In a move that shocked the sports world and sent enthusiasts scrambling to protest the decision, the International Olympic Committee voted to discontinue wrestling
– both Greco-Roman and freestyle – as an Olympic sport starting in 2020.
Wrestling was chosen out of several sports that were on the chopping block, including the modern pentathlon, table tennis, and taekwando.
The Committee will reconvene in September to solidify plans for 2020, and at that time ratify the decision to include and exclude certain sports. Officials stressed to the BBC
that the decision was not final, although it is unprecedented for an Olympic sport to be reintroduced that quickly.
Reasons cited for the decision to remove wrestling from the games were low ratings and a lack of international exposure. Although it's worth noting that in the last summer games, twenty-nine different countries attained a medal in wrestling.
Wrestling has been a part of the modern Olympics since its debut in Athens in 1898. Barring an appeal, wrestling will now have to compete with other sports looking to be introduced or re-introduced in the 2020 games, including squash, karate, climbing, wakeboarding, rollersports, wushu (kung fu), baseball, and softball.
Failure to be re-admitted to the Olympics could be disastrous for wrestling on an international level. It would also have a ripple effect on Mixed Martial Arts, a sport that has gained mainstream exposure in much of the Western hemisphere but is still struggling to expand internationally. Wrestling has acted and continues to act as a feeder system for MMA, with such notables as former world champion Joe Warren, Ben Askren, and Randy Couture, to name just a few, coming from an amateur wrestling background. Couture and Warren will both be coaches on the upcoming Spike reality series Fight Master: Bellator MMA
Although changes could be made to the sport to make it more appealing to casual viewers, it still seems like a short-sighted decision. As fans of amateur wrestling and MMA ourselves, here's hoping that the IOC at least reconsiders this decision.
Source: Kansas City Star/Contributor/McClatchy-Tribune /Getty Images