I am now a fan of freestyle wrestling.
I had the opportunity to watch the World Cup Men’s Freestyle Wrestling this past weekend. Prior to Saturday, the only things I knew about freestyle wrestling were 1) it was at the ancient Olympic Games, 2) the International Olympic Committee almost removed it from the program, and 3) my friend Dan wrestled in high school.
But 3 minutes into watching wrestling, I was hooked.
I didn’t know the rules but it was easy enough to understand after one round: competitors were supposed to stay within the circle and were awarded various points based on the attacks and holds. At the end of the 6 minutes, whomever has the most points win. However, a competitor may win even before the 6-minute mark if they have 11 points more than their opponent. For example, in one round, Iran shut out Turkey with 11-0 points just after the 5-minute mark.
Wrestling is pure and simple. You don’t need an expensive helmet like football, bats and balls like baseball, or a boat like rowing. Although they compete on mats and wear uniforms and shoes, in its simplest form, you only need space and an opponent to compete. The sports is a competition of strength and strategy.
And now, my shut out to Billy Baldwin. Many people were involved in the process but perhaps because Hollywood got involved, the issue that wrestling might be removed from the Olympic program actually made it on the news. Fortunately, their efforts were successful and wrestling was reinstated for the 2020 Olympic Games. More importantly, Billy Baldwin brought wrestling back to the forefront. The attention the sport received brought back its relevance.
Wrestling is relevant because, unlike baseball, American football, and dressage, it is recognized throughout the world and it is accessible. The closest other sport is probably soccer– the real futbol. Wrestling, like other international sports, brings diplomacy. Last Saturday, I witnessed athletes representing countries on the opposing sides of politics on the same mat– even the same circle. Prior to each session, they lined-up facing each other, then greeted each other, and shook hands. Before each weight division began a round, they respectfully acknowledged each other before the timer began.
Billy Baldwin, through his efforts– fight– in ensuring wrestling continued to be a part of the Olympic program, also reminded the world of why wrestling is a true and important sport. Wrestling is displays athleticism and the true spirit of sports.