Written references to wrestling date back to the 12th century B.C. and, usually, the Olympics are usually all about tradition but the International Olympic Committee seems to be saying out with the old – something very confusing to those out on the mat.
With just a few days left to practice before Division One sectional championships, besting Vacaville would normally be the only thing on the minds of Del Oro High School’s wrestlers.
A Tuesday decision by the IOC injected another thought into the gym.
“Wrestling’s like the oldest sport in the world. The first sport that started the Olympics back in Greece, so I think it’s ridiculous that they would cut that,” said senior Golden Eagle Patrick Neu.
“It’s always been there and it’s one of the staples of the Olympics, like a cornerstone and make the Olympics what it is today,” said senior Golden Eagle Johnny Zieour.
Wresting is on the rise in the United States.
The Del Oro kids and those in the school’s feeder system are just 120 of the 270,000 American high schoolers who participate.
Global popularity was one thing considered in the IOC’s initial no-vote, which shocks coach Clint Madden.
“In the middle eastern countries, some of those countries in there have been wrestling for thousands of years, all through the Russian countries,” said Madden.
But Madden admits his sport might not be holding its grip very well on IOC voting factors like ticket sales and TV ratings.
Mixed Martial Arts are making a grab there, as wrestling’s PR machine lags.
‘It was set up in the 40’s and hasn’t changed much,” said Madden, and he believes that needs to change.
If Madden’s sport doesn’t petition its way off the removal list in May, coaches feel the ultimate motivator for excellence may be lost.
When asked about the Olympics, Neu said, “(I) dream, about it you know? It’s a huge accomplishment if you make it to the Olympics.”
All that was a dream realized for 26-year-old wrestler and Bakersfield native Jake Varner who just won gold in London.
If wrestling’s governing body decides to petition for a spot in the 2020 games, the sport will be vying for one spot against seven other sports including baseball and wakeboarding.
Before Tuesday’s vote by the IOC, modern pentathlon was considered the sport at greatest risk for removal.
Do you know what sports are involved in modern pentathlon?