IOC decision shocks, baffles wrestling community

Former, current AVHS competitors could be affected

Wrestlers are trained to anticipate an opponent’s moves, but until Tuesday they had no reason to think of the International Olympic Committee as an adversary.

Everything changed with the IOC’s recommendation to drop wrestling after the 2016 Games. Wrestlers, coaches and supporters across the world are struggling to understand why the recommendation was made and what, if anything, they can do to fight it.

“I had no idea it was a possibility,” said Apple Valley High School head wrestling coach Dalen Wasmund, a two-time U.S. Olympic team alternate. “It’s a hard pill to swallow. But maybe this will mobilize us and make the sport a lot stronger.”

The recommendation has potential impact on at least a couple of current and former AVHS wrestlers. Destin McCauley, a five-time state champion while at Apple Valley, is a developmental resident at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs hoping to qualify for the 2016 Games. If the recommendation goes through, 2016 might be McCauley’s last shot at going to the Olympics.

“I can’t believe this news I’m waking up to,” McCauley wrote on his Twitter account. “No wrestling in 2020 Olympics?! I’m speechless.”

Apple Valley ninth-grader Mark Hall, a two-time Minnesota state champion, also has Olympic ambitions. After finishing the high school wrestling season in 2012, he went to the U.S. Olympic Center to continue his training and completed his high school classes online.

The recommendation would remove wrestling from the list of 25 “core sports” for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Wrestling now joins seven other “shortlisted sports” that will make presentations to the IOC’s executive board in May in hopes of being put back in the Games. The IOC is scheduled to finalize the 2020 Olympic program in September.

Baseball and softball were removed from the program in 2005 but are making a bid to return. Golf and rugby sevens become Olympic sports in 2016.

Considering that wrestling was part of the ancient games as well as the modern era of Olympics that began in 1896, it’s not hard to understand why many in the sport were blindsided by the news. According to the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, the world amateur wrestling federation, the sport is in 180 countries and in a significant number of them it is the national sport.

Pushback was expected from countries where wrestling is the national sport. At the same time, some of those associated with wrestling were saying Tuesday that the sport needed to make changes that would make it more attractive to a television audience.

Wasmund, a teacher in School District 196 for 30 years, had a chance to attend the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He was an alternate on the U.S. wrestling squad.

“The Anaheim Convention Center, where the wrestling competition was held, was a neat place,” Wasmund said. “Getting a chance to interact with the other Olympic athletes was great.

“There would still be the world championships and other international tournaments, but if wrestling was no longer in the Olympics, something would be missing. To wrestlers, the Olympics is a big deal.”