Wrestling hopes for provisional Olympic status

Wrestling has two shots left at a return to the Olympic program,

and neither will be easy.

But U.S. wrestling officials appeared to have settled on which

one they think is the best bet.

Former world champion Bill Scherr, the chairman of a committee

of top American wrestling figures, said Friday that he thinks the

sport’s best chance to remain an Olympic sport is to beat out the

likes of squash, roller sports and karate for re-inclusion as a

provisional sport in the 2020 Olympics.

”Perhaps our better avenue to stay in the Games is to win the

competition against the provisional sports,” Scherr said. ”We

need to canvass those 15 IOC executive board members to make sure

we get on that short list.”

Though the International Olympic Committee recommended in

February to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympics, that move is

far from final.

Wrestling will compete with seven other sports for a provisional

spot in the 2020 Games in a vote in May.

But officials also will lobby the 114-member IOC General Session

in September in hopes it will overturn the executive board’s

recommendation by a simple majority vote.

The first step for U.S. officials following what Scherr called a

”bombshell” decision by the IOC was to organize the Committee to

Preserve Olympic Wrestling ahead of the May vote in St. Petersburg,

Russia.

Scherr joined wrestling great Dan Gable, 2012 Olympic champion

Jordan Burroughs and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a two-time NCAA

champion for Wisconsin, at the NCAA championships in Des Moines to

discuss the committee’s progress.

Though the IOC vote was a damaging blow to wrestling’s future,

Scherr acknowledged that the sport also has itself to blame as

well.

”Make no mistake about it. We disagree vehemently with the

decision of the International Olympic Committee. But also make no

mistake that the fault lies largely with the leadership of

wrestling, and not the process and the individuals at the

International Olympic Committee,” Scherr said.

The IOC’s decision forced the head of the sport’s international

governing body, Raphael Martinetti, to step aside less than a week

later. He has been replaced by interim president Nenad Lalovic of

Serbia.

According to Scherr, the change at the top showed the IOC that

wrestling was serious about making the changes it needs to make to

remain in the Olympics.

”Martinetti was a roadblock. Right or wrong, he led the demise

of wrestling. We needed new leadership. We got new leadership.

That’s the first and most important impact that we had,” Scherff

said.

The IOC recommendation also has mobilized politicians in the

U.S. to do what they can to help the sport.

Earlier this month, Iowa governor Terry Branstad released a

letter co-signed by a group of 33 governors asking the IOC to

reconsider its decision.

Another letter signed by U.S. House speaker John Boehner and six

other members of Congress, including Jordan, and dated Thursday

called on IOC President Jacques Rogge to do the same.

”Wrestling, what it does for young people, is good for a

country. It’s good for a culture. It’s good for a society,” Jordan

said.

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