In February, 2013, the International Olympic Committee stunned the world when it announced the elimination of wrestling from the Olympics, beginning with the 2020 Games. The uproar was immediate and worldwide – and not just within the sport. Average citizens in the United States, Russia and Iran were shocked that the governing body of the world’s most storied international athletic competition would ever consider dropping one of its original and defining sports.
The tenacity of wrestling reared up and seven months later wrestling was restored – BUT ONLY AS A PROVISIONAL SPORT. Yes – wrestlers will compete in 2020 but, as a provisional sport, inclusion in future Olympic Games will be considered every four years. The fight to restore wrestling’s “core sport” status continues, but with the lack of immediacy comes the apathy that allowed the elimination in the first place.
The sport faces other challenges. Since 1972 168 NCAA Division I institutions have dropped their wrestling programs. Wrestling has fewer participation opportunities in the three combined NCAA divisions per participating high school athlete than any other sport contested in America’s high schools. Only one out of every forty-one high school wrestlers has the opportunity to continue to compete on the mat as a part of his collegiate experience. This compares to 1 out of 30 in basketball, 1 out of 18 in golf and soccer, 1 out of 16 in football, 1 out of 15 in baseball/softball and swimming and 1 out of 10 in track/cross country.
Clearly, the threats to “the world’s oldest and greatest sport” come from the “top down” – governing bodies and administrators deciding what we do or do not want. At Wrestling for Life we take a “bottom up” approach to saving the sport. Kids want to wrestle! Our mission is simply to give kids more opportunities to wrestle and to support them as they grow in the sport.
Tenacity. Self-reliance. Responsibility. Toughness. Wrestling has helped young people gain these values since ancient Greece. These values are as important in the 21st Century as they were over 2,000 years ago.
Our mission at Wrestling for Life is to encourage our youth to take to the mat so that important life lessons can be learned. Once they’ve tried the sport we want to help them advance their quests to be strong young men and women.
We are best known for the ticket program we began in 2009. Believing that experiencing the excitement of big-time college wrestling can motivate young people, we have given wrestling event tickets to kids’ wrestling clubs, middle school teams and youth organizations.
We have come to believe that tickets aren’t enough and have begun to financially support young athletes and their families as they seek to grow competitively and in life. We are especially interested in helping girls and young women as they blaze the trail of female participation growth.
"Wrestling is a great sculptor of body and soul. It helps to develop fragile and clumsy children and teenagers into a strong, goal-oriented young man or woman with confidence in themselves.
Wrestling is a way of finding a purpose in life and it gives you respect and the acknowledgement of others. In a Poet’s words, “Wrestling is always overcoming yourself, who you were yesterday and determining who you will be tomorrow”.
Wrestling is an everlasting engine that determines the development of each of us. Who knows how sweet is a taste of hard work? And when we win we will do anything to repeat and live through these moments again. Wrestlers never stop on their accomplishments. If a maximum is reached in sport, wrestlers will continue to look and find a use for new energy, talent and ideas in all life’s variety.
Wrestling teaches us to be friendly, to be honest and demanding of yourself, and thousands of my colleagues can undersign these words and values.
Russian literary classic Vissarion Belinsky says, “Wrestling is a condition of life.” The sport of wrestling personalizes these words not just for athletes, but also for the huge army of our fans around the world."
As in life, the future of wrestling depends on ushering each generation into a appreciation of the sport.
That's why our primary activities are those that encourage participation, both as a competitor and as a fan.
We provide shoes and equipment for kids who can't otherwise afford to participate as athletes.
We support other causes that extend the reach of the sport.
And we take kids to matches so they can see what the sport is all about.