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In a confusing move, IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
Wrestling has been a part of the Olympic program dating back to the first modern games in 1896. (Getty Images)

In what's already been deemed a regrettable decision, and an unnecessary one at that, the IOC has opted to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympics.

The news came down from IOC headquarters in Switzerland early Tuesday and is certainly a surprise. Wrestling is among the oldest sports known to man. It's mentioned in the Bible. It has connections to the ancient games, centuries ago held in Greece. But it's on its way out, at least for 2020, barring a miracle.

It'll be interesting to see if the near-universal and widespread backlash and criticism over the nixing causes the IOC to reconsider taking it off the 2020 schedule, or perhaps bringing back wrestling for 2024.

Here's more from The Associated Press report:

The IOC board acted after reviewing the 26 sports on the current Olympic program. Eliminating one sport allows the International Olympic Committee to add a new sport to the program later this year. Wrestling, which combines freestyle and Greco-Roman events, goes back to the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.

"This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It's not a case of what's wrong with wrestling, it is what's right with the 25 core sports."

Adams said the decision was made by secret ballot over several rounds, with members voting each time on which sport should not be included in the core group. IOC President Jacques Rogge did not vote. Wrestling was voted out from a final group that also included modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey, officials familiar with the vote told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the voting details were not made public.

I'd feel better giving up any other vulnerable sport than wrestling. The report says things like TV ratings, ticket revenue and overall popularity of the sport were taken into consideration. Women's wrestling became an Olympic sport just recently, in 2004.

Wrestling now joins baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and something called wushu as candidates for the final 26th spot. So it would really need to rally to get back into the fold. That seems unlikely.

The vote on the 26th medal sport will be held in September.

In related news, golf will be an Olympic sport in 2016. Ridiculous. Golf. I enjoy golf, but how it came to be that it's worthy/necessary for Olympic inclusion is typically hilarious/nonsensical.

It says something about the investment and passion for the modern games' oldest sport that reaction to this decision was met with a lot of grief, confusion and lament. Maybe that's a good sign for wrestling. Maybe the course can be reversed. It should. Too many participants -- more than 300 -- from too many countries (71 in London) compete in what's truly one of the most gripping watches of any Olympic sport.

But if it has to go, then now, more than ever, tug of war needs to make its triumphant return to the Olympic arena. This is our chance, people. There is hope in rope.


You can follow Matt Norlander on Twitter here: @MattNorlander.

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