Olympic wrestling has been busy jumping hurdles off the mat, and the final hurdle is drawing near for the sport.
During Wednesday's much anticipated summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, the International Olympic Committee granted consideration to three sports: wrestling, baseball and softball, and sqaush.
It's one step closer to reversing the IOC's decision in February to remove wrestling from the Olympics. The final decision will be on Sept. 8, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Wrestling was the first sport promoted by the IOC, after numerous committees worldwide brought the issue to the forefront of people's minds.
Recently appointed president of the International Wrestling Federation (FILA), Nenad Lalovic, indicated that there is more to come.
“This decision recognizes the great lengths to which we are going to reform our sport and address the IOC's concerns,” Lalovic said.
When the IOC recommended wrestling be removed from the Olympics, the response from the worldwide wrestling community was intoxicating.
John Smith, coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, has been a major advocate for the sport on an international level and has confidence in the sport's future.
“Our leadership was not getting the job done so we replaced them,” Smith said. “Now, these changes in the rules and promotion of the sport, this is what we should have been doing all along. When you see how quickly they have organized, it obvious that the world is crying out for wrestling.”
Smith has every reason to fell strongly about what happens over the next four months, he gave a portion of his life to the USA Olympic team, and made a mark on history that few could match.
A two-time Olympic Gold medalist (1988, 1992), Smith earned his spot as one of the 100 greatest Olympians of all time.
Smith is a member of the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling (CPOW) a powerful U.S. based group that formed three days after the IOC voted to kick grapplers out of the Olympic games.
But even CPOW, which boasts legends like Smith, Dan Gable, and Bill Scherr, plays a small role in the hurried recovery of the sport.
Russian President, Vladimir V. Putin, made an appearance at the St. Petersburg conference Wednesday. He has long been an advocate for wrestling, a major sport in his country rivaling basketball and ice hockey. Mikhail Mamiashvili, president of the Russian Wrestling Federation, was also in attendance, and he addressed the error in the IOC's early ruling.
“The IOC raised very correct questions, which had to be heard by the leadership of the federation,” Mamiashvili said. “However, in my opinion, this is not a reason to deprive the multimillion army of wrestling fans from realizing their potential through this wonderful sporting event.”
FILA immediately replaced it's defunct president back in February when the boom was lowered on the sport. Since then, new rules have been adopted which have helped the sport drastically.
Scoring has been simplified and beefed up. A takedown is now worth two points instead of one.
The format of three two-minute periods has been scrapped for two three-minute periods- making conditioning more important than ever.
Additionally, FILA has added women and current athletes to it's nine-member board, meeting the requests of the IOC.
The changes that have resulted from the scramble over the last three months are not only big, they're effective.
Fans will see more points, simpler scoring and increased excitement in matches. Wrestling is slowly but surely adapting to the needs of 21st century sports fans, and with the September 8 deadline fast approaching, it couldn't come a moment too soon.