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Loss Of Olympic Prospects A Blow To High School Wrestlers

Feb 17, 2013
Originally published on February 17, 2013 8:56 pm

The International Olympic Committee's decision to cut wrestling from the 2020 summer games came as a surprise to the quarter of a million high school wrestlers around the country.

At Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland, the Blair Blazers, ranked 7th in the county, are hoping for a good showing in one of the last big matchups of the season. But as they worked out this week, many of them were thinking beyond the tournament and to their wrestling future.

"I was trying to work hard. Try, if I could ... [to] wrestle in college and if I'm good, I go to the Olympics," says sophomore Anderson Junior Yanga.

Now, he's not so sure, and he doesn't think it's fair, especially after hearing that sports like golf are being added to the Olympics.

"Golf already has a lot of international sport," he says. "They have like [the] U.S. Open, French Open; the only international competition that I know for wrestling is the Olympics."

Chuck Onwuzuruike, an 18-year-old from Montgomery Blair who wrestles in the 132-pound weight class, says he doesn't get it, either. After all, wrestling is one of the original Olympic Games.

"That's like what the Olympics are known for," Onwuzuruike says. "It's pretty greedy of them not to show it anymore just because of a few deficits in some ratings."

Coach Jake Scott says the team is focused on the county tournament, so there hasn't been a chance to talk about the IOC's decision, but in the long run he's worried about how it will affect his students' college plans.

"The Olympics is pretty much the one calling card that you use to motivate your guys ... that you can be an Olympian," Scott says. "But if the Olympics are taken away, my fear now becomes colleges will be next to lose their sport."

Scott's fears aren't unfounded. Over the past two years, wrestling was the sport most often dropped by NCAA schools, meaning that in the future, the careers of more young wrestlers will end at age 18 — at high school tournaments.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The decision by the International Olympic Committee to cut wrestling from the 2020 Summer Games stunned the quarter of a million high school wrestlers around the country. NPR's Candace Wheeler visited Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland, which hosted a wrestling tournament yesterday, and she heard from student athletes.

JAKE SCOTT: Three, two, one, good job, good job, good job.

CANDACE WHEELER, BYLINE: The Blair Blazers are ranked seventh in the county. They're hoping for a good showing this weekend in one of the last big matchups of the season.

SCOTT: You're down by two, you're down by two. You need an elbow, (unintelligible), you need an elbow.

WHEELER: Many of them are thinking beyond the tournament to their wrestling future.

ANDERSON JUNIOR YANGA: I was trying to work hard. Try, if I could go to college, wrestle in college and if I'm good I go to Olympics.

WHEELER: Sophomore Anderson Junior Yanga says now he's not so sure. And he doesn't think it's fair. He heard they want to replace wrestling with golf.

YANGA: Golf already have, like, a lot of international sport. They have, like, U.S. Open, French Open, all that. The only international competition that I know for wrestling is, like, is at Olympics.

CHUCK ONWUZURUIKE: Hey, I'm Chuck Onwuzuruike and I'm from Montgomery Blair. I'm 18 and I wrestle for the 132-pound weight class.

WHEELER: Onwuzuruike doesn't get it either. After all, he says, wrestling is one of the original Olympic games.

ONWUZURUIKE: That's like what the Olympics are known for, you know. It's, I don't know, it's pretty greedy of them not to show it anymore just because some, you know, a few deficit in some ratings.

WHEELER: Jake Scott is Onwuzuruike's coach. On Thursday, he put the team through one last practice before the big meet.

SCOTT: Think about tomorrow. You guys need to be ready. The first move wins. The Olympics is pretty much the one calling card that you use to motivate your guys. You know, you can be an Olympian.

WHEELER: But in the long run, he's worried about how the decision will affect his students' college plans.

SCOTT: If the Olympics are taken away, my fear now becomes now colleges will be next to lose their sport.

WHEELER: Coach Scott's fears aren't unfounded. Over the last two years wrestling was the sport most often dropped by NCAA schools. So, Coach Scott fears that in the future the careers of more young wrestlers will end at age 18 at high school tournaments like this one.

SCOTT: Hey, good job.

WHEELER: Candace Wheeler, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.