IOWA CITY, Ia. The International Olympic Committee’s preliminary vote to drop wrestling from the 2020 Summer Games hit those in Iowa City, home of the No. 2-ranked Hawkeyes, especially hard.
“It’s worse than death,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said.
Brands — and other wrestling leaders such as Oklahoma State coach John Smith — were quick to point out the decision was not final. The first vote, made in secret by a 15-member executive board, cut wrestling instead of other sports such as modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey.
The Olympics are also adding golf and rugby at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Now, wrestling has to apply to be to be included in 2020. It’ll compete against baseball and softball, climbing, karate, roller sports, squash, wakeboarding and wushu.
“There’s a lot of things that go through your head, and anger is probably one of them, but that doesn’t get anything done, so what you do is you gather information,” Brands said. “You have to get people behind you, you have to do it smart, you have to do it educated, you have to do with some muscle, as well.”
The Facebook page, “Keep Wrestling in the Olympics” had picked up 30,000-plus “likes” in one day.
“The fight is just starting,” Smith said. “I will tell you the wrestling world will come together.”
If the movement doesn’t turn a reversal, then 2016 will be the last time any current Hawkeyes have a chance to get gold.
“I feel confident about the whole situation,” Iowa two-time NCAA champion Matt McDonough said. “Its the world’s oldest sport. It’s in the Bible.” Almost every single country has wrestling.
“People of the wrestling community are going to be outspoken about it. The world will know this is a sport we want to keep.”
There was an immediate push back on social media on Tuesday morning.
“I think that says that they made a mistake,” Brands said. “And there’s no doubt about that.
“You don’t want to pick a fight with a wrestler. I don’t know that the response would be quite as vocal or as much of a tidal wave as other sports being dropped, and I am not downplaying these other sports, either.”
Brands didn’t want to speculate on Tuesday if the decision would hurt other levels of wrestling.
College wrestling is still fighting back from having lost nearly 700 programs throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, according to the Wrestling Coaches Association. Brands said wrestling has come back strong with record crowds at the NCAA Tournament and the World Team Trials.
“I think wrestling … has shown it’s something to be reckoned with more so than other sports,” Brands said. “This can’t be a wait-and-see-thing. This has to be a fight. And I agree with ( Smith). We cannot wait and see which way the wind is going to blow on this.”
McDonough has dreamed about winning Olympic gold like his coach, Tom Brands, did.
“It’s obviously going to hurt the sport,” McDonough said. “It’s the Olympics. It speaks for itself. Will it ruin wrestling? Absolutely not. Will it make it harder to bring people in? Maybe.”