Wrestling fights back, wins place in Olympic Games

Wrestling fought its way back into the 2020 Olympics after being dropped from the competition in February. The sport was re-instated by the International Olympic Committee by a secret ballot vote on Sept. 8. The announcement came one day after Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Games.

The committee awarded wrestling 49 votes, followed by baseball/softball (24) and squash (22).

Collegiate wrestlers across the country gave a collective sigh of relief. The Olympic decision was crucial for those wishing to pursue the sport further.

"The idea of the Olympics is the pinnacle of wrestling competition," explained Samuel Hise, a member of UMD's Wrestling Club. This is because there is no professional league above the college level. "It's everything," said Hise.

The decision to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympics caused an international backlash earlier this year.

Wrestling was introduced to the ancient Olympics in 708 B.C. It has also been in every modern Olympic competition, save one—in 1900. For Hise, to pull such a traditional sport was "very insulting."

But wrestlers remained optimistic. "I think all of us in the back of our minds knew that wrestling wasn't going anywhere, but the fight still had to be fought," said Hise.

And fight they did.

"Fortunately the wrestling community as a whole, across the nation, internationally even, really exploded on this issue," said Hise.

This international outrage culminated in wrestling's reinstatement on Sept. 8.

It was not a pure victory, however, as wrestling amended some its rules to make the sport more marketable.

FILA, the international governing body of amateur wrestling, created a more aggressive scoring system. It also went from  three two-minute rounds to two three-minute rounds. Scoring is now cumulative rather than round-by-round.

This didn't sit well with Hise, who criticized the new system. To change the sport "to make people who wouldn't normally watch it, be more compelled to watch it, is an embarrassment," he said.

"The sport's fine the way it is," he said. It's "the purest form of athleticism, which is what the Olympics is all about."

Nevertheless, Hise sees wrestling's position in the Olympics as solidified, due to its wide margin of victory in the IOC vote.


Much like the Olympic battle that raged through 2013, the UMD Wrestling Club also has an ultimate goal in mind: a varsity wrestling program. "There's nothing I'd rather see than UMD varsity wrestling," said Hise.

The varsity wrestling program, Hise explained, was cut in 1993. The current Wrestling Club sprung up four years ago as a student organization. It achieved club status at UMD last year. Hise said, "We are growing very slowly."

The club participates in regional and national tournaments and follows a rigorous practice schedule: five practices per week. "It's equally as intense as any wrestling program out there. The sport doesn't allow you to let up at all," said Hise.

Hise grew up wanting to be a Bulldog wrestler, and seeks to use one of the group's core principles, determination, to follow through with their goal.

Like the Olympic battle, Hise explained that the club will have to gain acceptance: "I think that we'll persevere through it."

BY MICHAEL SCOTT scoto459@d.umn.edu

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