The International Olympic Committee has decided to drop wrestling, one of the oldest sports, from its program beginning in 2020, a move hurting collegiate wrestlers.
With 26 sports currently on the Olympic schedule, the IOC looked to remove one sport to add a new sport at the end of the year. After looking at 39 criteria such as television ratings and ticket sales, wrestling was dropped.
Penn State wrestler Quentin Wright, who competed in the Olympic Trials last April said the decision will hurt young athletes because of what the sport teaches.
“It’s what you do when two people get into a fight,” Wright said. “It teaches a lot of valuable life lessons.”
Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson, who won gold in Athens during the 2004 Olympics, said he heard about the decision Tuesday morning and spent the day on the phones trying to get support for including the sport back in the Olympics.
Sanderson said while he doesn’t think the decision hurts future wrestlers yet, they’re only in round one of the process of getting wrestling back.
“We need to make sure the David Taylor’s, Ed Ruth’s, Jimmy Gulibon’s and Nico Megaludis’ have the chance to win a gold medal in 2020,” Sanderson said. “
With no Olympics, the pinnacle of wrestling would be the World Championships, which wrestlers compete in every year, opposed to the four-year cycle that the Olympics provide.
Franklin Gomez, who currently trains freestyle wrestling for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, competed in both the 2011 World Championships, placing silver and in the 2012 Olympics, where he was knocked out in the first round.
“At first I was really surprised, then I was really upset,” Gomez said. “It is what it is, have to follow the rules they have and the system.”
The removal of wrestling also hurts at the national level.
For Gomez’s country of Puerto Rico, of the eight medals they have won all time, six have been in boxing and one has been in wrestling. At the summer 2012 games, Jaime Espinal — who is also in the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club —won silver in freestyle at 84 kg.
Espinal disagreed with the IOC’s decision saying that no sport should have been kicked out.
“If we’re allowed to go to the Olympics in 2020, other sports would be out,” Espinal said. “It’s not right to say ‘Oh no, wrestling should be there’ because other sports would suffer.”
Wrestling will have the chance to apply for inclusion back into the 2020 Olympics. To get back into the Olympics, the sport would be put on a ballot against seven other sports for a chance to win the place back.
At this stage, Wright said it’s important to get the message out to anyone that will listen.
“We need to push the pace,” Wright said. “We need to get that wrestling back because it’s the greatest sport.”