SHOREVIEW, Minn. -- Minnesota's wrestling community has taken a fighting stance after the International Olympic Committee decided to cut the sport from the 2020 Summer Games.
The IOC cited troubles with global participation and popularity.
"Shock, anger," said Brandon Paulson, who cites the Olympics as the pinnacle of his career. "I was stunned this morning."
The Anoka native is a 1996 Olympic silver medalist, competing for the top wresting honor in Atlanta, at age 22.
His honor is the inspiration for his renowned gym in Shoreview, PINnacle resting School.
"We have five or six athletes we train that have an Olympic dream if not more, but they have a realistic shot of making the Olympics, but now what? I have texts from the parents. Now what?"
Paulson says the entire wrestling world was blindsided, and now must battle for the survival of an ancient sport that built the Olympics.
"In 1896, wrestling started. It was one of the first sports," he said.
Minnesota Gophers Wrestling coach J Robinson says he's confident the pushback from the international wrestling community will make the IOC reconsider, but he adds that the committee has lost the purpose of the Olympic Games.
"We are so far away from what the Olympic Games were, and we keep diluting it with other sports that are not Olympic sports. Curling is not an Olympic sport. Beach volleyball is not an Olympic sport. Softball, what we're doing is we're taking what true sports are and interjecting them with recreational sports and commercializing everything. Snowboarding, why is snowboarding an Olympic sport?" asked Robinson.
Even years after his own Olympic win, Paulson has not lost his warrior ways. In frustration, he says he got back on the mat this morning, wrestling for the first time in a year. He calls the elimination of his sport a political match, and says he has more motivation to put the fringe sport back in the forefront.
"I love this sport. It's not going to die. Wrestling is not dead. We are going to keep it alive," said Paulson.
A Facebook page dedicated to saving Olympic wrestling gained thousands of supporters within hours, along with another online petition.
Wrestling is known as the world's oldest competitive sport, dating back to the ancient Olympics in 708 BC.
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