On Tuesday morning, the International Olympic Committee announced its plan to cut wrestling from the 2020 Summer Games.
The news immediately reverberated across Oklahoma, a wrestling-crazed state with a multitude of big names and well-known legends.
One of those big names is Oklahoma City University men's and women's wrestling coach Archie Randall. He has coached the sport for 28 years, and is Oklahoma's winningest high-school coach. He spoke with The Oklahoman soon after, sharing his thoughts on the decision and what may happen in the aftermath:
Q: What was your initial reaction?
A: My initial reaction was, “How stupid is that?” It's a pretty horrendous deal when you take the oldest sport that man has known and you take it out of the Olympics. It's a recommendation from the IOC Board, still has to go to the IOC general membership for vote in May, still has a chance to be rebutted. And you got to think about this other thing, the nations that will be mostly affected are Canada, USA, Japan, China and Russia. These are all major players in all the games. … It really takes away the Olympic dream for a lot of kids. A lot of kids.
Since the announcement, there's been a pretty vocal opposition to the decision and a large backing for the sport of wrestling. Does that give you hope?
You think about this, high school participation has grown over 40,000 in the last decade, there's 95 new colleges wrestling, it's the sixth most popular sport with over 272 participants. There's 8,000 women that wrestle now, 21 college programs. The D-1 (NCAA Championships) are sold out every year no matter where you put them at. The one that was held in Oklahoma City a few years back setting the record, and we have it back next year. There's just a multitude of outcry. It's still a growing sport, still the man's oldest sport. Why they would choose to do this at the IOC, who knows? You don't know what's going on. But the outcry from the U.S. is going to be doubled by the Canadians, doubled by the Japanese, the Chinese, the Russians. Think about that, these are five of the most powerful nations in the world there's going to be an outcry from.
Particularly in Oklahoma, a state with great high school and college wrestling, it's a decision that will sting, correct?
Oh yeah. Us and Iowa and Ohio and Illinois and Michigan. All of the major states that produce the Olympians. It's going to sting. I don't think it's going to kill our sport or anything, but it's a slap in the face, to be honest with you. Of all the wrestling powers, we've won the most medals at the Olympics. So I don't know, I heard they were going to drop Greco wrestling and increase the number of women from four to seven weights and keep the freestyle wrestling. But it's a shocker. I've been getting calls all morning from people asking what's going on.
Are you confident that even if you can't get it back in the Olympics, this sport will remain popular?
Yeah. I mean, they dropped softball out of the Olympics and I don't think it hurt them. I think softball is growing now. They dropped baseball, I don't think it's affected baseball, has it? I mean think about it, they drop baseball? They drop softball? What are they going to drop next, basketball? Is it slighted toward where the Americans are successful? Possibly could be. It's a pretty political arena when you talk about the Olympics, the number of sports, stuff like that. It's a huge deal.