Wrestling is also one of the most popular youth sports in the U.S. The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that the sport was sixth among prep boys with nearly 275,000 competing in 2010-11.
“Wrestling is the Olympics. It’s the toughest, most grueling, most demanding and most humbling sport there is. It teaches you so many life lessons,” said Jake Herbert, who wrestled for the U.S. in the London Games.
Wrestling will now join seven other sports in applying for inclusion in 2020. The others are a combined bid from baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu. They will be vying for a single opening in 2020.
USA Wrestling executive director Richard Bender calls his sport “one of the most diverse,” with nearly 200 nations from all continents participating.
“It is an inclusive sport which provides opportunities worldwide, regardless of geography, race, gender or physical characteristics,” he said. “We look forward to telling the story about wrestling to the International Committee leadership and the entire world about our great sport and why it should be part of the Olympic movement forever.”
The IOC executive board will meet in May in St. Petersburg, Russia, to decide which sport or sports to propose for 2020. The final vote will be in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“Given the history and tradition of wrestling, and its popularity and universality, we were surprised when the decision was announced,” U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said. “It is important to remember that today’s action is a recommendation, and we hope that there will be a meaningful opportunity to discuss the important role that wrestling plays in the sports landscape both in the United States and around the world.”
Rejoining the Olympic roster for 2020 seems unlikely. Still, former Olympic champion and current Iowa coach Tom Brands said the international wrestling community needs to fight this ouster.