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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 18, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Between the lines: Keep wrestling in the Olympics

When Seth Ecker ’12 saw a story on Yahoo! News mentioning Olympic wrestling last week, he didn’t pay it much notice. It was only after his phone began buzzing repeatedly with text messages that he learned the sport he had competed in for his entire life had lost its pinnacle competition: the Olympics.

“At first I thought it was a joke,” the two-time Division III national champion said. “It’s still something I can’t fully understand. Since I was young, wrestling and the Olympics have been synonymous.”

Ecker decided he wasn’t going to be one of the people who complains about something but never does anything. Within three hours of hearing the news, he had posted an open letter to the International Olympic Committee online, and his Facebook page was filled with links to support saving Olympic wrestling in the past week.

“I wanted to be one of the first people to say something,” Ecker said. “I hope the IOC is getting bombarded by emails.”

I have never wrestled, nor do I particularly enjoy watching wrestling, but when I think of sports in the Olympics that seem out of place, such as air rifle, synchronized swimming and flat-water canoeing, wrestling is not one of these sports. One of the most important considerations of an Olympic sport should be how widespread it is throughout the world, and at this summers’ Olympic games, 22 countries won medals in wrestling. This diversity of talent was second only to track and field. Not only has wrestling been a part of every modern Olympic games except one, it was also a contest in the ancient Greek Olympics. I don’t think the same can be said for canoeing.

The executive advisory board of the IOC voted to recommend wrestling be eliminated from the 2020 Olympics. Mark Adams, a spokesperson for the IOC, told reporters following the announcement that the IOC’s decision was based on what would be best for the Olympic Games as a whole. In an article for Reuters, Adams was quoted as saying, “It was a decision to look at the core sports, what works best for the Olympic games. This was the best program for the 2020 Olympics. This is not about what’s wrong with wrestling but what is good for the Games.”

While the exact reasons as to why wrestling was chosen for elimination remain unclear, there ‘s still something fishy about the whole thing. In fact, the entire process has the pungent odor of corruption. Many expected the modern pentathlon to be axed, you know that natural combination of swimming, fencing, shooting, equestrian and cross-country running. However, Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., the vice president of the International Modern Pentathlon Union, also happens to be a member of the IOC board that voted on which sports to cut. If that isn’t a conflict of interest, then I don’t know what is.

All hope is not lost for wrestling, it now joins seven other sports, including such necessities as sport climbing and wake boarding, competing for wrestling’s former spot. Thankfully this decision will be voted on by the IOC general assembly, which includes representation from all countries competing in the Olympics and not the same executive board that kicked wrestling out in the first place.

Ecker is hopeful that the wrestling community will make its voice heard loud enough to get their sport back into the games. However, he is fearful for wrestling at all levels of competition if it doesn’t.

“Think about if the NFL was all of a sudden eliminated,” Ecker said. “What do you think would happen to collegiate football? What do you think would happen to high school football?”

The future of Olympic wrestling is uncertain at this point, but it’s sure to not go down without a fight.

To find the open letter, visit seth0189.tumblr.com/tagged/saveolympicwrestling.

Ecker is hopeful that the wrestling community will make its voice heard loud enough to get their sport back into the games. However, he is fearful for wrestling at all levels of competition if it doesn’t.

“Think about if the NFL was all of a sudden eliminated,” Ecker said. “What do you think would happen to collegiate football? What do you think would happen to high school football?”