Back in February it was bleak. Yes, the weather of course, but also the forecast of having wrestling in future Olympics. The International Olympic Committee voted to remove the ancient sport from future games last winter. After six months of intense campaigning, the sport has been reinstated for the 2020 and the 2024 Olympics. Wrestling was in desperate need of an overhaul. Matches were becoming too defensive, scoring was down, and distrust of wrestling's governing body FILA was high. The old president of FILA, Raphael Martinelli, was forced to resign after the IOC voted to remove wrestling from the Olympic program, and that's when the tide started to turn.
"This was a fight that the college coaches were fighting, the high school coaches were fighting, the high school kids were fighting. Everyone was fighting because everyone understands the pinnacle of our sport is the gold medal and so therefore it was really interesting to watch people who really didn't have a great deal of involvement in wrestling saying that wrestling needed to come back," Minot State wrestling coach Robin Ersland says.
The head of the effort to bring back wrestling was former gold medalist Dan Gable. The American is a household name not just in wrestling homes in this country, but also globally.
"Anytime that we can deal with Iran or Russia, we need a spokesperson and when Dan Gable goes over there, people respect him. We don't look at what our countries have against one another, we look at the similarities. When Dan Gable comes to town to talk wrestling it brings worlds, countries together," Minot high school wrestling coach Nolan Spooner tells me.
Wrestling beat out a joint bid from baseball and softball and a separate bid from the sport of squash Sunday for inclusion.