Douglas:?IOC decision about wrestling is a mortal blow

Stunning and ridiculous are the best two words we can think of in response to the International Olympic Committee’s decision of this past week.

On Tuesday, the IOC stunned the world when it voted the sport of wrestling – both freestyle and Greco-Roman – out of the Olympic program, starting in 2020. The IOC opted to keep modern pentathlon, which is a combination of fencing, horse riding, swimming, running and shooting.

How exactly can that be possible?

No one is really sure of an answer. The vote seemed to come totally out of left field and even the most connected people in the world of wrestling had no idea.

One of those people is Bridgeport native Bobby Douglas, who is a past Olympic competitor and coach, who was “shocked” when he learned of the voting outcome.

“This (decision) is a mortal blow to the American wrestling program,” Douglas said. “I didn’t see this coming. I don’t know if anyone saw it coming, but now we have to find a way to deal with it. (Tuesday was) a dark, dark day for wrestling.”

For wrestlers, there’s no ‘professional ranks’ like there is basically every other sport in the world. Even most of the Olympic sports have the ability for their athletes to make money. Wrestlers do in terms of some sponsorships, but basically the goal of winning the Olympic Gold and hearing that National Anthem on top of the podium is the ultimate goal that drives so many.

“The Olympics are to wrestling like the World Series is to baseball or the Super Bowl is to football,” Douglas said. “Without the Olympics, our American wrestling program will surely suffer.”

Speaking strictly from the heart, Douglas believes the vote should cause the countries to really examine the IOC and what’s going on at the heart of the decision-making body for both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

“Commericialism and professionalism have taken over,” Douglas said. “Only the sports with equipment companies or large lobbying groups behind them are going to survive. Along with the money and equipment companies, you have a very corrupt IOC. It’s the same corruption that found its way into the Olympics of ancient times.”

Often times, there’s an American belief that the IOC eliminates sports where the United States shines in an effort to balance the games amongst all of the other countries.

That argument was especially evident when baseball and softball were eliminated in a stunning development a few years back.

However, that doesn’t hold true for wrestling.

For instance, the United States has only won 124 medals in Olympic history in wrestling, but that does rank third amongst all of the sports, trailing only track and field and swimming.

The facts are out there in support of wrestling. More than 200 nations, representing all of the continents participated in wrestling. On top of the diversity involved, the sport was one of the original sports in the Olympic Games.

Wrestling is much more diversified than just in the number of countries participating. It’s a sport that helps so many different types of people on all different sorts of levels.

Douglas is actually a prime example of this. He used wrestling to take him to levels that no one would have expected for an African American male in the 1960s.

“This will certainly impact women, minorities and poor people because that’s a major pool of wrestling,” Douglas said. “It’s a blue-collar sport with no political clout.”

When it comes to USA Wrestling, few have as large or loud of a voice nationally, or in the world, as Douglas.

So, we asked him: what can Americans and the rest of the world do to help wrestling get put back into the Olympics, hopefully for 2020 or at least by 2024?

“American people need to raise hell,” Douglas said. “We need the public to get behind it and start making calls, writing letters, sending emails and hopefully we can get it changed. This isn’t over yet, but we need the American people’s support.”

One of the area’s biggest wrestling supporters and fans is Martins Ferry head coach Scott Roth, who also operates Vertex Wrestling Club in Martins Ferry.

“In this world of multi-million dollar sports contracts, wrestlers continue to seek Olympic glory, simply for the love of the sport and pride in their country,” Roth said. “This is a bad decision by the IOC, however, it’s not yet set in stone. It’s time for the wrestling world to come together and accomplish a larger goal.”

Upon learning of it Tuesday morning via text message, Douglas hasn’t slowed down yet. Whether it’s doing the above or doing interviews to spread the world, the passion to save wrestling at the Olympic level has taken over.

“I am making calls, writing about it and I won’t be muzzled,” Douglas said. “This is a fight we can’t afford to lose and this is a fight for our kids and futures. To me, it’s a fight worth fighting. Fighting for it all my life and I’ll fight harder now than ever before and I’ll have a lot of company.”

Staskey can be reached at