The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 15, 2013

Local coaches amused, baffled by IOC decision

By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor

— Imagine McDonald’s with no Big Mac. Baseball with no New York Yankees. “Die Hard” with no Bruce Willis.

There are icons, and then there are no-brainers. The recommendation earlier this week by the International Olympic Committee to cut wrestling from the Games was just that — nobody used their brains.

The IOC probably didn’t anticipate the backlash the proposed move has caused. Wrestling will still be an Olympic sport at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, and the sport could actually be spared in a vote to add a sport from a list of 15 that includes baseball, which was cut after the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Still, the fact that this move is even a thought is among the most ridiculous ever. Even if you don’t like wrestling, it’s easy to understand the sport’s place in Olympics lore. Wrestling was among the sports contested at the first modern Games in 1896 in Athens, Greece.

Enough said, but the decision makers at the IOC aren’t listening.

Coaches at the Class AA/A Region 3 tournament seemed to find the decision “mind-boggling,” as 2004 Olympic Greco-Roman champion Khasan Baroeve told The Associated Press, but were hopeful, if not optimistic, that common sense will prevail.

“I think they’ll get it back,” Greenbrier West coach Jeremy Tincher said. “I think it’s a lot like what our whole country deals with — it’s a bunch of politics, and the wrong people are on the IOC and they don’t care about it. I really don’t think they thought this kind of ruckus would be raised.”

But it has. United States politicians have even gotten involved, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who, according to the AP, led a team of wrestling advocates Friday in launching a campaign to stop the move.

“When the International Olympic Committee voted by way of secret ballot to remove wrestling from the Games in 2020, we felt that decision was shortsighted, and was a significant departure from Olympic tradition,” Branstad said, noting that a website was launched Thursday to collect petition signatures. As of Friday afternoon, more than 2,000 people had added their names.

Liberty coach Randy Daniel chuckled when asked about the IOC’s decision.

“Considering some of the sports they do have in there, it really surprised me because it’s more of a real sport, I guess would be the way to say it,” Daniel said. “I’m not going to pick one and say which one is a sport and which one isn’t, but two guys going in there, head to head, that’s pretty good competition right there.”

“When you watch the Olympics and see all the different sports being played, there is a lot more that we can cut,” Independence coach Cliff Warden said.

Warden worries about the affect the move would have in regard to the sport’s natural progression. Winning a gold medal at the Olympics is the ultimate dream for a wrestler.

“What makes a high school wrestler so good is striving for that next level,” he said. “Now what level are the NCAA kids going to strive for if it’s gone? ... The Ohio Regional Training Center that (Ohio State assistant coach Lou) Rosselli has, is it going to be vacant? Is Ohio State going to fall off the ladder a little bit because they’re not training with future Olympians?

“It’s going to make a difference, I think, at the collegiate level.”

Midland Trail coach Charlie Pritt believes, eventually, the IOC will realize its error and leave the sport alone.

“Obviously, I’ve got a lot of hope that it will come back,” Pritt said. “I don’t know how you can get rid of the founding sport. But I’ve got confidence that they will come to their senses and bring it back.”

— E-mail: gfauber