A strong tradition in many Dakota County communities was wrestled down Tuesday, when the International Olympic Committee announced it will cut wrestling from the Olympic games, beginning in 2020.
Mark Hall II, a nationally ranked freshman at Apple Valley High School, has already won two Minnesota championships and spent half of last year training at the U.S. Olympic wrestling facility in Colorado.
"I've dreamed about it ever since I was a kid, then in 2020 they take it away," he told the Pioneer Press. "It's one of the very first Olympic sports. How can they just drop it?"
His father, Mark Hall, told the paper that his son would aim to wrestle on the Olympic team in 2016, but he had his doubts.
"I don't know if he will be ready for them yet," he said. "I don't know what they're thinking. I suppose I can understand to a point that revenue isn't there and it can be a dangerous sport. What are they going to replace it with, lawn darts? The dreams and aspirations of a lot of quality wrestlers have just been dashed."
In Inver Grove Heights, Will Short, athletic director and wrestling coach at Simley High School, told CBS Minnesota that, "If you say there are no Olympics, then your dream is gone.”
Simley's program has won nine state wrestling championships, and Short told CBS he feels that the Olympic Committee's decision was financially motivated.
“I think the IOC is looking at some other sports where they have big-time sponsorships that are going to generate revenue for the Olympics,” he said.
He said the decision was also a disappointment for his son, Jake, who wrestles at the University of Minnesota and hopes to compete for a position on the Olympic team.
Olympic wrestling still has a chance to survive. Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday that the wrestling governing body, International Amateur Wrestling Federation (FILA) plans an emergency campaign to be chosen again in September to participate in the Olympics. That's when it will be one of seven sports bidding for a spot in the 2020 Olympics—for the vacancy it left after being cut.
The decision to cut wrestling was announced by the committee in Switzerland. The Telegraph in London reports the reasons behind the decision included "a perceived lack of television appeal and the failure of the sport’s governing body to recognise it was under threat." USA Today cites reasons such as low global participation and declining popularity.
Wrestling first appeared in the ancient Olympics in 708 B.C. In 2012, 71 countries were represented at wrestling games across the freestyle and Greco-Roman disciplines, reported The Telegraph.
According to USA Today, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the decision "is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics. 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."