Opinion: Columnists

Gregory Kane: International Olympic Committee puts the pin on wrestling

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"Livid" doesn't quite begin to describe my reaction to what the International Olympic Committee did to my beloved sport of wrestling.

Last week, the IOC Executive Board voted in secret to boot wrestling from the Olympic Games, starting in 2020. That means any elite high school wrestler hoping to get that Olympic medal seven years from now is well up the world's most famous creek.

The IOC decision isn't final. There is a meeting scheduled for May in St. Petersburg, Russia. The IOC general assembly meets in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this September.

That gives the IOC roughly seven months to correct an egregious wrong and reverse a decision that's an insult to every kid that's ever donned a wrestling singlet.

Some full disclosure might be in order. I wrestled for two years when I was in high school. I was far from God's gift to the sport. Truth is, I stunk, and quite badly. So how did I make the wrestling team?

It turned out that the guys who actually were good at the sport needed what I call "whompin' fodder" during practice. And when it came to being whompin' fodder, I was just about the best.

That didn't diminish my love or passion for the sport, which began in the mid-1960s when a local Baltimore television station broadcast the finals of a high school tournament just before airing some "professional" matches.

I quickly learned that I liked the amateur brand of wrestling better. I'm not sure if it was the inclusion of actual weight classes, cool uniforms or those even cooler headgears, but I was soon sucked into the world of low singles and ankle picks and haven't been able to extricate myself since.

Every winter I go missing on the weekends, but those close to me know where to find me: ensconced in a local high school gymnasium, taking in a wrestling tournament.

For the past several years, it's been my annual ritual to attend the Maryland public high school wrestling championships the first weekend in March. A few weeks later, I'm glued to ESPN, watching the NCAA wrestling tournament.

And yes, every four years, I frantically search the guide section on my satellite television so I can learn when the wrestling matches will run during the Olympic Games.

The IOC's Executive Board members, in their eternal wisdom, have decided it's best not to put me through that trouble. Yes, I'm livid about that.

But I'm not surprised.

It's not just members of the IOC that have it in for wrestling. Truth is, those IOC Executive Board members that voted to exclude wrestling have their counterparts here in America.

For years, college and university athletic directors have done their part to do in the sport of wrestling. When there's a men's program that needs to get the axe, the first place those athletic directors look is at the wrestling program.

Oh, they regret it, they claim. They cry poor, claim they face a budgetary crisis and then say it's all because of Title IX and that "proportionality" rule.

Title IX says that there can be no discrimination based on gender in college programs, including athletics. Nowhere does it say that the proportion of female athletes on a school's athletic teams must be in exact proportion to the number of women attending the school.

But that's how one athletic director after another has interpreted Title IX, at least when it comes to wrestling. In addition to the "wrestling must go" mania afflicting athletic directors, the sport faces this problem, summed up in a USA Today story: "On Tuesday, the IOC dumped wrestling from the list of 25 sports guaranteed a berth in future Summer Olympics, meaning it must compete with other fringe sports for a spot on the 2020 program."

Wrestling a "fringe" sport? Kind of makes you wonder if sports editors at USA Today are on the IOC Executive Board, doesn't it?

Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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Gregory Kane

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The Washington Examiner