Olympic Wrestling Will Be Under the Radar in the U.S.

Mark MarinoSenior Analyst IAugust 8, 2008

Will the USA Men's basketball team win Olympic Gold? Will Michael Phelps place in eight medal swimming competitions? Why are we so caught up in the political aspects of the Olympics, every single year?!

To answer these questions, folks—quite frankly, I don't know, and I don't care.

The biggest, and most exciting event for me this year is the Men's Freestyle wrestling event.

It is a long-lost sporting event, and one that never gets the attention that it deserves.

We'll waste our time this year, watching the NBA All-Star...excuse me...USA Olympic Team slaughter every team to Olympic Gold. It'll even have its own television channel.

When the word "wrestling" is introduced into a conversation about legitimate athletes and sports, some of you may think of the "wrestlers" of the WWE. Certainly some gifted people, put on stage to entertain the mindless masses. Granted they are quite charismatic, talented, and high-flying men, they must not to be confused with the most determined, physically and mentally strongest, most superior athletes in the entire world—the freestyle wrestlers.

There is no other sporting event in the world, let alone the Olympics, that better orchestrates man-to-man battle than wrestling.

Freestyle wrestlers have a better advantage than Greco-Roman wrestlers because they are allowed to attack the lower bodies of their opponents (from the waist down). Moreover, they can use their own lower bodies, including hips, legs and feet, to take an opponent down to the mat in order to gain points. This definitely makes for a more interesting battle, in my opinion.

Let's take, for instance, this year's Olympics. Like all Olympics, wrestlers are weighed in at kilograms, as opposed to pounds. In America, collegiate wrestlers are divided into pound (lbs) categories, much closer to weight than kilos.

So, in collegiate wrestling, there are ten weight classes, ranging from 125lbs-heavyweight (183-285). And in between these ten weight classes, the weight only ranges from 8-13 pounds in each weight class, respectively.

In the Olympics, the kilogram scale is much broader than the American pounds-terms. The Olympic weight classes basically eliminate at least one, in American collegiate competition.

For instance: Olympic weights.

55 kilograms = 121 pounds

60 kilograms = 132 pounds

66 kilograms = 145 pounds

74 kilograms = 162 pounds

84 kilograms = 184 pounds

American colleges:

149 pounds

157 pounds

165 pounds

174 pounds

184 pounds

This may not seem like a big deal to most, but for anyone who has wrestled, like I have, this is an enormous transition. I'm going to quickly elaborate why this is a big deal, coming from my own personal experiences.

I was around 170-175 pounds in my wrestling days. My wrestling weight needed to be either at 157 or 165. Again, to most, no biggie. But for me, I had 6% body fat, so my weight had to be "cut." By cut, I mean I had to literally starve myself up until the day before weigh-ins on a diet that consisted of a glass or two of water, multi-vitamins, and one square meal a-day. The rest of the weight was lost via dehydration, so I wore swimming suits, trash bags, and sweat-suits during a two-hour practice session.

I am by no means on the level of these athletes. No way. But these American wrestlers have to adapt to a whole new weight class. They have to wrestle men from Russia, where they bleed wrestling like Boston and N.Y. does baseball. An All-American wrestler and coach now have to decide whether or not a 174-pound wrestler is best suited for a 162-pound or a 184-pound competition.

That's a big difference folks. Do you think Lebron James really cares about eating 2 plates of pasta, with meatballs and cheese the 2 nights before a basketball game? Does it really matter if he weighs 250? 265?

No way.

Because Lebron, and other athletes, can perform within a weigh-limit of his own. He can compete with people a heck of a lot smaller, and in rare cases, players bigger than him.

Bottom line here is that wrestlers don't get the credit they deserve. Their exercise is unparalleled. Their mental fortitude is uncanny. Their discipline is bar-none. Their athleticism is world-class. Even though the match could be over in under eight minutes, look at it in a broader perspective.

Unfortunately, we probably won't be able to witness this Olympic event. At least not the majority of it.

Coverage starts, for freestyle wrestling, on Tuesday, August 19.