Is there a sport that's been treated as poorly recently as amateur wrestling?
Every college looking to add another woman's sport seems to look to wrestling as the sport to cut. Whenever athletic department budgets get crimped, cutting wrestling programs becomes the cure. But now the ultimate slap in the face -- the International Olympic Committee's executive board has voted by secret ballot to eliminate both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling from the 2020 Games.
The decision can still be changed at a meeting in May but it appears that the sport will be dropped as IOC chases "younger television viewers" -- with the possible addition of sports such as climbing and wakeboarding. Wow, if you're looking for a younger audience, why not just create Grand Theft Auto, Olympic edition, and turn the gamers loose?
The amazing thing about this is that wrestling is, as the New York Times put it, one of the "most ancient and elemental Olympic sports." How can you do an Olympics without wrestling?
At the heart of this whole thing, what bothers me most is that wrestlers are among the most dedicated athletes I know. My memories of high school and college sports are clear -- when we were done with baseball practice or basketball practice and goofing around in the locker room, those wrestlers were still somewhere working their tails off. Between honing technique, getting in better physical condition and cutting weight, nobody worked harder than wrestlers. And the Olympic gold medal was always the ultimate goal, in large part because it was really the only big-time spotlight the sport ever found.
And eliminating them from the Olympics? You might as well drop the marathon, too.