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Blow to Olympic wrestling hurts youth levels

By Lauren Mariacher

Tuesday was a sad day for a lot of people in the sports world. My Twitter feed was jammed with emotional tweets from wrestlers and wrestling fans fired up over the International Olympic Committee’s decision to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games.

My first reaction was not concern for the Olympics, or Olympic wrestlers. It was for kids. It was for high school wrestlers like the ones Keith McShea and I covered this weekend during the state qualifier meet at the University at Buffalo.

That is because in wrestling, it is not adults who drive the sport. It is the kids -- kids with dreams. Young wrestlers can’t dream like young football or basketball players can. There are no “professional wrestlers,” unless you’re talking about the fake stuff. When it comes to real competition on a mat, there are very few bright lights and big money contracts. So what do these kids dream of if not being a pro athlete?

Olympic medals.

Penn State senior wrestler David Taylor tweeted his reaction Tuesday: 


In wrestling, there is no bigger dream. The only thing better than an Olympic gold medal is two Olympic gold medals, but no Olympic medals? That is a hard concept to grasp for the wrestling community.

Some have suggested that talented wrestlers can find a professional outlet in mixed martial arts. It is true that many wrestlers have experienced success in the fighting world. But they are different animals. Just because you can take somebody down doesn’t mean you want to take your chances at getting punched or kicked in the face. There’s a certain grace and technique to a match that doesn’t always translate to the ring. It’s not for everybody. 

"This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It's not a case of what's wrong with wrestling, it is what's right with the 25 core sports."

Merriam-Webster defines the word core as “a central and often foundational part.” Is it wrong for people to believe that wrestling, which has been a part of the Games since they began in 1896, is more “core” or “foundational” than race walking and table tennis?

If families weren’t still filing into gymnasiums for sectional tournaments or wrestling’s NCAA Championship wasn’t breaking attendance records each year, maybe you could get people to agree with this decision. But wrestling isn’t dead.  It’s alive and well, and if the IOC follows through with this decision it is putting the sport in a coffin while it's still breathing.


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About Prep Talk

Keith McShea

Keith McShea

Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.

@KeithMcSheaBN |