Loss Of Olympic Prospects A Blow To High School Wrestlers
The International Olympic Committee's decision to cut wrestling from the 2020 summer games came as a surprise to the quarter of a million high school wrestlers around the country.
At Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland, the Blair Blazers, ranked 7th in the county, are hoping for a good showing in one of the last big matchups of the season. But as they worked out this week, many of them were thinking beyond the tournament and to their wrestling future.
"I was trying to work hard. Try, if I could ... [to] wrestle in college and if I'm good, I go to the Olympics," says sophomore Anderson Junior Yanga.
Now, he's not so sure, and he doesn't think it's fair, especially after hearing that sports like golf are being added to the Olympics.
"Golf already has a lot of international sport," he says. "They have like [the] U.S. Open, French Open; the only international competition that I know for wrestling is the Olympics."
Chuck Onwuzuruike, an 18-year-old from Montgomery Blair who wrestles in the 132-pound weight class, says he doesn't get it, either. After all, wrestling is one of the original Olympic Games.
"That's like what the Olympics are known for," Onwuzuruike says. "It's pretty greedy of them not to show it anymore just because of a few deficits in some ratings."
Coach Jake Scott says the team is focused on the county tournament, so there hasn't been a chance to talk about the IOC's decision, but in the long run he's worried about how it will affect his students' college plans.
"The Olympics is pretty much the one calling card that you use to motivate your guys ... that you can be an Olympian," Scott says. "But if the Olympics are taken away, my fear now becomes colleges will be next to lose their sport."
Scott's fears aren't unfounded. Over the past two years, wrestling was the sport most often dropped by NCAA schools, meaning that in the future, the careers of more young wrestlers will end at age 18 — at high school tournaments.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.