Classic appreciation: Wrestling deserves a place in the Olympics

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Wrestling -- not the fake stuff on TV featuring cheesy performers in colorful tights -- is one of the world's oldest competitive sports. Greco-Roman wrestling, in particular, was a cornerstone of the original Olympic Games several millennia ago.

Athletes engaged in wrestling positions can be found on pottery and murals stretching back to classical antiquity. The book of Genesis depicts the patriarch Jacob wrestling an angel who has to resort to cheating to win.

Although wrestling was good enough to get a prime-time slot in the Old Testament, the executive board of the International Olympic Committee doubts the sport's relevance for contemporary audiences. It was announced Tuesday that the IOC voted to remove wrestling from its list of core sports in the 2020 games.

Citing the need to eliminate something because it plans to add another unspecified sport later this year, the IOC revealed its contempt for Olympic tradition and said wrestling lacked generational appeal.

Given that 344 athletes from around the world competed in various wrestling categories in last year's London Olympics, there is no lack of international interest in the sport. But instead of an automatic berth, wrestling will have to duke it out with sports such as karate, squash, softball and the Chinese martial art wushu for a spot in 2020.

The IOC's decision is disappointing, no doubt, to the 280,000 Americans who take part in wrestling programs. Despite the disrespect shown by the Olympics, wrestling will continue to be an important part of the sports mix at U.S. high schools. It is too excellent a tool for athletic conditioning to slip away into obscurity. Pennsylvania alone has 10,000 high school wrestlers.

If the IOC sticks by its plan to exclude wrestling, other international competitions may gain more stature but it won't be the same as the Olympics. The IOC should reconsider its decision on a sport that has stood the test of time.



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