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Decision to end Olympic wrestling weighs heavy on high school, college wrestlers

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at 12:10 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at 12:14 p.m.

Tyler Caldwell took a year off from college wrestling so he could train with the U.S. wrestling team, all with the goal of qualifying for the Olympics.

“It was a great experience,” said Caldwell, a four-time high school champion from Goddard. “… I can’t imagine the feeling of getting to wrestle in the Olympics.”

The chance to wrestle in the Olympics is about to disappear for young wrestlers across the world after the International Olympic Committee voted on Tuesday to remove wrestling as a sport in the 2020 Olympic Games. Wrestling was a part of the first modern Olympics in 1896.

Disappointment and disbelief were common feelings among Wichita-area coaches and athletes.

“I just didn’t think that one of the oldest sports in the Olympics, that they would decide to get rid of it,” said Heights graduate Matt Reed, who is wrestling at Oklahoma.

Goddard coach Brett Means added: “I think it’s crazy. One of the oldest Olympic sports of all time. I don’t get it. They’d rather watch people jump rope? I don’t know.”

There is still hope that wrestling could stay because another vote must be taken. If wrestling is removed as a sport, it could petition for inclusion in future Games.

“I certainly hope it’s not final yet,” Derby coach Bill Ross said. “… I think it’s devastating for the wrestling community. All these young men working their tails off through high school and college and wanting to reach the elite level. It’s a demanding sport and it takes a lot of time for training. It’s a pretty bad deal.”

The fear is this decision by the IOC could affect the future of wrestling at all levels.

“I don’t see how it can’t,” Means said. “… The bottom line is, the kids who wrestle their whole career know their best gig is a free or partially-paid college education, then maybe they can go into coaching. But there’s always that one guy out there that gets his dream of being on the Olympics.

“And that dream is gone.”

Caldwell, 23, isn’t sure if his body would hold up for the 2020 Olympics, but for Reed, he was eyeing the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.

“I wanted to at least try to make it,” Reed said. “If I didn’t make it in 2016, at least I had 2020.”

Check Joanna Chadwick’s high schools blog at blogs.varsitykansas.com. Reach her at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com.

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