The International Olympic Committee (IOC) shocked the wrestling and sports world Feb. 12 when its members voted to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games.
According to reports, wrestling was voted out from a final group of sports that includes modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey. The IOC board made its decision after reviewing the 26 sports on the current Olympic program. Eliminating one sport allows the IOC to add a new sport to the program later this year.
Wrestling, which combines freestyle and Greco-Roman events, had been a part of the Olympics since the inaugural modern Games in Athens in 1896.
“In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said in a released statement. “It’s not a case of what’s wrong with wrestling, it is what’s right with the 25 core sports.”
Wrestling will now join seven other sports that will apply for inclusion in 2020. The others sports are baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu. They will be vying for a single opening in 2020.
The IOC’s decision has garnered a lot of outraged from wrestlers as well as wrestling and sports fans both nationally and locally. Some DeKalb County School District wrestling coaches said this decision will have an effect on young wrestlers and their future.
“It’s messing with the kids’ dreams,” said Southwest DeKalb High School wrestling coach Keith Johnson. “Most of the students who wrestle want to either be a state champion, a national champion or an Olympic champion. And the ones that go to college—after college they have nothing to look forward to.”
McNair High School wrestling coach Ramon Tillery also said this decision will affect the futures of young wrestlers.
“I think they are messing up a lot of opportunity for these kids,” he said. “A lot of kids depend on wrestling to take them far in their education.”
Lithonia High School wrestling coach Patrick Ryan said he was very disappointed and shocked.
“I feel bad for the kids,” he said. “Some have goals to become an Olympic champion and they work hard five to six days a week. They take wrestling very seriously and now one of their aspirations is shut down.”
Despite the disappointment and uncertainty of the future of wrestling, the coaches believe this decision will not affect their program directly.
“It may affect some programs that are affiliated with USA wrestling and freestyle wrestling,” Ryan said. “But, it won’t affect Lithonia’s program because my kids never wrestled before, until they met me.”
“It won’t stop kids from wrestling because kids wrestle on my team to give them an outlet to go to college for free,” Johnson said. “That’s my goal, to get them to college for free.”