Ex-USOC head: Wrestling faces major Olympic hurdle

Former U.S. Olympic Committee head Jim Scherr believes wrestling

has a path to survival in the Olympics, but it will be a ”major

challenge.”

Scherr is a former wrestler who has been working with the

sport’s international federation to reverse a recent IOC

recommendation to eliminate wrestling from the 2020 Summer Games.

In a conference call arranged by USA Wrestling on Thursday, he said

it’s difficult to gauge how ”uphill” the battle will be.

”I think it’s a major challenge to the sport,” Scherr said.

”By no means is there an easy win here. Wrestling can remain on

the program. But wrestling has to work hard to do so. We’re

optimistic that the leadership that’s been collected on the

worldwide level and here in the United States, that we’re up to the

task.”

The international federation recognizes it could have done more

to promote wrestling to Olympic leaders, and new leadership under

interim president Nenad Lalovic will make a difference, Scherr

said.

The IOC executive board will meet in May in St. Petersburg,

Russia, to choose which sport or sports to propose for inclusion in

2020. The final vote will be made at the IOC general assembly in

September in Buenos Aires.

Scherr said the sport’s leaders will consider ways to tweak the

rules and scoring system for fans unfamiliar with the sport, and

will try to sway the IOC with better media and sponsorship models.

He said the international federation hasn’t been a good steward for

the sport within the Olympic movement. Raphael Martinetti resigned

just days after the IOC’s recommendation was announced in

mid-February.

”Everybody connected with the international movement would

agree that in hindsight FILA and the worldwide wrestling community

could have done much more, and certainly the leadership change is a

reflection of that,” Scherr said.

Scherr and his brother, former world champion Bill Scherr, are

joining several wrestling stars on a committee that will lead

reform efforts in the U.S. Rich Bender, executive director of USA

Wrestling, says an international coalition is vital to the cause,

and worked to build one on a recent trip to Iran for the World

Cup.

The U.S. and Iran have rare common ground in trying to save

wrestling, and it was on display with shows of unity during the

event in Tehran.

”Can we do a better job as a sport? Certainly we can because I

think the values of our sport are obvious,” Bender said. ”We’re

looking forward at this as maybe the most significant opportunity

our sport’s ever had.”

Scherr is commissioner of the National Collegiate Hockey

Conference after being forced out as leader of the USOC in 2009.

Now a sport as old as the Olympic Games is asking for his help.

”I will do what I can to be a part of a team to help save the

day,” Scherr said. ”While this is a difficult, difficult

challenge for the sport, it is a tremendous opportunity to make

some real and lasting changes to the future of the sport.”