Wagener, SC (WLTX) -- Wrestlers in the midlands react to the news of the decision to remove their sport from the 2020 Olympics.
Wrestling has been apart of the modern olympic games since 1896. But Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee moved to cut the sport from the 2020 Olympics. Some local wrestlers who say the decision hits the Midlands youth the hardest.
"Wrestling in the Olympics is like the NFL for us, said Benjamin Willard, owner of Blacksmith MMA in Wagener. "My dream was always as a kid to go to the Olympics."
On the mat at this sports gym in Wagener, youth and adult wrestlers spend long hours practicing throws, takedowns, and technical skills. Willard says he was crushed when he heard the International Olympics committee pulled a reversal of their own.
"I couldn't believe they were thinking about taking one of the base sports out of the Olympics."
Wrestling will now join seven shortlisted sports looking to be included in the 2020 Olympics including baseball, karate, and wakeboarding.
"Wrestling doesn't get a lot of TV coverage."
Over at the home of the Mighty Leopards, where the Lugoff-Elgin middle school wrestling squad has won 7 of the last 10 state championships. Coach Ted Monroe said many of his kids also dream of one day wrestling in the Olympics.
"I think there's going to be some repercussions, people are going to voice their opinion as far as their disapproval of it."
Many fans of the sport even took to facebook to voice their opinion. On the white house website, a petition had 6200 signatures in a matter of hours requesting the sport be added back.
Blacksmith's MMA in Wagener is supported by USA Wrestling, who pays for the Gym's insurance. Something Willard says may not be available if this decision sticks.
"They want those kids starting as early as possible to get those kids learning what they need to know so they can grow up and send them to the Olympics if they get that good."
A fight, not for points, but for the love of a sport, that could end up closing the doors of gyms like Benjamins'.
"I just feel like it's taking an opportunity away from some of these kids that really deserve it."
On their website, the International Olympic Committee gives this reason for removing wrestling from the games:
"In an effort to ensure the Olympic Games remain relevant to sports fans of all generations. The Olympic Programme Commission systematically reviews every sport following each edition of the Games."
Representatives from seven sports cut from the Olympics are scheduled to make presentations to the Executive Board at its meeting in Russia, in May.
In an email to News19, a spokesperson for the IOC responded to questions regarding removing the sport:
"The Olympic Programme Commission's report is based on 39 criteria and over 70 questions. There is no single reason why a sport would not make the list of 25 core sports, but the decision is made based on numerous factors," said Sandrine Tonge, Media Relations Manager.
"The Olympic Programme must balance historical perspective with new trends, universal participation and regional preferences, team and individuals sports, combat and artistic disciplines. In other words, it must appeal to the interests of people of all ages around the world. It has to cater for all tastes. Thus the determination of the core sports and the composition of the Olympic Programme is a complex matter and not a simple task."