USA Wrestling builds committee to save sport from Olympic cut


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The International Olympic Committee’s decision to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games on Feb. 12 sparked both a national and an international outrage among the sports’ athletes, coaches, observers, and icons.

“It’s worse than death,” Iowa head wrestling coach Tom Brands said on Feb. 12 — a date he said he’d never forget. “You can’t control death. I feel like we could have controlled this to some degree.”

The response has been overwhelming in support of placing the sport back among the 26 core sports for the 2020 Olympics. Many different social-media websites have taken to collecting fans, followers, and subscribers alike in order to create a wave of momentum, of sorts, to help lead the charge that should place wrestling back into the Games.

Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds introduced a campaign Feb. 14 called LetsKeepWrestling.com, which launched Feb. 15 during the Iowa High School State Wrestling Tournament in Des Moines.

Since its launch, the website has collected more than 12,800 electronic signatures and counting, as of Monday night, to petition the IOC’s decision. Assisting Branstad and Reynolds in the launch were Iowa coaching legend Dan Gable, Iowa associate head wrestling coach Terry Brands, and Northern Iowa head wrestling coach Doug Schwab.

“Wrestling and the Olympics are synonymous, together as one,” Terry Brands said in a release last week. “As the oldest, greatest and purest sport, I will look, with pleasure, to the World Wide Coalition reversing the IOC vote to eliminate wrestling. I am pleased to stand tall with Congressman Loebsack and fully support his resolution opposing the IOC’s decision.”

USA Wrestling, the national governing body for wrestling in the United States, also made its first serious public move Monday to combat the decision, forming the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling to retain wrestling in the Olympics. It is a committee of highly respected leaders in the American wrestling community whose mission is to ensure that wresting remains as a core sport of the Olympic Games.

Bill Scherr of Glenview, Ill., a freestyle world champion and Olympic medalist who heads the group, helped champion the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid, and he is a top businessman in the financial services industry.

The spokesman for the group is Mike Novogratz of New York, a businessman who was also the team leader for the 2012 U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team. Novogratz was also the chairman of the Beat the Streets campaign in New York and wrestled at Princeton.

Serving as the director of development and finance is John Bardis from Alpharetta, Ga. Bardis was the team leader for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman Team and is also a major business leader.

The committee is also made up of 15 other members from throughout the country and include recognizable names in the U.S. wrestling community, including Gable, Oklahoma State head wrestling coach John Smith, and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner.

The committee was created by USA Wrestling to develop and execute a successful strategy, which will be named as a core sport for the 2020 Olympic Games and beyond.

“We have engaged many of the most connected and brightest minds in our sport, an all-star leadership group,” USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender said in a statement. “We have a great opportunity to show the world why wrestling belongs on the Olympic program.”

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