One of the oldest forms of athletic competition will no longer take center stage at the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee voted on Feb. 12 to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games. The sport is still scheduled to be a part of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
People in the local wrestling community advocate wrestling’s place in the Olympics, saying that the sport is an integral part of the event.
“Wrestling has been in the Olympics since the beginning, and even though its popularity is fading, it is still part of the foundation that made the Olympics popular in the first place,” said Johnathon Smith, president of the University of West Florida Wrestling Sport Club, in an email.
Wrestling has been a modern Olympic sport since 1896 and was contested during games in ancient Greece.
Smith also said that he was saddened to realize that wrestlers who have been training their whole lives to compete in the Olympics will have their dreams crushed.
Wrestling serves as a life passion for athletes in addition to a cornerstone of modern athletics. Wrestling club member Kevin Arcelay has participated in the sport for most of his life.
“I’ve been doing it for eight years, and it’s the sport that I love the most,” Arcelay said. “It changed my life in high school.”
Factors that influenced the IOC’s decision to drop wrestling included low television ratings, few webcast viewings and the lack of celebrity presence, Arcelay said.
“They’re trying to make every sport something that you can watch; sports like wrestling and the pentathlon have low ratings on Internet and TV,” Arcelay said. “There weren’t many channels playing wrestling.”
The United States is home to many Olympic champion wrestlers, including two gold medalists from last year’s London event. Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner took first place in their weight classes (74 and 96 kilograms respectively) at the last Olympics. In particular, Burroughs serves as an inspiration for local wrestlers.
“My best moment in Olympic wrestling was watching Jordan Burroughs come straight out of college and claim his first and hopefully not last Olympic gold medal this past 2012 summer games,” Smith said.
Arcelay, who is friends with Burroughs on Facebook, said that the gold medalist’s positive “All I see is gold” movement on the website is an example of the popularity and marketability wrestlers can create for themselves and their sport.
The decision to drop wrestling from Olympic competition has drawn criticism and protest from around the globe. Raphael Martinetti, president of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, resigned from his position after the IOC announced its ruling, according to a FILA press release.
Bulgarian national wrestling coach and gold medalist Armen Nazaryan chose to protest the controversial ruling in a unique fashion, according to the Bulgarian Wrestling Federation. Nazaryan said in an Associated Press story that he will be on a hunger strike until the European Championship begins later this month.