Behind the Mic, Featured, Sports

Behind the Mic: Olympic Wrestling

Share This Post

Today’s “Behind the Mic” blog is written by long time RCN personality Scott Barr. Scott’s on-air career began in 1984 with the District XI Girl’s Tennis Championship, won by Monica Yurkonic. Since that debut, he has covered a wide range of sports, including kick boxing, track and field, lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, football, and baseball. Most of our viewers, of course, will know him for his work with District XI wrestling. The 2012-13 season was Scott’s 29th season covering “the nation’s best high school wrestling.” Fans across the valley have heard him call “Give him six!” after a pin, while working with three legends of Lehigh Valley sports—Gary Laubach, Ray Nunamaker, and Jim Best. Outside of RCN, Scott helps small businesses set up retirement plans for their employees, and lives in Macungie with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, ages 6 to 22!


Quick—without Google—name the five events in the Olympic Modern Pentathlon.

It’s a sport that may continue to be included in the 2020 version of this worldwide festival of competition. As you know by now, wrestling will not. There is plenty of finger-pointing, from FILA to the IOC, but the bottom line is that this decision is heinous, and reeks of politics.

The IOC stated, in their own report:

“The board voted after reviewing a report by the IOC program commission report that analyzed 39 criteria, including television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity. With no official rankings or recommendations contained in the report, the final decision by the 15-member board was also subject to political, emotional and sentimental factors.”

Allow me to interpret—they gathered the facts, but didn’t really use them. They had important numbers available, but made this decision based on “emotion and sentiment”. Does anyone else smell corruption? Maybe I’ve been listening too much to Glenn Beck.

Wrestling, as an Olympic sport, dates to 1896, and is responsible for some of the great Olympic memories. Local fans, of course, will remember Bobby Weaver running around the arena with his 8 month old son, celebrating his gold medal in 1984. I still get choked up watching that one. Some may recall Wilfred Dietrich’s amazing suplex of the 500 pound Chris Taylor in 1972—find it on YouTube—it is the most spectacular throw in wrestling history. Other moments, American and otherwise, are equally memorable. To remove this sport is a travesty.

Further, it’s not hard to imagine that the elimination of Olympic wrestling would cause a death spiral to the sport overall. Title IX has already damaged our sport dramatically, and the IOC decision could well finish it off. Since 1972, 669 colleges and universities have dropped their programs. Of the 79 Division I programs that remain, how many would fold if Olympic dreams were suddenly torn away? Once that happens, the high school programs can’t be far behind.

There are those who say that the sport is tough to watch, difficult to understand, and doesn’t translate well to television. For the casual viewer, clearly, these are valid. My response is equally clear—hogwash. All of these arguments can be made for dressage, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized diving, and other events that seem to be safe from Olympic cuts. That’s right—dressage—an event where, as near as I can tell, is best described as “horse dancing”.

The final vote has yet to be cast on this decision, as this will happen in September of this year. I do not have a good feeling about it. The IOC, above all, is a political group, and their intent is clear. Dan Gable, the great American champion, is hoping that a petition with 2,020,000 signatures can sway their opinion. I hope he is right. Gable is not a man accustomed to losing, but the battle of FILA vs IOC is lightweight vs super heavyweight.

I would love to tell you “here’s what we need to do” in order to save this sport. I truly fear that the die has been cast. FILA has changed leadership, and is campaigning with urgency, but it may be far too little, and smells of desperation. Certainly, the IOC is used to outrage, and expects a good amount in the face of this decision. Dan Gable is a competent ambassador, and a passionate leader. If a miracle is needed, he may be the only one capable of delivering.

By the way — the modern pentathlon? Pistol shooting, 200 meter freestyle swimming, horse show jumping, fencing, and cross-country running. A cool event, really, but unless you are from a formerly Communist-block country, you don’t care. In 2005, the IOC affirmed its place in the competition, but will vote again in September of this year. Somebody’s out.