The wrestling community is very protective of their sport as the International Olympic Committee found out over the last four months.
It’s a niche sport that either you love until the end or you have never been involved with it. It is pretty much that divisible. Once you, or your kid, steps on the mat it has its (under) hooks in you.
But part of the reason the sport was put in jeopardy to be left off the Olympic slate in 2020 was because of those who love the sport so much.
The sports has three disciplines – folkstyle, Greco-Roman and freestyle – but folkstyle, the version used at the high school and college levels, is the type most recognizable and practiced.
Greco and freestyle are more offseason, a way to get a lot of mat time, and usually only the top percentage of wrestlers embrace it.
They also happen to be the two disciplines embraced world-wide and used in the Olympics. It means that even most of the people who love the sport don’t fully understand how it is scored.
That’s a problem.
Just ask Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez, who is the state chairman for USA Wrestling.
“Even within our own sport the percentage of people who participate in it is only 20 to 30 percent,” he said. “We had to get more people involved and aware and we’ve done that.”
Next week the nation’s Junior and Cadet wrestlers, aged middle school to recent high school graduates, in freestyle and Greco-Roman head to Fargo, N.D. for the national championships.
Everyone who goes LOVES Fargo and the FargoDome and no one could imagine it being held elsewhere, but that is kind of the sport’s problem in a nutshell.
Here is the sport’s biggest annual event and it is held in Fargo.
It is not exactly among the nation’s biggest media market.
I know even if it was held in New York’s Grand Central Station, where an international meet was held recently, most of the media would ignore it, but maybe there would be more of national presence if it was held in a great wrestling state like Iowa, Pennsylvania or Ohio.
The sport is doing everything it can leading up to the final three-sport vote in September where wrestling is a finalist to be put back on the 2020 schedule along with baseball/softball and squash.
Wrestling seems to have a good chance to get the final nod as I don’t believe there has been a groundswell of support for squash and MLB won’t suspend its season simply because it has its own world-wide, money-making event in the World Baseball Classic.
With that said there is still plenty of work to be done before the vote and Gonzalez, who gets updated regularly as the state chairman, is sweating out the days leading up to it.
“It’s looming over our heads,” he said. “The Olympics are our showcase. We are doing everything we can to make sure it stays that way.”
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