Jim Brown, Wrestling For Life Founder
In February, 2013, the International Olympic Committee stunned the world when it announced the elimination of wrestling from the Olympics, beginning with the 2020 Games. The uproar was immediate and worldwide – and not just within the sport. Average citizens in the United States, Russia and Iran were shocked that the governing body of the world’s most storied international athletic competition would ever consider dropping one of its original and defining sports.
The tenacity of wrestling reared up and seven months later wrestling was restored – BUT ONLY AS A PROVISIONAL SPORT. Yes – wrestlers will compete in 2020 but, as a provisional sport, inclusion in future Olympic Games will be considered every four years. The fight to restore wrestling’s “core sport” status continues, but with the lack of immediacy comes the apathy that allowed the elimination in the first place.
The sport faces other challenges. Since 1972 168 NCAA Division I institutions have dropped their wrestling programs. Wrestling has fewer participation opportunities in the three combined NCAA divisions per participating high school athlete than any other sport contested in America’s high schools. Only one out of every forty-one high school wrestlers has the opportunity to continue to compete on the mat as a part of his collegiate experience. This compares to 1 out of 30 in basketball, 1 out of 18 in golf and soccer, 1 out of 16 in football, 1 out of 15 in baseball/softball and swimming and 1 out of 10 in track/cross country.
Clearly, the threats to “the world’s oldest and greatest sport” come from the “top down” – governing bodies and administrators deciding what we do or do not want. At Wrestling for Life we take a “bottom up” approach to saving the sport. Kids want to wrestle! Our mission is simply to give kids more opportunities to wrestle and to support them as they grow in the sport.
Your support is key to keeping the sport of Wrestling on the mat.