Had anyone from the International Olympic Committee been on hand Friday night for the opening rounds of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III sectional wrestling tournament at Cardington-Lincoln High School, they certainly wouldn’t have received a warm welcome from most in attendance.
The committee’s executive board announced this week it has decided to eliminate wrestling from the Summer Games beginning in the 2020 Olympics.
It voted to retain modern pentathlon and remove wrestling from the Olympics’ 25 core sports.
Among those being considered for one open spot in the 2020 Games are karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing and wakeboarding. A vote will be held in September to add a sport, and wrestling officials are hopeful their sport will be that choice after re-applying for admission.
Pleasant coach Doug Short is among those who don’t understand why the IOC could drop a sport that dates to not only the inaugural modern Olympics in 1896 but also to the ancient Greek games.
“You are taking away one of the classic, original sports, and the replacements are like from the X-Games,” Short said. “It’s bad for the sport and bad for the Olympics.
“It was a shock to everybody, and I don’t understand what their reasoning is.”
The IOC executive board analyzed 39 criteria, including ticket sales, participation and popularity, and TV ratings.
The chances of any wrestlers at the Cardington sectional qualifying later in life for the Olympics is probably slim at best.
Nonetheless, the committee’s decision takes away the hopes of anyone wishing to make it big in the sport.
“It’s terrible,” Northmor coach Scott Carr said. “Making the Olympics is some kids’ life-long dream. It’s not like they have major league baseball for the NFL they can go to. The Olympics are it. Logan Stieber (an Ohio State wrestler who had already made the Olympic finals in his career). What will he do? His life-long dream is to win the gold medal, and now it’s taken away from him.
“My kids say it’s terrible. It’s not just a shot to the upper-level guys, it’s a shot to the guys in general. It tells us our sport is not important.”
Tournament director Larry Smith, who as Cardington’s coach in 2000 guided his son Tom to a high school state title, looked at the IOC’s decision from a different angle.
“If you read everybody’s opinions, it’s a disaster that will kill the sport. I don’t think that’s the case,” Smith said.
He does agree the IOC has damaged the Olympic version of wrestling.
“The Olympic committee has been trying to ruin the sport for along time by reducing the number of weight classes (now down to seven),” he said. “This is not the first time they’ve talked about dropping it.”
But Smith believes wrestling will survive if it takes another avenue.
“It may be that it is better for wrestling if they increase the opportunities for participation on the international levels,” Smith said. “If the Olympic committee would then invite wrestling back, FILA (the sport’s governing body) should make it on their terms. In other words, keep the increased number of weight classes the way they are and go back to the Olympics, but not on their (the IOC’s) terms.”
There are 138 wrestlers grappling in the Cardington sectional, from which the top four finishers in each weight class advance to next weekend’s district meet at Philo in southeast Ohio.
Following are local wrestlers who on Friday gained the semifinals of their respective weight classes:
Pleasant: Sage Simmons (113); Taylor Young (132); Tre Wells (152); Ty Barlow (170); Quinton Johnson (220); Jeff Fairchild (285).
Cardington: Jaelyn Ballard (106); Mackenzie Coulter (113); Adam Reed (126); Colton Jenkins (170); Eric Collins (195).
Northmor: Sam Neer (126); Jamie Baldridge (145); Colin Visconti (152); Cody Ross (160); Tyler Beck (195).
Other local wrestlers are still alive in the consolation rounds as they try to gain top-four finishes.
Action resumes at 10 a.m. today. Matches to decide first, third and fifth places will start at 4 p.m.