COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Members of the local wrestling community said they were "blind-sided" and "dumbfounded" by the sport's potential exclusion from the 2020 Olympic games.
The excutive board of the International Olympic Committee recommended 25 sports for the 2020 games and wrestling didn't make the list. It will now be one of seven sports vying for inclusion in the games. It will present its bid in May for inclusion; if it advances through that round of voting, it will be up for a final vote in September.
"I was shocked. I didn't expect it at all," said Pine Creek High School wrestler Geordan Martinez.
Martinez is a senior with a smashing 156-2 wrestling record. He said he is focused on competing at the collegiate level, but he's also dreamed of taking his wrestling career further.
"Every athlete has thought about that at some point," said Martinez.
Jared Haberman with Mile High Wrestling Club works with an elite group of young wrestlers in Colorado Springs.
"It's going to be a rude awakening for a lot of individuals in the area," said Haberman.
He said the announcement was unbelievable and hard to comprehend. He said the announcement also hit close to home, with the Olympic Training Center located in Colorado Springs. He said a lot of his young wrestlers have had the opportunity to train with Olympic athletes.
"We have some fifth-graders, sixth-graders, seventh-, eight-graders, they are going to be crying in their pillow tonight because that's their lifelong goal," said Haberman. "Yes, it'd be nice to be a high school state champion and a college national champion but that ultimate goal was that olympic-level competition. And without that, it elimates a lot of potential you can put in preparing to be a champion."
"Being one of the oldest sports, it's just frustrating that they would turn their back on something with so much history," said Pine Creek wrestling coach Billy Gabel.
He said it's hard to predict what impact this will have on the sport. He said there are still opportunities for star wrestlers to advance past the collegiate level. He expects this announcement will rally the wrestling community.
"Although wrestling is somewhat of a small family, you're going to see some wrestlign families just as a whole come up and rise up and really push to see some things move," said Gabel.
As a coach, he said, he will continue preparing for the next level. His team was preparing for regionals coming up and state in two weeks.
Gabel spoke with leaders in the U.S. wrestling community. He said they were equally surprised by the announcement. He said things aren't looking positive for the sport's future in the Olympics because none of the 15 voting members on the IOC.'s executive board has any ties to wrestling.