By Andy Solomon
Over the weekend we learned that the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games would again feature wrestling, a sport that the governing body cancelled earlier this winter.
Many folks were greatly disappointed when wrestling was originally dropped. I’m sure that our wrestling coach, Rob Hjerling, and his staff, along with his roster of cadet-student-athletes were disheartened as well.
I’ve always felt that it isn’t ever too late to correct a mistake. And I believe that the Olympic governing body erred when they dropped wrestling from the international offering.
After all, wrestling was one of the original Olympic sports.
I also found it ironic that while many college programs were eliminating wrestling from their intercollegiate athletic offerings in the past 20 years, there has been a rise in rasslin’ viewership.
To be sure, there is quite a difference between wrestling and rasslin’. Wrestling is a most competitive and serious sport, one that we’ve offered here at The Citadel for decades because it fits snugly with what we’re all about.
However, I’ve watched some rasslin’ and we’ve had it in McAlister Field House many times in the 1990s that featured the likes of Ric Flair and many others. Those were rentals and we made money.
From my perspective, wrestling is a competitive sport while rasslin’ is sports entertainment. They should never, ever be confused.
So I will continue to believe that the Olympic folks got it right when wrestling was reinstated.
But what got me was that baseball/softball was not. Nor was squash.
Let me address squash first: I like to eat it. I love it steamed with onions, salted and buttered too much, and I adore it in a casserole. Either goes well with fried chicken and a helping of rice and gravy. But squash as a competitive sport? No, thank you; it isn’t to my liking.
But that also leaves us baseball lovers way out in left field.
The International Baseball Federation, once directed by Harvey Schiller ’60 – a member of our Athletic Hall of Fame – was instrumental in baseball being an Olympic sport in the past. I haven’t yet discussed with Harvey why baseball/softball was not included in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics and will certainly look forward to that conversation.
But the truth is that as much as I love the game of baseball, if given the choice, I’d rather see wrestling reinstated in the Olympic offering.
Wrestling and boxing are a big part of the Olympics. Always has been; always should be.
The Olympics are held during late summer, smack in middle of the MLB playoff run. I don’t think that Bud Selig and the “Boys of Summer” want or need any more baseball competition for television viewership. There is enough already.
It isn’t that baseball doesn’t belong in the Olympics; I just feel that wrestling belongs more.
But no one ever asked me.
For if they did, I’d have to discuss it over a plate of fried chicken, rice and gravy, and, of course, steamed squash.