A decision by Olympic executives to drop wrestling from the 2020 Games is drawing strong criticism from the local wrestling community. One wrestler says he’s determined to do something about the decision. When it comes to storied wrestling programs in the U.S., few can match the success of Springfield College’s; according to head wrestling coach Jason Holder.
“We started the program in 1915. Springfield College has had 68 All-Americans, one of those being an Olympic champion himself, Jeff Blatnick.”
Blatnick, who died last October, won gold at the 2004 Olympics. At those games, he and another teammate became the first Americans to win gold in Greco-Roman wrestling. The sport has been core to the Olympics since they began in 708 BC and, with one exception, since the modern games resumed in 1896. Holder says dropping the sport could cripple wrestling programs in the U.S. at all levels, and dash opportunities and hopes for many young men and women.
“With other sports such as football and basketball and baseball and all these other sports, they come out and their ultimate goal is to make the major league, to make the NFL, the NHL, the NBA. Wrestlers’ ultimate goal is to come out make the Olympics. And they’re not in it for millions of dollars. They’re in it for the pride and for the spirit of the Olympics and to represent their country. To take that away is…devastating.”
Holder says his team is extremely disappointed, but is trying to stay focused on an upcoming regional tournament next month. He says he and others around the country have begun organizing to have the decision reversed. According to a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, the decision by its Executive Board to drop wrestling is not final. That vote will be taken when the Committee’s general assembly is held in Argentina in September.