IOWA CITY — Gold medalist Jordan Burroughs and his fiance nervously awaited word Sunday on whether wrestling would be reinstated as an Olympic sport.
For the Burroughs in Lincoln, Neb., and many others in the American wrestling community, the web stream of the International Olympic Committee’s historic vote from Buenos Aires was one of the most stressful experiences of their lives.
“It was like the most suspenseful movie I’ve ever seen,” Burroughs told The Associated Press.
Tension quickly turned to jubilation for Burroughs and other wrestlers across the world.
After seven months fighting to preserve its Olympic status, wrestling was reinstated for the 2020 Games, which were awarded to Tokyo the previous day.
Wrestling, which was dropped from the list of core sports in February, received 49 votes to win in the first round of secret balloting by the International Olympic Committee. Baseball-softball got 24 votes and squash received 22.
According to wrestling great Dan Gable, the IOC’s original recommendation turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Faced with Olympic elimination, wrestling finally embraced the change the IOC had long demanded.
“Had we not been kicked out seven months ago, we would have been seven months deeper in a hole that maybe we wouldn’t have been able to dig out of,” Gable, a gold medalist in the 1972 Games, said from a watch party at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “For me it was like, if we would have lost (Sunday), it would have been two losses in seven months. And all of a sudden it becomes a pattern, and a pattern of losses becomes a disaster.”
USA Wrestling helped avert such a disaster, reacting quickly to the IOC’s recommendation by forming the Committee to Preserve Olympic Wrestling.
According to chairman Bill Scherr, the group was instrumental in helping focus an international effort to reshape the sport.