Olympic’s oldest sport wrestles back for 2020

In Opinion
Courtesy of MCT
Courtesy of MCT

The International Olympic Committee grappled with the idea of adding baseball/softball or squash to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but instead reinstated wrestling after dropping it earlier this year.

Wrestling has been a staple in the Olympics since its beginning in ancient Greece, but the sport has done nothing to modernize or attract a bigger audience in recent years.

Yes, they added more weight classes for female competitors, but the sport has lost its power over the years.

The history of the sport should not be a reason for it to remain in the Olympics if it is not revolutionizing for the future.

Baseball and softball are becoming popular on an international level and are relevant in the world of sports frequently, not just every four years.

Wrestling’s popularity lies mostly in high schools and individual practice as most NCAA Division I universities dropped the sports due to budget constraints.

The sport has lost its appeal in higher divisions and schools are willing to support other athletic programs in its despair.

According to the Examiner, the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships set the attendance record with 104,260 fans attending the tournament.

The Omaha newspaper reports that the 2013 College World Series set the record with 341,483 fans attending.

The College World Series tripled the attendance of the NCAA Wrestling Championships proving that the sport has lost its widespread appeal to sports such as baseball.

The NCAA Softball Championship set an attendance record in 2012 with 9,310 according to the NCAA while women’s college wrestling is not a NCAA-sponsored sport but instead governed by the Women’s College Wrestling Association.

Baseball and softball had a combined ballot to join the Summer Olympics as a pair and so a higher attendance for both should be expected.

Many would argue that the inclusion of baseball and softball would be an unfair advantage to countries like the United States that have a highly competitive professional league.

A dream team, similar to those composed for years by the U.S. Basketball team, can sweep the competition and medal without even breaking a sweat.

However, the U.S. Basketball team decided to recruit collegiate and amateur athletes to represent the country as opposed to professionals to give young prospects a chance to showcase their talents on an international level.

The Olympic soccer program allows for professional athletes to compete, but requires them to be under 23 years of age, although the committee allows three overage players to play.

The overage athletes serve as mentors to their younger teammates who are ready to be exposed to a world stage.

This introduces the new generation of superstars to the public who do not follow younger athletes as closely.

These past games showcased the talents of Neymar, a 21-year-old Brazilian soccer player who recently made the jump to one of the world’s top teams, FC Barcelona.

Olympic wrestling does not create any household names that will remain with fans for years to come.

Many of the competitors have everyday jobs who train for years in hopes of being selected to represent their countries for a few weeks.

According to Yahoo! Sports, a few Olympic wrestlers have made the jump to compete in mixed martial arts and the UFC provided vocal support in reinstating wrestling in the summer games, but the fact of the matter is there is not much of a future in Olympic wrestling.

Baseball and softball give players a chance to cement their future by honing their abilities and impressing scouts in professional leagues at an international level.

By reinstating wrestling, it sacrifices the popularity of the Summer Olympic Games by focusing on its history, instead of its future.

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  • Wyatt Walsh

    This article is utterly incorrect.
    There are severe flaws in your logic. First off, you conclude that wrestling is not a “popular” sport. If that were the case, the IOC would have felt no pressure to reinstate it. Additionally, the reasoning behind wrestling programs getting cut from D-1 schools has more to do with Title 9 than it does with the existence or fervor of support that the sport of wrestling has.
    Secondly- if, in fact, popularity is the sole criteria in determining whether a sport should be in the Olympics, there are dozens of other, obscure “sports” that exist in olympic competition, and are there only to appease a marginal sect of the worlds population. Your silence on the status of these sports hints at a fundamental inconsistency.
    Ultimately, the conclusions drawn here about wrestling stem not from logical deductions based on fact, but on prejudice. Raw prejudice against one of the most pure, quality sports that pushes competitors far beyond the requirements of virtually all other sports. Furthermore, I defy you, or anyone who questions the validity of the sport of wrestling, to step onto the mat and challenge the athleticism of a wrestler and the nature of his sport. What you will find is a time tested, and yet permanently relevant sport that the Olympics is once again privileged to feature.

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