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USA Wrestling Back in Olympic Games

USA Wrestling Back in Olympic Games

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The International Olympic Committee voted Sunday to include wrestling in the 2020 and 2024 Olympic games.

The decision comes seven months after the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, excluded wrestling from the list of 25 sports it recommended for the 2020 Tokyo games.

Since February, wrestling has been competing with other sports for a spot in the games. The IOC approved wrestling as a provisional sport for the 2020 and 2024 games with 49 votes Sunday. Wrestling beat squash and a combined bid from baseball-softball for inclusion in the games.

Some of the U.S.'s top wrestlers gathered at the USA Wrestling Headquarters in Colorado Springs in anticipation of Sunday's vote.  The group streamed the IOC meeting and erupted in cheers as soon as the decision came down.

Adeline Gray was at the headquarters Sunday to celebrate. She's wrestled since she was 6 years old. She's a force to be reckoned with on the wrestling mat -- she's the 2012 Senior World Champion. 

"The U.S. does not have an Olympic gold medalist and I think that's what drives me right now," said Gray.  "I want that Olympic gold and I want to be the first one for the U.S. to stand on that podium and say that I did it."

Gray's dream, one she shares with many others, was in jeopardy.  Gray said it was hard to fathom wrestling's exclusion from future games.

"I didn't even know how to process it," said Gray. "The younger girls that really have a goal of being an Olympic champion, they were about to have that dream taken away."

Les Gutches is the associate executive director of USA Wrestling. He's watched wrestling implement changes to the sport handed down by the IOC during the last seven months. 

"We improved the rules, we improved our governance, there is more equality now in the sport of wrestling," said Gutches. "We changed the way we present the sport and we modernized it."

Gutches finished seventh in the 1996 Olympic Games. He also won a gold medal at the World Championship in 1997.  He was shocked when wrestling was not included in the list for 2020 games.  

"The emotion was disbelief. Wrestling is one of the original sports in the games. I know I'm admittedly a little biased but I couldn't imagine the Olympics without wrestling," said Gutches.

He said changes made for the sport will continue its rich tradition into the future.

"I believe we will look back in 10 or 15 years and say this was a golden age for wrestling," said Gutches. "This was a crisis for the sport but out of that crisis we were able to take the sport to the next level."

There will now be six weight classes for all three categories of wrestling: women's freestyle, men's freestyle and men's greco-roman.  Before, there were seven weight classes for men's wrestling and three classes for women's wrestling.

The hardwork for the sport isn't over. Wrestling is back as a provisional sport for the 2020 and 2024 olympic games. Leaders in the sport will work to make it a core sport for the 2028 games.

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