Wrestling has been an Olympic sport since the ancient Olympic games, but the sport could be in jeopardy.
After the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board voted to eliminate wrestling starting in the 2020 Games, possibly taking NMU’s Greco-Roman wrestling program with it.
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the IOC board voted to drop Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling from the 2020 Games, while keeping the sport for the 2016 Games. There is a chance that the sport could win an appeal and the board could reverse the decision at a meeting in May, with a final decision being made in September.
The NMU United States Olympic Education Center (USOEC), the only facility in the country dedicated to training wrestlers for the Olympics, will also be in jeopardy if wrestling is eliminated from the Games.
“Well, it is still not a 100 percent that wrestling will be taken out,” said sophomore USOEC wrestler Parker Betts. “Right now we are taking it serious but trying to stay positive.”
Along with competing in the Olympic Games, the Greco-Roman wrestlers at NMU also strive to compete in three different world championships.
“It doesn’t change our goals — what we are trying to do up here — because we are all striving for 2016 anyways,” said Rob Hermann, USOEC head coach. “Also, every year before the Olympics is the world championship.”
Hermann said three USOEC wrestlers went to the Junior Worlds last year, which is for wrestlers 20 years old and younger. There is also the University Worlds for wrestlers 27 years old and younger and the Senior World Team.
“So our goals don’t change trying to make the worlds this year and next year,” Hermann said. “And then USA wrestling just got the bid to have the 2015 world championships in Vegas, which is huge.”
As far as the Olympics go, the team is staying optimistic and encouraging the publicity for the sport and USOEC right now.
“There is nothing we can really do but stay positive and work on our goals right now,” Betts said. “It is crazy how much support we are getting. We are just trying to show them that our sport belongs in the games.”
Hermann said he can’t predict what will happen to USOEC after the 2016 Olympics.
“I can’t predict if the program is going to be here past that, but I like to think it is,” Hermann said. “I really feel strongly that this will be overturned in May, when the delegation meets in St. Petersburg, Russia.”
According to Hermann, they could not have asked for a better place to hold this meeting, with wrestling being Russia’s No. 1 sport, affecting their heritage and traditions.
“There is going to be riots out there,” Hermann said. “Wrestling to them is like having the Super Bowl over here.”
Hermann said that the IOC board caught everyone off guard, including USA wrestling, international wrestling and USOEC since the vote was made behind closed doors and a closed ballot.
“I think [the IOC board] is already feeling the rumble from making this drastic decision,” Hermann said. “Now that [the board] knows they aren’t untouchable, they are going to get on top of this and our voice is going to be heard it.”