The news came the day before the Georgia State Wrestling Championships.
In a secret vote, the International Olympic Committee’s executive board decided to eliminate wrestling–one of the sports included since the Olympics' inception– from the Olympics, starting in 2020. But many actively involved in a grassroots movement and those whose hope for the sport just won’t go down for the count may be enough to keep the sport in the international elite competition.
Lovett School Athletic Director Steve Franks is one of those hopefuls.
“Personally, I think the International Olympic Committee will continue to study this,” said Lovett School Athletic Director Steve Franks. “I won’t be surprised if they have it reinstated.”
Franks said the international backlash and growing movement to keep wrestling in the Olympics “may force it to come back.”
He knows just how important and instrumental the sport of wrestling can be to young athletes.
Franks said wrestling is an important sport, and that keeping it in the Olympics will show student athletes that their sport is valued on the international stage.
According to this piece from The New York Times, about 270,000–including 8,200 young women– high school students wrestle in the U.S. That’s up about 40,000 students over the last decade.
At Lovett, wrestling is taken seriously. In the weekend’s championships, the Lovett wrestling team placed sixth in the state for its class. The school not only has junior varsity and varsity wrestling teams, but also a team for fifth and sixth graders.
The United States has won the most wrestling medals, but in many other countries, wrestling is a primary sport.
But Franks said wrestling’s significance is measured not only in Olympic medals, but in the lessons it teaches many young athletes. The sport is unique, he said, because “it’s a team sport, but in an even greater sense, it’s an individual sport.”
Young wrestlers must learn sacrifice, commitment and discipline earlier than some of their peers.
While they’re friends are eating pizza, a young wrestler may be eating orange slices, Franks said, because he has to maintain his weight to compete.
“I’d certainly hate personally, and I know a lot of our student athletes involved in wrestling would hate to see it removed.”
The International Olympic Committee meets again in May in St. Petersburg, Russia and will have its final vote in September.