Wrestlers past and present around the world rejoiced Sunday when the International Olympic Committee voted to bring the wrestling program back for the 2020 games.
The decision was especially sweet for Bridgeport native Bobby Douglas, who is a former Olympic competitor and coach in the sport that has provided him with countless opportunities over the course of his life.
Douglas had been outspoken about his thoughts on the IOC's original decision to drop wrestling from the games, which was originally the plan in February.
"Wrestling deserves to be a part of the Olympics," Douglas said. "The Olympic Oath mentions the sport of wrestling, so it's part of the culture."
Wrestling, which will be a part of the 2016 Games in Rio, was up against a combined bid of baseball and softball as well as squash for inclusion.
When we reached him earlier this week by telephone, Douglas was still overly excited and satisfied with the vote.
"The American and world wrestling communities can breath a sigh of relief," Douglas said. "Wrestling isn't going away in this country or the world. It's part of the DNA of this country."
Douglas, who was the head coach for the United States team in 1992, admits he had some nervous moments leading up to the vote.
"At the 11th hour, I didn't think it looked good for wrestling," Douglas said. "I am not sure who or how it got changed around, but we're happy that it did. I think the IOC looks at the history, tradition and diversity of wrestling, it really emerged."
During the last seven months, wrestlers from all over the world did their best to sell their sport to the IOC. Wrestling is a very tight-nit sport, regardless if you're talking about pee wee ranks, high school, college or the Olympics. Wrestling is like a fraternity.
History shows that wrestling has had huge implications on the world. Douglas points out regularly, when we chat, that five presidents of the United States were wrestlers in their past.
"You can go all the way back in ancient history and find wrestlers," Douglas said. "It's mentioned in the oldest and greatest books on Earth, including the Bible. It's not going away."
Wrestling began to lose some of its pull with the IOC, according to Douglas, when it became involved with the late John du Pont.
"John du Pont dang near destroyed American and international wrestling," Douglas said. "When wrestling started dealing with him, it's like it got in bed with the devil. People lost their integrity. We have to clean it up now. Wrestling is circling the wagons to make sure things like that don't happen again."
Though excited and pleased with the vote, Douglas realizes that this isn't the end of the battle for wrestling. The sport must continue to make progress and become more appealing to the common fan to gain steam and avoid being placed up for another vote for future Olympic Games.
"You're going to see a lot of improvement toward making it more attractive to the spectators," Douglas said. "We have to make sure wrestling shows its diversity and how important it is to education and the culture of American athletes and the world community of athletes."
Douglas believes part of the changes in the United States involve the collegiate coaches being willing to adapt their rules to fit more with the international competitions.
"If they're willing to tweak the rules, I really believe (the United States) will dominate again," Douglas said. "We need to continue to put together elementary and middle school programs, help the sport flourish in minority communities. We want wrestling to dominate those communities. Wrestling has a great chance to have a huge impact on America."
COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTES
BARNESVILLE graduate Tyler Fitzpatrick had a strong debut as the starting tight end for Edinboro University in its win over Walsh University in Canton last Thursday.
BELLAIRE graduate Dalton Conroy scored the first points of the season for Bethany last Saturday. The Bison frosh connected on a 26-yard field goal.
SEVERAL area natives are enjoying early season success as college coaches.
Shadyside graduate Manny Matsakis is 1-0 in his first season at head coach at NAIA Bethany College in Kansas.
Bellaire graduate Todd Fitch, in his first season as wide receivers coach at Boston College, is off to a 2-0 start. Boston College visits USC this week.
Martins Ferry graduate Zac Bruney, in his first season as quarterbacks coach at Ohio Dominican, got a victory last week in his opener.
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