OLYMPICS DROPS WRESTLING: Gophers coach J Robinson appalled - Fox 2 News Headlines

OLYMPICS DROPS WRESTLING: 'I can't see the Spartans wakeboarding'

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Minnesota has put someone on the Olympic wrestling team since 1968, but that tradition could be in jeopardy now that the executive board of the Olympics has decided to drop the world's oldest competitive sport from the summer games.

The board said it considered everything from popularity to global participation before making the decision, but athletes and fans were shocked.

Locally, the news is hitting home for former and future Olympians -- along with the millions of amateur wrestlers who believe making it to the Olympics is their ultimate goal.

For Chas Betts, going for gold in the last Olympic games was the thrill of a lifetime.

"The experience was incredible," he told FOX 9 News. "I ended up in 9th place."

Now, he can't believe other wrestlers may never get the chance to make their own Olympic dreams come true.

"Wrestling is one of the oldest sports there is -- it's one-on-one combat," Betts explained. "That's what it comes down to when people think of the Olympics. That's a cornerstone of the whole idea."

In fact, wrestling was the second sport after track and field added to the original games in ancient Greece around 700 BC, but the International Olympic Committee's executive board voted to remove it from modern games to make room for emerging sports like flying Chinese martial art wushu.

The move means young wrestlers, like Betts' brother, Parker -- who is training to make the Olympic team in 2020 -- may be down for the count.

"It hits my family very hard because, all of a sudden, that's an opportunity that's in jeopardy for him and that's a scary thing to think about," he said.

The fourth-ranked Gopher men's wrestling coach J. Robinson is a former Olympian himself, and he said he believes commercialism is diluting the games from their original mission.

"Curling is not a sport. Snowboarding isn't a sport. They are not Olympic sports. They are recreational sports," he said.

However, Robinson said he believes the former Eastern European block countries will go to the mat for their beloved sport.

"You got the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Finland, China -- so there will be fighting to keep wrestling as opposed to wake boarding," Robinson predicted. "I can't see the Spartans wakeboarding 2,500 years ago."

Betts hopes that pushback will be enough to help wrestling escape the ultimate takedown.

"I really, in my deepest heart, believe wrestling belongs in the Olympics. It has a place there. It always has and it belongs," Betts said.

"I really in my deepest heart believe wrestling belongs in the Olympics. It has its place there. It always has and it belongs to stay there."

The board may reverse its decision when it meets to hear from other sports vying to be included in the 2020 games, including baseball, softball, karate, and wakeboarding. The final vote will come at the International Olympic Committee's general assembly in September.

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