Side note: I don’t know a better word than “manly” to represent the kind of activity that requires incredible physical fortitude. Nothing to do with men or women.
Wrestling (both freestyle and greco) is out of the Olympics in 2020. I’m at a loss of words.
This USA Today article defends wrestling in a way that I would never defend wrestling, saying “sure wrestling isn’t popular, but it’s better than the following five sports that are still in: modern pentathlon, ping pong, race walking, trampoline, judo”.
Judo made it in their list of sports that no one cares about. That had me thinking all day yesterday. What if they are right? I live in a sports bubble where the “combat” sports are considered to be the purest representation of competition. I grew up in a world where the “manly” sports were at the core of the Olympics. My “manly” sports, I mean ones that have the most combative physical contact and/or require the most strength. In the winter Olympics it was hockey, and in the summer Olympics it was wrestling and weightlifting.
Perhaps, a lot of my views of sports has to do with the fact that I grew up in the former Soviet Union, or that I wrestled in high school and have participated in some kind of “combat” sport since age 12. But I also played tennis and chess for a long time, so I don’t know…
I have to step back and wonder how the rest of the world sees wrestling. Maybe the characteristics of a sport do not matter. What matters for the Olympics is that a lot of people do it and watch it. That way we get to see some incredible displays of will and skill. Synchronized swimming has been given as an example of ridiculousness, but those ladies probably practice as much as the wrestlers for their whole life. Maybe the activity doesn’t matter, and what matters is that we can excite a large enough percentage of the population to dedicate the first 20-30 years of their life to mastering this activity.
Like I said, right now I’m the crying Indian, in a state of disbelief, grasping at random clues in attempting to understand where our culture is drifting.
I leave this post with a few stats selected from this NWCA wrestling facts page.
- Scholastic wrestling ranks 6th of all boys’ sports in terms of participation at the high school level with over 272,000 nation-wide (behind football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and track).
- Since 2002-03, the number of high school wrestlers has grown by over 30,000.
- Over 10,400 schools sponsors wrestling which is the highest ever.
- In 2008/09, 42 new wrestling programs were established in Arkansas and the Arkansas High School Athletic Association became the 49th state to sanction a high school state wrestling championship currently, Mississippi is the only state that does not.
- Intercollegiate wrestling has over 100 years of competition.
- Collegiate wrestling typically ranks in the top 5 in revenue production of all NCAA Championships (2009 NCAA Championships set a NCAA attendance record).
- 81 new intercollegiate wrestling teams (all divisions) have been established since 2002.
- Wrestling has very modest start-up costs and needs.
- Wrestling was included in the ancient Olympic Games, and was one of the select sports included in the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, Greece in 1896.
- Over 135 nations sponsor a wrestling federation.
- Wrestling is one of the top three medal winning sports for the United States.