The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 16, 2013

Harold Raker's high school wrestling column: Let the Games go on

Daily Item

---- — You looking to kill some time on a rainy day?

Try jotting down all the things that don't make sense to you.

That list will likely be longer than a list of Kardashian weddings.

OK, that's a good place to start:

Things that make no sense: the Kardashians.

Reality shows (sorry all you fans of bug eaters, alligator hunters and Jerry Springer).

Because this is supposed to be a wrestling column, I will cut to the chase. But not before listing another: professional (staged) wrestling.

Now that we are back on wrestling, sort of, here is the latest nonsense to come down the pike: the International Olympic Committee recommended this week to cut wrestling from the 2020 Games.

Say what?

Surely there are high school kids working out today and dreaming of becoming the next Olympic gold-medal winner -- in wakeboarding.

How about sport climbing? Or wushu?

Do you know what they are? Neither do I.

Yet they are among the sports the committee is considering for retention at the expense of one of the world's oldest sports.

Wrestling, the IOC decided, is expendable.

But, like those who compete in the sport, wrestling will not go down without a fight. And if that is what Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. and his cronies wanted, they certainly got it.

The word was barely out about this august body's ridiculous decision than the internet began to heat up from those who love the sport and won't let it go away that easily.

Gold medalist Jake Varner, a resident athlete in the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, used his Twitter account to get the ball rolling. Additionally, a Facebook page, titled "Save Olympic Wrestling" has surfaced and by 8 p.m. the first day (Tuesday), it had reached nearly 12,000 members.

Also among those taking up the battle is 2004 Olympic gold winner Cael Sanderson, the Penn State University wrestling coach.

"I don't think I've really accepted it. It's more like we're in Round 1. We've still go two rounds to go here," Sanderson told the Centre Daily Times in State College earlier this week.

He referred to the fact that the IOC's schedule of more meetings, one in May and another in September in Buenos Aires, the latter to finalize the list of sports.

This week's action was just a recommendation by the committee, and it came in a secret-ballot vote, with even the numbers of votes hidden from the public.

But there is no hiding the frustrations of the wrestling community over this startling action.

Others who have begun to fight with all they have include former Olympian and nationally known clinician Ken Chertow, of Boalsburg.

"There is no way the wrestling community will accept that, and I'm sure we will fight hard to do what is needed to be done to correct the wrong decision," he told the CDT.

Of course the percentage of high school wrestlers competing in individual post-season tournaments today and through the first two weeks of March who would make it to the U.S. Olympic team is minute.

So it is with any professional sport.

Still, it's nice to dream.

n Sports editor Harold Raker covers high school wrestling for The Daily Item. Email comments to