Stars Come out to Support Wrestling's Bid for 2020 Olympics: Will IOC Notice?

Benjamin J. BlockCorrespondent IIMay 17, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 15:  Kyle Dake of the USA takes down Hassan Tahmasebi of Iran during the Rumble on the Rails Wrestling on May 15, 2013 at Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Roughly 500,000 people fight their way through New York City's Grand Central Station on a daily basis, but on Wednesday, world wrestling superpowers United States, Iran and Russia put Vanderbilt Hall in a headlock—something they'd like to do to the members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The event was billed as "The Rumble On The Rails," and it showcased the sport in an effort to keep the wrestling movement alive and remind the IOC that it should always have a place in the Olympics.

The star power that came out to support the cause included Olympic Gold Medalist's Rulon Gardner and Kurt Angle, actor and wrestling advocate Billy Baldwin and hard-hitting Hall of Fame cornerback/safety Ronnie Lott—all sharing a deep passion for what many people consider to be the oldest sport on earth.

While it still feels like a bad dream, back on February 12 the IOC suggested that wrestling be excluded from the 2020 Olympic Games.

The IOC's announcement summoned an immediate and widespread outcry from wrestling fans around the world.

Backlash ranged from casual enthusiasts who tune in to watch every four years even though they don't quite grasp the rules to passionate devotees who live and breathe it.

One of the more passionate and knowledgeable fans of the sport is actor and former high school and college wrestler, Baldwin.

Baldwin is on the Committee to Preserve Olympic Wrestling, and he vividly recalled his reaction and action after hearing the shocking recommendation by the IOC back in February.

I sent out an email to my wrestling database which is like 500 people, and I sent the link to the article and in the subject heading, I wrote that this is an outrage. They have bleeped with the wrong people.

Baldwin later went on to say that most of the blame actually falls on the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), the governing body that represents wrestling to the IOC.

These guys [IOC] have been requesting and warning us for years now that you have to make the sport more popular, better and grow it. They've been saying to make it cooler and make scoring more interesting, exciting, dynamic and make it better for television. 

While 2012 Olympic Champion and USA's greatest hope Jordan Burroughs shined in Wednesday's exhibition, I caught up with Gardner—former gold medalist from the 2000 games and bronze medalist from 2004.

The fact that we're even in this position right now means we're in trouble and we got a lot of work to do. Somewhere in the IOC's thinking process, they feel that the oldest and greatest Olympic sport out there [wrestling] shouldn't be in the games.

I think it's just a lack of education on our part, but ultimately we didn't sell the sport, we didn't let them know why the sport of wrestling is so great, and it's our responsibility to do that. All the emotion is gone now, and we have to show them why the Olympic movement has to have wrestling involved.

I didn't have to stray too far in order to find another former gold medalist and current pro TNA wrestler, and Angle was happy for the attention the event garnered, but was adamantly upset with what has transpired.

This turned out to be a great event, and it's cool to see everybody coming together. Very seldom do you get the Americans, Iranians and Russians shaking hands and hugging each other, but we're all here for one reason and that's to save Olympic wrestling.

I was disgusted with the IOC's suggestion to drop wrestling—a lot of sports are dying, but wrestling isn't one of them.

Thank god we hired a new president of FILA [Nenad Lalovic]. He doesn't know a lot about Olympic wrestling, but he's a great politician, he's going to push the sport of wrestling and we're going to hope and pray that everything works out.

I believe that when they [IOC] do the final voting in September, they're going to realize that they just wasted several months of taking the sport out and then adding it back in.

I left Angle before he body-slammed me for taking his attention away from the action, and as I looked to make my way back to my seat, who else do I bump into but San Francisco 49er legend Mr. Lott.

While Lott wasn't ever a wrestler, he holds the sport in very high regard and shared with me the greatness of wrestling and how we can't let the IOC take it out of the Olympics.

I couldn't believe the IOC would ever suggest to exclude wrestling. They have to understand that a lot of the sports in the Olympics that we see today wouldn't even be around if it wasn't for wrestling.

We can't take this sport for granted because it shapes people's lives. I had a chance to watch Dan Gable and I read his books, and I knew that if I had what he had inside and I could apply it to football, I'd have a shot.

Besides wrestling, the seven other sports vying for the 26th core sport of the 2020 Olympic games are: baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu.

The IOC will meet in Buenos Aires, Argentina from September 7 to 10 to decide which sport gets the nod.

Lott has one wish for the committee for when they sit down to deliberate.

"Understand that in your heart you wrestle to make great decisions all the time, and the decision to include wrestling is one that you have to make."

Couldn't have said it better myself.


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.