Wrestling head coach Aaron Tecklenburg refreshes the computer screen every few seconds. Finally, there is news. Wrestling was officially reinstated into the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games. “I was one of those wrestling fanatics who was waiting at the Internet for the first sign of vote,” Tecklenburg said. “When it finally came, I was beyond excited.”
Wrestling was voted for inclusion by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Sunday Sep. 8. It won with a first round total of 49 votes, beating squash, with a vote of 22, and the joint baseball-softball bids, with a vote of 24.
The sport was recommended to be dropped on Feb. 12 because of many reasons. It lacked athlete administrative representation and gender equality, had hard-to-understand rules, and part of it was not as popular anymore according to IOC president Jacques Rogge on olympictalk.nbcsports.com
In the seven months after being recommended to be dropped from Games, wrestling made a statement. People from around the nation and around the world took many steps to make sure wrestling got the vote from the IOC. “There were people out and about getting signatures and getting information out as fast as they can,” Tecklenburg said. “I passed everything I received on to my wrestlers and the families I’m connected to.”
Tecklenburg sees how wrestling is separated from the other two bids in the vote. “There was such a huge push from the wrestling community,” Tecklenburg said. “Not to take anything away from those sports, but there wasn’t much of a push from the other contenders.”
Seeing wrestling taken away would have been a shock to many wrestlers and wrestling fans. “There were all these people, myself included, who thought never in a million years that the oldest sport in the Olympics could ever be cut,” Tecklenburg said. Many wrestling athletes have two dreams, he said. One is to wrestle at the collegiate level and another is to wrestle in the Olympics. “The Olympics is our Super Bowl,” Tecklenburg said. “For a kid who wants to grow up playing football, they want to play in the Super Bowl someday. For a kid who wants to be a wrestler, the dream is to wrestle in the Olympics. To lose your Super Bowl would be devastating, and that’s what losing the Olympics would have meant to a wrestler.”
Junior Travis Price also recognizes the importance of wrestling in other countries. “In Russia and the Middle Eastern countries, all they do is wrestling,” Price said. “Their football and their baseball is wrestling. That’s how much it means to them.”
Both Tecklenburg and Price feel wrestling was considered to be taken out because of politics. “I think it was a disagreement between two large governing bodies that both feel powerful, both think they have authority,” Tecklenburg said. Those two large governing bodies are the IOC and FILA, the international wrestling federation. “There has been disagreements over the years between those two and I think for a long time the wrestling federation had basically said, ‘We are going to do what we want,’ and the IOC said, ‘No, you’re going to listen to us,'” Tecklenburg said.
FILA had to change many things in order to keep wrestling in the Olympics. “I think they biggest thing they had to do was communicate and listen to the IOC,” Tecklenburg said. One thing the IOC wanted was for FILA to change some of it’s rules and make the sport more exciting to watch, make it more fan-friendly, and make it easier to follow for someone who doesn’t know anything about wrestling. Another thing was the make the weight classes even for both men and women. “I think the IOC just wanted FILA to listen to them or the wrestling community when we suggested something,” Tecklenburg said.
Now the sport is reinstated, but it’s only locked in for the next three Olympics. Tecklenburg hopes the wrestling nation will be proactive. “Now we have to act as though we’re never locked in, we have to constantly be working on making the sport better,” Tecklenburg said. “We want our sport to be great and never be considered to be on a list like the one it was on.”
Many wrestlers here at Johnston have reinstated their goals along with the IOC reinstating wrestling. “It just gives me a higher goal to work for,” Price said. “I’m working toward the Olympics, everyday. That’s why I do this sport, that’s why a lot of the guys do this sport.” He hopes other wrestlers throughout the world sees where he is coming from. “I hope high school and college wrestlers will look at the guys in the Olympics and say ‘That’s where I want to be someday,'” Price said. “I hope they go for it, and I’ll be right there next to them.”