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Wrestling Fans Dismayed, Vow to Fight IOC Decision

Parkview High parent says the sports community is "devastated" that wrestling -- part of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 -- would be cut.

Wrestling fans and experts are reacting with dismay to the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board to remove the sport from the Summer Games, starting in 2020.

The committee agreed to pare down the 26 sports it features to 25 so that a new sport could join the lineup in 2020. A final vote will be made in September.

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.

"We were all devastated that they would drop one of the oldest, original sports from the Olympics," said Curtis Dean, whose son Zachary wrestles for Parkview High School in Lilburn. "But, it proves anything can happen in sports and politics."

Dean is the booster club president for the Parkview High wrestling team, and his son qualified for the state tournament taking place Feb. 14-16. He believes parent participation has been growing, and so has overall interest in the sport -- in youth and high school levels.

As wrestling joins seven other sports in applying for inclusion, supporters are using it as a time to highlight its positives, rather than be angered by the decision.

"This is something that the wrestling community has responded to in a very positive manner and is taking as an opportunity to explain why wrestling is such a great sport and how it helps its athletes become better rounded individuals," Dean said.

A report by the IOC program commission said TV ratings and ticket sales are among the criteria used by the panel, according to ESPN.

But, representatives from Team Georgia, a nonprofit supporting wrestling in the state, believe there is more to the sport than that. On the nonprofit's Facebook page, the group said wrestling is notably diverse, with nearly 200 nations participating.

Also, "wrestling is an inclusive sport which provides opportunities worldwide, regardless of geography, race, gender or physical characteristics. Anybody can wrestle," the group posted.

The decision by the board also prompted reaction from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who in high school, Princeton University and the Navy.

"While I have tremendous respect for athletes of every Olympic sport, it is difficult to understand why wrestling was singled out for exclusion," he wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. "I would imagine that it has at least as many fans across the globe as ribbon twirling, trampoline and speed-walking."

"To exclude wrestling from the 2020 Olympics would be a tragedy for the sport, for the athletes and for the proud tradition of the Games," Rumsfeld continued.

Among the sports being kept -- for now -- in the Olympics is modern pentathlon, a combination of fencing, horse riding, swimming, running and shooting.

At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, 71 countries participated in wrestling, while just 26 nations competed in modern pentathlon.

"What's really important is to remember this is a recommendation from the executive committee and not a final vote," Parkview parent Curtis Dean said. "Until then, the whole wrestling community will be working to ensure the sport of wrestling continues its rich history as a sport in the Olympics."

See also:

  • Parkview Sending Wrestlers to State Tournament
  • Girls' Wrestling Gaining Interest
  • Parkview Wrestlers Ready to Rumble
  • Parkview Wrestling Parents Are Strong Supporters of Program

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(Information from Enfield Patch also was used in this story.)

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