despite the fact wrestling has been a fixture in the games since the beginning. By Tuesday afternoon, websites and on-line petition drives started sprouting up in the hopes of reversing the IOC board’s decision and the effort was already gaining momentum by mid-week.
Wrestling was one of several sports under consideration for removal by the IOC and many blamed notoriously shaky Olympic politics for the decision. The U.S. Olympic Committee responded quickly to the IOC’s announcement on Tuesday.
“Given the history and tradition of wrestling, and it’s popularity and universality, we were surprised when the decision was announced,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun in a statement. “It is important to remember that this action is a recommendation and we hope that there will be a meaningful opportunity to discuss the important role that wrestling plays in the sports landscape both in the United States and around the world.”
Locally, wrestling has seen a huge increase in popularity in recent years with a highly successful program at Stephen Decatur. Seahawk Coach Todd Martinek said on Wednesday the IOC decision to drop wrestling from the Olympics could be devastating to the sport’s popularity in the long run.
“It’s a travesty to drop wrestling from the Olympics,” he said. “It’s one of the oldest sports and almost every country in the world has representatives try to qualify for the games, unlike many others. The Olympics put a spotlight on wrestling and help recruit youngsters to such a great sport. Without the Olympics, wrestling will suffer.”
Meanwhile, Coach Keith Tobin, who runs the successful Eastern Shore Intensive Wrestling Program based in West Ocean City was stunned by the announcement and has also joined the petition drive.
“It’s really shocking right now,” he said. “This can really take away a kid’s dream, a dream to be the next Dan Gable or Cael Sanderson. It’s just seems short-sighted to take away a sport that has been a part of the Olympics from the beginning.”