Talking Points: Wrestling with Olympic takedown




Wrestling was present at the creation.

It is in the Book of Genesis, where Jacob goes to the mat with an angel.

It is portrayed on a renowned, 2,500-year-old Greek vase, with Hercules wrestling the life out of the previously invincible Antaeus.

It was part of the ancient Olympics, which began about 300 years before an artist painted the vase, and part of the first modern Olympics in 1896 and every Summer Olympics after 1900.

That is why the International Olympic Committee decision that likely will oust wrestling from the Olympics after the 2016 Summer Games seemed so shocking, provoking outrage, disbelief and fear for the sport’s future from its adherents worldwide.

“If we are going to be no longer in the Olympics, it’s going to have a terrible effect,” said former Northwestern coach Ken Kraft, one of the sport’s great advocates.

Bill Scherr, a 1988 Olympic bronze medalist, blamed FILA, the international wrestling federation.

“Hundreds of thousands of young wrestlers around the world will suffer because of an inept and ineffective leadership at the sport’s international federation,” Scherr said. “FILA does no lobbying with the IOC, does not participate as a good citizen in IOC activities and does not market itself.”

The IOC’s professed reason for reviewing the core sports on a regular basis is to keep the Olympics relevant. Yet the continued inclusion of sports such as modern pentathlon makes a mockery of that argument and the idea that universality should be a factor in their Olympic presence.

More countries (29) won wrestling medals last summer in London than had participants in modern pentathlon (26), despite the modern pentathlon federation amping up its nation numbers by allowing mediocre athletes from several countries. Wrestling had athletes from 71 countries, in several of which — Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan — it is the unofficial national sport.

“Wrestling gives people of many ethnic and religious and national backgrounds the chance to touch the Olympics in some way ¿ more so than a lot of other sports,” said 1988 Olympic wrestler Jim Scherr.