MADISON (WKOW) -- Although wrestling is one of the world's oldest sports it's being removed from the Olympic Games, but the wrestling community is fighting back.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to drop wrestling from the Summer Games beginning in 2020, but will it remain in the 2016 games. The committee looked at things like TV ratings and global popularity when making its decision. Wrestling will join the seven other short listed sports: baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu that the IOC will choose from for one spot back in the games.
Wisconsin Wrestling Federation's vice-chair Todd Schaaf says the group is working with its national office, USA Wrestling, to fight to keep the sport in the Olympics. Wisconsin's branch has one of the highest memberships in the country and consistently produces competitors for Team USA. Schaaf says it's heartbreaking for many young athletes.
"There's a lot of disappointed people, wrestlers that are in the process of training at the Olympic Center and now their future is uncertain, but at the same time we're doing everything we can to present to the IOC the reasons why we should continue with wrestling."
They'll make a presentation to the IOC in May, defending wrestling. The IOC will then choose between the seven sports. The group is expected to make a decision in September.
The announcement is especially disappointing for athletes like UW freshman Jesse Thielke. Thielke took a year off of school to train for the Olympics. He's currently ranked one of the best wrestlers in the nation, but may never have his chance at a lifelong dream of making it to the Olympics.
"It's heartbreaking," Thielke says. "I've been working for this since I was 6, 7, 8 years old. I'm finally getting to that point. I was maybe a match or two away from making the team this past year."
UW Wrestling head coach Barry Davis says he was surprised to hear the news, but says he thinks worldwide support for the sport will win over the IOC. Davis is a two-time Olympian.
"All the organizations in the world that involve wrestling have to get organized and unite and get a game plan together and move forward and get our sport back in the games," says Davis.
The global wrestling community has already gotten started. Two Facebook pages have been created "Save Olympic Wrestling" and "Keep Wrestling in the Olympics", with a combined nearly 100,000 followers in just one day. Several petitions are also online.
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