Last week’s decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to remove wrestling from the 2020 Games left Stone Mountain and Lithonia wrestling coaches stunned and disappointed.
“I was extremely shocked,” said Patrick Ryan, head wrestling coach at Lithonia High School. “It’s disappointing for these young guys who are training and have Olympic aspirations, who’ve spent most of their lives trying to get to that point.”
“It’s very discouraging,” said Michael Williams, Stone Mountain High’s wrestling coach. “I’m a proud coach and supporters of our sport, and I see it growing more and more in the United States. It’s one of the most influential sports in the world.”
The committee agreed to pare down the 26 sports it features to 25 so that a new sport could join the lineup in 2020. Wrestling has a chance to make it back into the Olympics, but the Los Angeles Times said that was unlikely now that it has been cut.
At this past weekend’s state championships in Macon, Ryan said one of his best all-time wrestlers, Anthony Smith, said to him, “I don’t even want to wrestle anymore.
“Here is my all-time greatest wrestler, telling me he wants to quit,” Ryan said. “He’s now a college freshman, and I had to convince him to keep going.”
Wrestling in the Olympics started with the ancient Games in 708 B.C., and became a staple of the modern Olympics, beginning in Athens, Greece in 1896.
But a report by the IOC program commission said TV ratings and ticket sales are among the criteria used by the panel, according to ESPN.
Among the sports being kept in the Olympics is modern pentathlon, a combination of fencing, horse riding, swimming, running and shooting. It has been an Olympic sport since 1912.
At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, 71 countries participated in wrestling, while just 26 nations competed in modern pentathlon.
Williams believes the IOC left itself some room to possibly reverse its decision.
“I have heard that this is not official, and the IOC has to make its final decision in September,” he said. “Nonetheless, I’m opposed to the idea of getting rid of one of the oldest sports associated with the Olympics.
“I can’t believe they’re even thinking of this.”