MIKE NIETO: Did wrestling get outmaneuvered?

2013-02-14T18:00:00Z 2013-02-14T23:55:05Z MIKE NIETO: Did wrestling get outmaneuvered?Mike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
February 14, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

When I first heard the news Tuesday while listening to the Mike McConnell Show on WGN radio, I did a double take.

I am sure many of you did the same thing or felt as if you were hit by a double-leg takedown.

The International Olympic Committee board had voted to drop wrestling as an Olympic sport starting with the 2020 Olympics.

According to reports, it reviewed a report that it analyzed 39 criteria, including television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity.

But how can they drop a sport that has been around since 776 B.C.? Wrestling is in the Bible and has a history from the first Olympics in 1896 in Athens, Greece.

T.F. South wrestling coach Mike Tisza may have put it best when he told me of his disappointment.

"That is what we shoot for -- the Olympics," Tisza said. "Kids, when they first start wrestling, dream of making the Olympic team and competing for the United States."

Wrestling historian Mike Chapman, who founded Wrestling International Magazine (W.I.N.), the Dan Hodge Trophy (which is the Heisman Trophy of college wrestling) and the International Wrestling Institute in Newton, Iowa, maybe put it best.

"How ridiculous is this?," said Chapman, who has written 25 books including 15 on wrestling. "They are ignoring 5000 years of history when they drop wrestling and keep sports like canoe and Taekwondo. And the pentathlon, for crying out loud. I think 21 countries participated in London in penthathlon, and 71 in wrestling. Which sport is more popular around the world?"

USA Wrestling and FILA (French acronym for International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles) were stunned, but Chapman sees another side.

"To me, it also showed a lack of leadership at wrestling's highest level, if they didn't see this coming," Chapman said. "The IOC has been cutting back wrestling in the length of the contest for decades, and trimming the number of weight classes. FILA is the governing body and they dropped the ball."

You wonder what happened and if any backroom deals were made. The networks control what time wrestling is on and they put it on at 3 a.m.

Now it seems as if the networks are controlling what sports will compete in the Olympics.

Tisza said there is a petition being circulated. Chapman said there will be a backlash and I am sure there will be. Wrestlers are not quitters and they will mount a protest in some way.

I hope they do because this sport needs to be saved. Once it is dropped from the Olympics, more colleges may drop the sport and that will filter down to the high school and amateur ranks.

You think of our history and Abraham Lincoln was a wrestler. Right here in Illinois.

You don't think wrestling is good TV? How many of you would like to see Dan Gable's 1972 Gold medal match again?

Wrestling must not be allowed to perish from the Olympics.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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