With the state tournament coming up this weekend in Columbus, it's an exciting time to be part of high school wrestling.
However, a recent decision at the highest level of the sport has caused shock and dismay on the local wrestling scene.
The International Olympic Committee voted Feb. 12 to exclude wrestling from its 25 "core sports" beginning with the 2020 Olympic Games.
Wrestling, which includes Greco-Roman and freestyle at the Olympic level, now must fight with seven other sports for inclusion in the Olympics in 2020. The full Olympic committee will vote on whether or not to reinstate later this year.
Needless to say, local wrestling coaches and wrestlers are furious with the decision.
Aurora coach Dick Bliss used terms like "asinine" and "silly" to describe the Olympic committee's decision. "It's not a final decision," Bliss said. "A lot of people are going to want to see it come back. Russia has a very strong program."
"If the Olympics are supposed to about tradition, what are they thinking?" said Ravenna coach Mike Whitmore. "Are they going to cut the marathon next?"
Although former amateur wrestlers have gone on to success in either professional wrestling or mixed martial arts, the sport of wrestling has no true professional circuit. That means winning an Olympic medal is the pinnacle of the sport.
The fact its been taken away could have a big impact on the lower levels of the sport.
"I think kids in all sports want to aspire to something," said Woodridge coach Mike Massey. "Every kid that plays football wants be a professional football player. Youth wrestlers aspire to be gold medalists. That's not an option now."
MASSEY HAD some choice words on the decision.
"It's actually almost unbelievable," Massey said. "How can you remove the oldest sport in the games? You might as well get rid of track and field. Running and wrestling are what the old Olympics were based on."
Reports from the Olympic committee indicated the IOC chose to keep modern pentathlon in the games while excluding wrestling. "I don't think there's a single kid that thinks about being a pentathlete when they grow up," Massey said.
While it's impossible to know how the IOC's decision could effect wrestling participation at the youth and high school level, Stow-Munroe Falls coach Randy Jenkins fears it could have a negative effect.
"I was just floored," he said. "I'm looking at these young kids and telling them the Olympics are gone for them. [The IOC is] shattering a lot of guys' dreams."
One area wrestler with Olympic aspirations also expressed dismay with the IOC.
Nate Tomasello, a three-time state champion from Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, said the chance to wrestle for an Olympic gold medal was "one of the biggest motivating factors" in his dedication to the sport.
"It was really shocking," Tomasello said. "For them to take away the sport like that was really a bummer. That's what wrestlers shoot for."
Although he's only a senior in high school, Tomasello said he doesn't plan to give up on his Olympic dream. He plans to try to wrestle freestyle at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
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