Team reflects on exclusion from 2020 Olympics
Frank Molinaro saw the writing on the wall in his final academic year at Penn State.
So when the then 2012 149-pound National Champion had the opportunity address wrestling’s declining popularity in the United States, he did not hesitate to pitch his idea to revive the sport in one of his senior projects.
“More of it on TV for starters, whether it’s local or CBS bought some kind of contract and did it,” Molinaro, now a assistant coach for the Rutgers wrestling team said. “Maybe someday down the road you do have some reality TV show like the Ultimate Fighter just so people could understand the sport more.”
Despite the passion from Molinaro — now an assistant on the Rutgers wrestling team — and others involved in the sport, the International Olympic Committee voted to remove wrestling from the Olympic circuit beginning in the 2020 summer games.
Wrestling will now be thrown into a pool of seven other sports for inclusion back into the games, with only one being chosen to be put back into the Olympic fold. The decision will be voted on in September.
Head coach Scott Goodale opinion on the IOC’s decision is an obvious one for a sport that dates back to the modern Olympics’ inception at the 1896 games held in Greece.
“It’s not good,” Goodale said. “I’m disappointed and mad. But I don’t think it will go through. The wrestling community is a bunch of fighters and we are already starting to see some positive things happens with it.”
Goodale said he blames FILA — the governing body of international wrestling — for not keeping the sport on the cutting edge.
Wrestling’s exclusion from the Olympics resulted in FILA President Raphael Martinetti’s resignation. The FILA Bureau nominated Nenad Lalovic for acting President.
Goodale sees the move as a step in the right direction to cure something years in the making.
“I think what it is is a political thing where the IOC was not happy with how are governing body FILA didn’t do anything with the sport and didn’t make it more entertaining or change rules,” Goodale said. “[FILA] really disregarded what [the I.O.C] wanted and if they’re not going to do what they wanted, they’re going to cut it from the Olympics.”
But Goodale knows the sport should not even be in this spot to begin with, and its lack of popularity on the Olympic level, at least in the United States, is evident within the Scarlet Knights program.
“I don’t really get wrapped up in the wrestling and the Olympics too much,” said senior 184-pounder Dan Rinaldi, who this season collected his 100th career victory. “I’m more concerned on focusing on myself performing than watching others in the Olympics.”
Wrestling draws crowds at the high school and collegiate levels in the United States, evidenced by the 112,000 fans that witnessed last year’s NCAA championships that spanned across three days. The mark broke a record for largest attendance at the event.
Senior 154-pounder Scott Winston said when he was wrestling at Jackson Memorial High School (N.J.), it was not a surprise to see 3,000-4,000 people in the stands at a home match.
Though he sympathized with the dream that was being taken away from athletes who aspire to be Olympic wrestlers, his dream stopped at the collegiate level with an NCAA championship.
“When I was little, I was looking up to guys in college and to me, that was the highest pinnacle you could get to,” Winston said. “So that was my dream. So I just stuck with that dream.”
Goodale believes countries that center around the sport will be powerful tools for the reversal of the decision.
“I blame FILA for not doing enough with the sport and keeping it on the cutting edge. “I think it will have to do a lot with the Iranians and the Russians,” Goodale said. “So I’m sure they are going to have a huge say in it along with Japan and China, places like that. I don’t think it will go through.”