The next Henry Cejudo was told he needs to find a different route out of his tough neighborhood. There could never be another Rulon Gardner, but nonetheless a similar story can no longer be written.
It’s a reality the wrestling community had to come to grips with on Tuesday when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members announced it was recommending dropping wrestling from the 2020 games and beyond.
It is oldest sport known to man, one that many consider sport at its purest form, and the one sport that is tied to the original Olympic Games in 1896.
Despite all of that the IOC saw reason enough to leave it off the slate while some other sports, a term used lightly in this case, like equestrian and trampoline stayed in place when golf enters the lineup.
The wrestling community went to social media and started petitions in order to try and save the sport with a very slim chance of changing course by the next IOC meeting in May, but it won’t do anything because the IOC will never admit it made a mistake.
Wrestling is one of the few sports that is embraced around the world and that isn’t dominated by only a few countries at the Olympic level.
At the 2012 London games, 71 countries (344 athletes) were represented in the last Olympics with 22 earning medals. How many sports at the Olympic level still have some parity?
Most sports have a very clear top three to five countries or individuals in contention. It is just a matter of where they’ll fall on the medal stand.
In wrestling, it is still about one-on-one, hand-to-hand competition. Either I kick your butt or you kick mine. There isn’t a teammate to blame.
There is, however, a committee to focus on in this loss.
They chose wrestling over the pentathlon while sports like ping pong and race walking continue to have a place.
“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.”
They can spin it any way they want to, it’s the wrong decision.
Wrestling has world championships every year, but every fourth is the Olympic year and only then does it get the coverage at the national and world-wide stage. People — men and women — devote their entire life with the Olympics in mind.
In a niche sport like wrestling the Olympics are as far as an athlete can go (although mixed martial arts is another avenue if you don’t mind being punched). It is the ultimate achievement.
I just keep going back to the stories that won’t be told. After all it’s my job, it’s what I do.
I had the pleasure of writing about Cejudo, a product of the Phoenix suburb of Maryvale, and the story of his mother’s struggle to stay in the country.
Gardner is one of the greatest sports stories of all time. He practiced by wrestling cows on his Wyoming farm before the 2000 Olympic Games where he beat the unbeatable Russian Aleksandr Karelin, a three-time champion who had previously been untouchable — or unmovable in this case — as he had not given up a single point is six Olympic Games.
Those are great memories and I am glad they and many before them got a chance to tell their story.
It especially hits home considering the time I spent last week interviewing high school kids at the Arizona state wrestling championship about their goals and a few brought up the Olympics as the ultimate goal.
And just like that, a dream was shattered before it even really started.
Combs’ sophomore Ted Rico, Chandler senior Dalton Brady, and Desert Vista’s Alex Bambic are among those who have been grinding daily for years with the idea of one day representing their country on their sport’s biggest stage.
Now it is gone.
“I’m still going for 2016,” Brady said via a Facebook message. “But I guess if it ends there so does my career in freestyle wrestling. This is crazy though! Oldest sport in the Olympics and it is pulled! Insane!”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.