STILLWATER — Coleman Scott, a bronze medalist at the last Olympics, gazed around the room inside the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“There are a lot of kids here,” said Scott, a former Oklahoma State national champion and four-time All-American. “This was for them.”
This — the International Olympic Committee's vote to restore wrestling's place in the Games — was a confirmation of the sport's past, present and, yes, what's yet to come.
“It's my future,” said OSU sophomore Alex Dieringer. “I'm really excited knowing that I'm going to be able to continue following my Olympic dreams.”
After being stunned with a decision in February to cut wrestling from the Olympics, the sport rallied with a galvanizing effort of the sport's leaders, including OSU coach John Smith. They promised changes to modernize wrestling into a more entertaining — think MMA, with the addition of music and lighting — as well as a more easily understood version of a sport that dates back to the ancient Games and has been included in every modern Olympics with the exception of 1900. More weight classes for women are also in place.
“Wrestling is new in virtually every way,” said Jim Scherr, a former wrestler and ex-CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The sport's leaders and their passionate efforts saved wrestling's place in the Games, if not its future.
With a spot in the 2020 and 2024 games at stake, wrestling defeated a joint bid by softball and baseball, and squash by gaining 49 votes — more than the other two proposals combined.
“I think the message that was sent down today from the IOC was since wrestling has been in the ancient Games, as well as the modern Games, we shouldn't be trailing,” Smith said, “we're expected to be leading.
“Winning the majority vote back in May, to forward us to today's decision, and winning the majority of the vote today was huge for us and gives us a second opportunity to do it well.”
Oklahoma coach Mark Cody said he battled nerves, and ultimately emotions.
“It was real stressful watching it. This has been with us the last six months. We've been thinking about it, reading about it and doing everything we could to get it pushed through. But not until the vote does it all surface.”