Talk about the ultimate wrestling reversal.
In February, the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board announced that wrestling would no longer be a core sport of the Olympics after the 2016 Rio Games… only to have the entire IOC reverse course in September by reinstating the sport with provisional – not core -- status for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics.
In the seven months between the initial recommendation and its reversal, the worldwide wrestling community got up off the mat and worked together to successfully make its case for the sport that traced its roots to the ancient Olympics and has been an integral part of the Games since the launch of the Modern Olympics in 1896. To quote former Binghamton University wrestler-turned-actor Billy Baldwin, “Wrestling has done something no sitting president could do: it brought together the U.S., Russia, and Iran.”
It certainly didn’t hurt wrestling’s case that sportswriters, sportscasters and sports fans who wouldn’t know a takedown from a touchdown seemed to react to the initial IOC decision with an almost universal “They have got to be kidding!”
How did the IOC decide to eliminate wrestling in the first place?
“FILA was arrogant, cut off,” Jamie Moffatt, who, along with Craig Sesker, wrote the book “Saving Wrestling” about the Olympic wrestling battle, said of the international organization that governs freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling in an interview with InterMat in October. “They were the only sport not at the IOC’s February meeting. Wrestling considered itself to be above being eliminated.”
“The IOC couldn’t help but notice the difference in attitudes between wrestling and modern pentathlon, a sport that was walking the gangplank, the sport everyone outside the IOC expected would get the axe,” Moffatt continued. “They (modern pentathlon) were doing all the little things right. They attended all the meetings. They hobnobbed with IOC members over drinks after the meetings. By contrast, wrestling was arrogant, couldn’t be bothered, failed to make connections. Modern pentathlon was part of the IOC fraternity; wrestling wasn’t even on campus.”
After February’s bombshell announcement, there was a multi-prong effort to bring wrestling back into the Olympic circle that included various individual governing bodies of the sport (such as USA Wrestling), new leadership at FILA, wrestlers and coaches, and an army of media professionals, including public relations experts who had worked with the IOC on other ventures.
A brief recap
Here's a quick look back at the IOC-Olympic wrestling odyssey during 2013:
- February: IOC Executive Committee voted to eliminate wrestling. One week later, FILA ousted its ineffectual president Raphael Martinetti, replacing him with the much more affable Nenad Lalovic.
- April: A full-scale promotional blitz on behalf of wrestling is launched, featuring actor Billy Baldwin, ads and Olympians in other sports.
- May: FILA announced plan to add weight classes to women's freestyle... and approved new, more fan-friendly rules, and removed the title "acting" from president Lalovic's title... Wrestling is one of eight sports up for consideration for inclusion in the Olympics after 2016... in late May in St. Petersburg, Russia, wrestling is voted one of three sports to make it to the final round of voting in September.
- August: The IOC announced there would be six weight classes each for women's freestyle, men's freestyle, and Greco-Roman... while FILA unveiled a new, user-friendly website and an online brochure extolling the virtues of wrestling.
- September: Wrestling returns to the Olympics after beating squash and a combined baseball-softball bid on the first ballot of voting of the entire IOC in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
- December: FILA approved new rules, and finalized actual weights in the new weight classes.
Want to know more about the whole Olympic wrestling saga? Click on the individual article links throughout this article. To see the full roster of stories about the IOC decision and FILA’s attempts to return wrestling to the Olympics -- most written by College Wrestling Examiner – click here.
You may be wondering what this story is doing here. Some readers may be thinking, “Isn’t this the most significant wrestling story of 2013?” while others may be asking, “This isn’t about college wrestling. Why is this story here at all?”
While College Wrestling Examiner agrees that the IOC decision isn’t strictly a college wrestling story, the IOC decision had an immediate, direct impact on a number of current and former collegiate wrestlers whose dream is compete at the Olympics… and, a potentially ominous impact on college wrestling in general, as some schools would have justified eliminating their wrestling programs by saying, “If the sport isn’t worthy of inclusion at the Olympics, why should we have it?”
For those of you who see the IOC decision as the top college wrestling story of 2013, we certainly can’t argue its worldwide impact. However, College Wrestling Examiner believes there’s one other story that, in strictly college wrestling terms, trumps the significance of the Olympic story. But, that’s another story…
College Wrestling Examiner’s Year in Review: For the fifth straight year, College Wrestling Examiner will be taking a look at the Top Ten stories of the year. Now through the end of this year, we’ll be posting our choices for the ten most significant stories in the world of collegiate wrestling in 2013. Want to be among the first to know? Click on the “subscribe” button on this page, and you’ll be notified right away when a new story is posted.
Top Ten Stories for 2013 (so far):
- No. 10: College wrestling uses MMA, marketing ideas to build crowds
- No. 9: Ruth, Martinez, York College suspended, Campolattano ousted
- No. 8: Madison Square Garden among sites for upcoming NCAA D1s
- No. 7: Death takes Carr, Gadson, Hammond, Kerr, Richards, others
- No. 6: Penn State wins D1 team title in exciting, MMA-flavored finals
- No. 5: New ventures like Agon, Tour ACW, Victory Wrestling let wrestlers continue in sport
- No. 4: Boston University to kill wrestling program after 2013-14 season
- No. 3: More new college wrestling programs added, including four for women
The season is here! Don't miss a thing! Keep up with the biggest on-the-mat developments, as well coach hirings, firings and retirings, new programs, the IOC and Olympic wrestling, and other stories you won't find elsewhere... by clicking the "subscribe" button at the top of the page to make sure you don't miss a single article from College Wrestling Examiner, winner of Amateur Wrestling News' Dellinger Award as wrestling writer of 2011. It's absolutely FREE!
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