“It made me sick.”
That was John Smith's reaction to Tuesday's announcement that the International Olympic Committee was dropping wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games.
“It just made me sick to think that opportunity for 14-, 15-, 16-year-old kids who have thoughts about being an Olympic champion is erased,” said Smith, the Oklahoma State wrestling coach and former Olympic champion from Del City.
Smith vowed that the wrestling world would unite in its battle to keep the sport in the Olympics. A final decision will not be made until September, he said.
“I was on the phone a lot (Tuesday) with not just people in the country but all over the world. We're all ready to stand together,” he said.
“It's not just us. It's not just Oklahoma State or John Smith that has a passion for wrestling. It's all over the world and there are a lot of numbers behind it. The fight is just starting.”
Smith called the IOC's recommendation unjustified and said he was disappointed that the United States was not represented on the board that made the decision. Wrestling shouldn't have even been considered for elimination, he said.
“We have almost 200 countries that participate in wrestling,” Smith said. “Comparing that with the other core sports in the Olympics, it's one of the highest.
“We have over a million wrestlers just in the United States. There's not a million athletes in some of the sports that are participating in the Olympics.”
The decision to kick wrestling out of the Olympics is personal for wrestlers in Oklahoma, he said.
“It's probably our most successful sport in the Olympics for the state,” Smith said. “I'm fighting for that 12-year-old kid in Oklahoma. I'm fighting for that kid that has that dream.”