After a hundred or so years, Olympic level wrestling goes the way of Olympic level polo and tug of war. The Olympic level platform has been responsible for establishing the reputations of wrestling deities like Dan Gable, John Smith, Cael Sanderson, et al. Wrestling forums have been oozing with even more predictions of wrestling’s imminent demise now that, as of 2020, wrestling will no longer enjoy Olympic recognition. Wrestling has enjoyed a lonely status as one of the few contact sports and even fewer combat sports endorsed and organized at all age levels. As such, wrestling has been granted an ad hoc status as a primitive feeder program for mixed martial arts. With the elimination of wrestling as an Olympic sport, will lower levels of wrestling and all levels of MMA be negatively affected? Or is it possible that the elimination of Olympic wrestling will prove to be a non-event having no effect on the quality of wrestling and MMA?
Cutting Olympic Wrestling Negatively Affects
All Levels of Wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts
Wrestling, like any other sport, relies on trickle-down technique. 99% of the grade school, high school, club program, college, and Olympic coaches have wrestled at some time in their life. As teachers, they impart valuable wisdom and pedagogy gained through years of experience. Having a coach who has wrestled at a high level is invaluable for any program. All things being equal, would you benefit more from being taught algebra by a high school drop out or a university graduate? Think of how much it would benefit a school, not just the math department, to have a teacher or even a teacher’s assistant who had studied mathematics at the highest level. But what if the elite programs that produced mathematical geniuses ceased to exist? What if there are no more university graduates? How will that affect algebra classes at the lower level? Once Olympic wrestling is eliminated, how soon will it take for elite Olympic level athletes to slowly cycle out of the sport while no new ones are being produced? The problem is greater than the simple removal of seven (number of weight classes) athletes from the wrestling population. No more Olympic wrestlers….no more Olympic level drill partners…No more Olympic level coaches…no more Olympic level camp counselors…No more Olympic training centers for Olympic redshirts….No more Olympic level technique slowly trickling its way down through the colleges, the high schools, and the grade schools. This isn’t to say that wrestling technique at lower levels of competition will degrade into sluggish doddering; however, as of late summer 2016 the wrestling ubermensch no longer exists and a culture of technical mediocrity slowly envelops the remaining combat sports.
The Elimination of Olympic Wrestling Will Have No Affect On Wrestling and MMA
It is tragic that Olympic wrestling has been eliminated but the effect on all levels of wrestling and MMA will be minimal. Olympic status is merely formal recognition by wealthy Western Europeans. Men’s gymnastics is an Olympic sport but has been eviscerated in the NCAA; at last count the number of Division I universities offering Men’s Gymnastics was less than 20. The Olympics offer unbeatable levels of equestrian competition, but has that compelled anyone to buy a horse? Baseball was stripped of Olympic status a few years ago but the impact on baseball’s popularity in the US and Latin America has been minimal. American football has never been an Olympic sport but it is highly unlikely that lack of recognition has diminished its status (what were you doing Sunday, February 3rd?). Professional mixed martial arts doesn’t even have legal status in some states but if you are reading this then its casually illicit nature hasn’t discouraged you from watching or participating in it. People may argue that you need Olympic athletes to inspire youth to participate in sports, but this is a specious argument. If this was the case then women’s team epee would be taking off at all levels in the US. Wrestling will continue to exist; the disappearance of Olympic wrestling does not mean the elimination of thousands of youth, high school, and college programs, the closure of gyms, or the cancellation of local MMA tournaments. The loss of Olympic wrestling is undoubted a blow to the sport’s prestige (Beach volleyball is an Olympic sport and wrestling isn’t? Exactly how the ancient Greeks would have wanted it…) but life goes on.
By Mike Anderson: MMA Draft Correspondent