published Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

International Olympic Committee decision to cut wrestling met with shock

Should the Olympics drop wrestling?

The world of wrestling took a hit Tuesday when the International Olympic Committee announced plans to drop the sport after the 2016 Games.

"It's disappointing for the Olympics in general," said Heath Eslinger, who is in his third season as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's wrestling coach. "One of the intriguing parts of the Olympics for the general fan is seeing sports they don't see on an everyday basis. Wrestling dates back in Olympics more than any other sport."

In a released statement Tuesday, the IOC said it had decided to keep the modern pentathlon and drop all wrestling. The decision was made by the 15-member executive board in a secret ballot at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"It's not a case of what's wrong with wrestling. It is what's right with the 25 core sports," committee spokesman Mark Adams told reporters in Lausanne.

Wrestling was an original Olympic sport and has been a part of the modern Games since they were re-established formally in the late 19th century.

Gordon Connell, longtime McCallie School coach and before that a collegiate coach, has been part of the international wrestling community since the Montreal Olympics in 1982. He has served as a video coordinator and/or videographer at five Olympic Games. Too, he was a senior world games champion wrestler in 2004.

"I'm stunned right now, but I would be more stunned if their decision isn't reversed in May," he said. "What [the decision] shows me is how misguided that [IOC] group is. There are millions of wrestlers in the world, and for some countries it is their national sport. How many countries would say that about synchronized swimming?"

Connell has followed the politics of wrestling over the years and blames FILA, the sport's international governing body, for Tuesday's thunderbolt, along with the current political flavor on the IOC's executive committee.

"FILA has made so many dumb moves in recent years," he said. "Very few people I know feel like any moves they've made have been for the betterment of the sport. And when you look at the IOC board, none of them have wrestling in their country."

A FILA spokesman said late Tuesday that the group will address the issue at its bureau meeting in Phuket, Thailand, later this week.

The official release stated that "FILA was greatly astonished by today's recommendation of the IOC Executive Board not to maintain wrestling among the 25 core sports for the 2020 Olympic Games. FILA will take all necessary measures to convince the IOC Executive Board and IOC members of the aberration of such decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games. FILA has always complied with the IOC regulations and is represented in 180 countries, with wrestling being the national sport in a fair amount of them and the only possibility for athletes to represent their country at the Olympic Games, thus contributing to their universality."

Connell said wrestling is one of the purest Olympic sports.

"You have running and you have wrestling," he said. "To take [wrestling] out for modern pentathlon or some of the other sports they're bringing in is a joke."

Boston University senior lecturer Frank Shorr, a recognized broadcast journalism expert, speculated about finances and the addition of golf as an Olympic sport.

"I wonder how much of this is profit-oriented -- ticket sales versus operating costs. After all, the IOC gets much more exposure from Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy taking part in the Games than any wrestler or field hockey player," Shorr told USA Today. "Perhaps they need to embrace the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) marketing strategy."

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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