I spent this past weekend at the Omaha Convention Center, where the arena portion featured the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) Wrestling Championships, while the larger convention center area featured the President’s Day Classic girl’s volleyball tournament featuring teams from across the country. I had a personal interest, as a father, in the 18’s division of the volleyball competition.
As these two events were taking place, I could not help but reflect on the IOC Executive Board’s decision earlier in the week to drop wrestling from the Olympic program for 2020. As an Executive Committee member of an international federation governing an Olympic sport, I do not want to comment on the relative merits of one sport over another in the Olympics. I will state, however, that these decisions have tremendously far-reaching effects in this country, as those of us walking into the Omaha Convention Center this last weekend could feel.
Nebraska is strong wrestling and girl’s volleyball territory. The University of Nebraska is currently ranked 7th in NCAA women’s volleyball. That same institution has produced wrestling greats such as Olympians Bill and Jim Scherr.
The 17 and 18 year olds in the volleyball tournament will be 24 and 25 at the time of the 2020 Olympics, prime ages for Olympians. Was there a future Olympian competing in this tournament? Maybe, maybe not. But for all of them their Olympic hopes and dreams were alive.
The wrestlers in the adjacent arena will also be 24 and 25 in 2020. Their Olympic dreams may have all but ended as a result of the IOC decision earlier in the week. And that is a shame.