Before I'm inundated with email from wrestlers or former wrestlers in York County, demanding that I stand up for Olympic wrestling, let me tell you here and now that I am a huge fan of Olympic wrestling.

Not that I understand it, because it is different from the wrestling we see at the high school level in York County and it's scored differently, but I enjoy it anyway.

In fact, I'm pretty sure I admitted in a recent column that high school wrestling -- though I never wrestled in high school -- is one of my favorite sports.

And part of the reason for that is the immense respect I developed in high school for wrestlers because of their commitment to conditioning and fitness. We'd be practicing basketball every day when wrestling practice was over, and I recall watching the wrestlers drag themselves out of the wrestling room drenched in sweat and hardly able to place one foot in front of the other as they headed to the locker room. They were wiped out.

No athlete in any sport -- possible exception goes to swimmers and marathon runners -- works harder than wrestlers to achieve a high level of fitness.

Not only that, but wrestling is one of the oldest sports known to mankind. No one played baseball or basketball 2,000 years ago, but I'm pretty sure they wrestled even if no one was keeping score.


For certain, wrestling was one of the original Olympic sports, going back to the Ancient Olympic Games in Greece, which were held from about 800 years before the birth of Christ to about 400 years after the birth of Christ.

And those Ancient Games featured various running events, a pentathlon (consisting of a jumping event, discus and javelin throws, a foot race, and wrestling), boxing, wrestling, something called pankration, and equestrian events. That was it. All of it.

By the way, I didn't have a clue what pankration was, so I looked it up. It was the first martial art introduced into the Greek Olympic Games, and it was a blend of boxing and wrestling, but with hardly any rules. No biting. No gouging of the eyes. Almost anything else was acceptable.

Anyway, it's clear that there were running events, horse-riding events, boxing, the five pentathlon events and about three different wrestling events.

Wrestling was a big deal in ancient Greece.

And now the International Olympic Committee wants to remove wrestling from the Olympic Games.

Why? Well, they're trying to modernize the Olympics, and wrestling just doesn't quite fit the picture they're anxious to present.

It's OK to have synchronized swimming, but not wrestling? Please.

It's OK to allow professional athletes in a variety of sports, but there's no room for wrestling, the one true (or nearly true) amateur sport?

More important, it's a sport with participants from almost 200 nations. So it's inclusive in the truest sense of the word.

Take a look at the long list of sports contested in the modern Olympic Games. You mean to tell me you can't see any more worthy of being dropped than wrestling?

Not all of our choices would look the same, of course, but if I were going to pick eight events to drop because I wouldn't miss them a bit, they'd be: Fencing, trampolining, rhythmic gymnastics, badminton, synchronized swimming, curling, sailing and race walking.

And while not everyone would agree with me on this, it'd be fine by me if they removed basketball, tennis, ice hockey, certain track and field events, ski racing and all other sports where professional athletes are not only allowed, but encouraged, to compete against amateurs.

There are 98 events in the Winter Olympics and 302 events in the Summer Olympics. That's 400 events, and wrestling is one they choose to eliminate for lack of interest. I beg to differ.

I love the Olympics. But it's becoming more and more about commercialism and making money than it is athletic competition in its purest form.

No one is saying it, of course, but that's what the elimination of wrestling is all about.

Not enough tickets sold. Not enough TV interest.

So much for maintaining the integrity of the original Olympic Games.

Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Thurs days. E-mail: lhick