OUR VIEW: Wrestling news sad for SD and the GamesThroughout South Dakota’s history, there are tales of young men emerging from small towns and clawing their way to the top of the wrestling ranks with grit and determination.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
Fierce independence. Hard work. Dedication. Toughness. These are qualities that South Dakotans like to think we collectively possess. They’re part of a pioneer ethic that has always been at the core of this state.
Few people have personified that ethic better than our elite wrestlers. Throughout South Dakota’s history, there are tales of young men emerging from small towns and clawing their way to the top of the wrestling ranks with grit and determination.
As the most prominent recent example, Lincoln McIlravy climbed from Philip, one of the most remote areas of the state, to the University of Iowa and the Olympic Games. His career culminated with a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics.
Joining McIlravy in the annals of South Dakota wrestling history are other Olympians, including Jim and Bill Scherr, of Mobridge; Randy Lewis, of Rapid City; and Dennis and Duane Koslowski, of Doland. It’s a proud legacy for a sparsely populated state that otherwise isn’t much known for Olympic glory.
Success stories like those may be a thing of the past, though, if the International Olympic Committee gets its way. Tuesday, the committee voted to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympic program.
We think that’s a terrible decision and one that could hurt wrestling, an already declining sport.
For the past few decades, wrestlers have been bitter about the perceived impact on their sport from Title IX. The federal law was supposed to create opportunities for women in sports, and it has, but many in the wrestling community say it also has led some high schools and colleges to drop a male sport rather than add a female sport, and wrestling has suffered the brunt of the trend.
With that cloud already hanging over the sport, the removal of wrestling from the Olympics could be devastating. Lincoln McIlravy said in his South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame induction that by the eighth grade, his life was dedicated full-time to wrestling. He was largely motivated, we suspect, by the dream of Olympic gold. How many dreams like McIlravy’s will never materialize, and how many young people will avoid wrestling altogether, if the Olympics is no longer there to inspire?
Besides being bad for wrestling, we think the decision by the IOC is just plain wrong. Wrestling is an original Olympic sport, dating to ancient Greece. It’s also a truly global sport. It belongs in the Games.
Why would the IOC drop wrestling? To us, the answer is clear: Money. Wrestling doesn’t attract the same number of television viewers as more popular sports like basketball and beach volleyball. And in the modern era — ever since the original basketball Dream Team — the Olympic Games are increasingly devoted to marketing, celebrity and profit.
It’s a shame. The old ethic of the Games, which stressed amateur competition for the glory of sport, was something worth preserving, much the same as South Dakota’s pioneer spirit. The decision to drop wrestling is just another sign that so much of what was once good and pure about the Games is gone.