March 5, 2013
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Brent Metcalf has been on international wrestling trips before, but none quite like this last one.
From the time Metcalf left his home in Iowa City, to the moment he was wheels down in Azerbaijan for World Cup training, wrestling’s global landscape had made a tectonic shift. The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee issued a statement on Feb. 12 recommending removing wrestling from its list of 25 core sports on the Olympic Games program beginning in 2020.
The announcement was made in Lausanne, Switzerland, and a shocked reaction echoed worldwide.
Metcalf was in Frankfort, Germany, with 15 members of USA Wrestling’s freestyle team when the news broke.
“I remember some of the guys talking about it and my first instinct was this must be some kind of joke,” said Metcalf. “But after about 30 minutes had passed, I woke up and decided to get the news for myself.”
The news wasn’t terminal, but it wasn’t good.
FILA, wrestling’s governing body, still has an opportunity to present the sport for reinstatement when the IOC executive board meets May 24-27 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Wrestling is one of eight sports vying for a single opening in 2020. The others include a combined bid from baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding, and wushu.
The IOC General Session will then reconvene Sept. 4-7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a pair of votes. The first is to accept or reject the Executive Board’s recommendation to remove wrestling from the 2020 program. If the General Session accepts that proposal, the second vote will determine which of the eight vying sports will be included in the 2020 Olympic program.
The World Cup was a contested in Tehran, Iran, and Metcalf said he witnessed an international response that lends reason for optimism.
“It was clear they were upset about it, and they were determined to get it corrected,” Metcalf said of the international perspective.
“I think a lot of our coaching staff got into the nuts and bolts of what they’re trying to do on their end, specifically. I know they feel really confident about being able to get it reinstated, just because of the horsepower they have in Russia and Iran, and the influences they have internationally.”
While the battle continues outside the mat, the American team also understands its mission inside the circle. The U.S. placed third as a team at the World Cup, posting a 4-1 record with wins over Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia and Japan. Its lone loss was to tournament host and eventual World Cup champion Iran.
Metcalf (66 kg/145.5 lbs.) went 4-1 on the trip to earn a silver medal. Tervel Dlagnev also grabbed a silver medal, while Jordan Burroughs (74 kg/163 lbs.) and Max Askren (84 kg/185 lbs.) earned gold medals for the U.S. Former Hawkeye Phil Keddy (84 kg/185 lbs.) went 1-0 on the trip, earning a 1-2, 1-0, 2-0 victory over Japan’s Shinya Matsumoto.
Metcalf said while he has an ear on the outside noise, his focus remains in the wrestling room preparing for the next competition, the U.S. Nationals on April 19-21 in Las Vegas.
“Next is spending a lot of time in the Iowa wrestling room training and getting better,” he said. “I lost to arguably one of the better guys in the world at the World Cup. I’ve got to evaluate that, and I’ve got to find a way to beat that guy and guys of his caliber in the future.”
As for his sport’s Olympic future?
“I think that we have a lot of support, I think there are a lot people behind the scenes that are doing work to get this corrected,” he said. “I feel confident in the guys behind the scenes that are working hard at it. They’re going to do it justice and do the best they can to get it reinstated.”