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Post Column: If Olympics drop wrestling, sport will suffer

If you are a diehard wrestling fan, then there is no doubt you were planted in front of your TV watching ESPN the night of Saturday, March 23 — if you hadn’t made the trip to Des Moines, Iowa.

That night, a packed Wells Fargo Center had fans eagerly waiting in anticipation as the 20 best college wrestlers in the country would finish the 2013 season trying to win just one last match and earn the right to be called a 2013 NCAA National Champion.

While the night had 10 great matches, there is no doubt in my mind that the highlight of the night came in the fifth match of the championships, a 165 pound bout between returning three-time NCAA Champion Kyle Dake of Cornell University and his opponent, Penn State’s David Taylor. Dake won by a narrow margin.

Dake’s last loss came two years ago when he was a sophomore. With that final win added to his record, Dake finished with a career record of 132 wins and 4 losses. In addition to that remarkable feat, Dake is now the only wrestler in NCAA Division I history to win four consecutive titles, all at different weights.

What bothers me the most is that for wrestling fans such as myself, and millions more around the country, we will soon be denied the opportunity to watch remarkable wrestlers like Kyle Dake further their careers in pursuit of the ever-elusive Olympic gold medal.

In mid-February, the International Olympic Committee recommended that wrestling should no longer be one of the core sports of the Olympics.

Wrestling has been on the brink of elimination as an Olympic sport since 2002.

As it stands now, wrestling will more than likely cease to be part of the Olympics after the 2016 games. At best, wrestling will end its run in the Olympics only if it can make it through a complicated 2020 selection process. This came as a shock to a lot of people considering it has been in a part of every modern Olympics since the inaugural 1896 Athens games, with the lone exception coming in 1900.

I firmly believe that wrestling should not be eliminated from the Olympic games for a variety of reasons. First of all, great wrestlers who could have a shot at the Olympics will have to cut their careers short far before they even reach their prime. For some younger wrestlers, who may have been in the very early stages of Olympic preparation, they are left with nothing but wasted effort.

People fail to realize wrestling is a sport unlike any other. Unlike football, baseball, basketball, hockey and all the other professional sports we have in the United States, wrestling is an exception. In wrestling, there is no professional league where wrestlers can go after high school or college. The Olympics is as close as wrestlers can get to becoming a professional, excluding the WWE, which is more about acting than actual wrestling.  If you take the Olympics away from them, you are taking away their only chance at being a “professional.” For all wrestlers, winning or even just competing in the Olympics is the mecca of wrestling accomplishments.

Eliminating Olympic wrestling could have a trickle-down effect, and cause the prevalence of wrestling to dissipate at all levels. Wrestling is a sport that is already losing popularity worldwide. If you eliminate the opportunity to compete in the Olympics, it could cause athletes to give up on the sport  because they all know they can only go so far. Although it is not certain, the elimination of Olympic wrestling could drastically alter the level of participation in wrestling at all levels of the sport. Or worse, it could potentially be the first step in eliminating the sport completely.

That being said, the recommendation to eliminate Olympic wrestling is a terrible idea and should be reconsidered by members of the IOC when the topic is up for discussion during its meeting this September.  

Christopher Miller is a freshman studying broadcast journalism and sport management and a columnist for The Post. Should the Olympics keep wrestling? Email Christopher at cm001111@ohiou.edu.

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