Published Mon, Feb 18, 2013 11:55 am Dateline
In a move that has rocked the amateur wrestling community, the International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that their executive board elected to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympic games.
For years, Olympic competition has served as the pinnacle of amateur wrestling, and after the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, the sport will be without.
The IOC’s decision is one that is certainly stirs an array of emotion in wrestlers worldwide, and the Ohio wrestling program is no exception. In fact, the removal of wrestling from the Olympiad might just hit a bit closer to the heart for a couple Bobcats.
“It’s crazy,” Ohio head coach Joel Greenlee said in reaction to the IOC’s ruling.
Greenlee has not always been a coach, but a wrestler too, and a quite a talented one at that. After his great success as a Northern Iowa Panther, the former heavyweight went on to become an alternate for the 1992 Olympics games in Barcelona. As an alternate he was a workout partner for Bruce Baumgartner, won gold that year in Spain.
“It was a great experience for me,” Greenlee said.
“It’s very depressing, especially for wrestlers,” Ohio heavyweight Jeremy Johnson said upon hearing the big news. “For guys whose dreams are to win an Olympic title, those dreams are no longer possible.”
Johnson is one of the many who aspires to compete on wrestling’s biggest stage. The All-American was considering making a run to compete in the 2020 Olympic games, but with the IOC’s decision to nix wrestling, he knows that his only chance to compete will be in 2016, and he is now aiming to do so.
With the removal of wrestling, it certainly raises several questions. Where will wrestlers compete for international competition, and how will the decision influence amateur wrestlers’ goals in the future?
To the former, Greenlee notes the fact that the FILA World Championships occur every year.
FILA is the world governing body of amateur wrestling. Typically, during an Olympic year, FILA does not hold a world championship competition. Greenlee believes that FILA will simply hold a championship competition in 2020 to replace the Olympic competition.
“I think if you want to be a world champion and you’re looking at being one of the best ever, then you’ve got to win world championships – not just Olympic gold medals,” Greenlee said. “It will change things but I think there will still be guys that want to win world championships; guys are still going to train hard for them … What is an Olympic Gold medal? It’s being a world champion.”
Johnson is a perfect example of what his coach speaks about. The heavyweight does not appear to be deterred, and will continue to train hard.
“I still always have the same goals for collegiate, which is to be a national champ,” he said. Additionally, after college, Johnson will likely continue training in order to achieve the honor of competing for the Red White and Blue at the 2016 Olympics.
Speaking on the rationale to cut wrestling from competition, IOC spokesman Mark Adams addressed the matter at a press conference in Lausanne, Switzerland.
"This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics,” Adams said. “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."
The 25 core sports that Adams mentioned, along with many conventional sports such as basketball, includes events like BMX cycling, modern pentathlon and table tennis.
“Wrestling may be one of the last few amateur sports that (were left),” Greenlee said. “The Olympics have a lot of experimental sports, and I don’t want to put any of them down, but I just think that wrestling was one of the original sports. That’s what it was all about (back then) it was not about BMX racing. The original Olympics were basically boxing, wrestling and running … It’s like getting rid of track.
“I think in all honesty it was a blunder on FILA ... I’ve heard about (removing wrestling) for a couple of years, and maybe it was just them not taking it seriously enough,” Greenlee continued.
Following the IOC’s verdict, wrestling joins baseball and softball as the most recent sports to be lifted from the Olympics. Baseball and softball were voted out in 2005 and were last played at the Olympics in 2008. Both sports face a tough battle to return to the games, and it appears that wrestling shares their fate.
Wrestling might just have the following, however, to bring it back.
“You go to a lot of countries and wrestling is their national sport; it’s their number one sport,” Greenlee said. “It’s not that way (in America) but it is in places like (the Middle-East) and Russia.”
Both Ohio coach and wrestler still do not believe that the IOC’s resolution will be a final one.
“I don’t think it’s over. I’ll be honest with that,” Greenlee said. “I think you will see wrestling in the 2020 Olympics.”
“There’s too many crazy wrestlers,” Johnson added. “They messed with the wrong sport.”