The UCSB Wrestling Club will be hosting a free event called “SoCal Shootout to Save Olympic Wrestling” tomorrow at Robertson Gymnasium.
The event, which will include guest speakers and other activities, aims to increase student knowledge regarding the sport of wresting and fundraise for the official “Save Olympic Wrestling” campaign. The campaign promotes the overturning of the International Olympic Committee’s decision made earlier this year, which removes wrestling from the 2020 Olympics. The event was first proposed by Wrestling Club captain and second-year environmental studies major Johnny Alonzo, and SoCal Shootout will feature club members performing technique demonstrations. There will also be a friendly dual meet between the UCSB Wrestling Club and teams from UC Riverside and Ventura College, in addition to guest lectures and food sales to raise funds for the campaign.
Alonzo said he was inspired to create the event due to the positive impact he believes wrestling brings to its competitors. He said the decision to remove wrestling from the Olympics would be a devastating blow to millions of wrestlers worldwide, and thus he felt it necessary to stand in opposition to it.
“I told myself that there was no way in hell that I was going to just stand at the sidelines, while a decision was made,” Alonzo said. “I wasn’t going to let millions of dreams be crushed. I had to at least try to do more.”
Alonzo said the reinstatement of wrestling is currently making progress and is currently competing for a spot in the Olympics against baseball/softball and squash.
“We hope to show the community just how pure a sport wrestling is, and to convince them to join our efforts to save it through raising money, signing petitions and just increasing awareness of the issue,” Alonzo said.
Garik Hauer, veteran UCSB wrestler and fourth-year political science and global studies double major, said he was surprised at the IOC’s decision to remove wrestling as an Olympic sport as such a move was unjust.
“I think that it was the wrong decision. I understand why they did it. As far as they’re concerned, they are worried about ratings and drawing in a younger crowd,” Hauer said. “But wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the Olympics next to track and field. One of the great things about wrestling is that because there is really no professional league. The Olympic gold is the dream for so many wrestlers out there.”
Hauer said the SoCal Shootout event will educate spectators about the sport of wrestling, which has historically drawn a smaller audience.
“They’re really going to see, especially those that don’t know much about wrestling, the dedication and how serious all the athletes take this sport,” Hauer said. “It’s so intense and so personal, and it’s really going to reflect how personal a lot of wrestlers take this decision.”
Wrestling Club coach Chuck Huber said the IOC’s decision downgrades wrestling’s influence in athletic history and, according to Huber, more nations medaled in wrestling than in any other sport in the last Olympic season, with the exception of track and field.
“I thought it was a terribly stupid decision,” Huber said. “Wrestling was one of the original Olympic sports, both in the modern Olympics and the ancient Olympics. It is one of the sports in which the largest number of nations participates.”
Huber said the structure of wrestling as a sport accommodates a diverse group of participants, making it contribute well to the Olympic Games as it is so impacting and universal.
“All kinds of people can participate in it — any size, any weight, any body type. You can be handicapped, you can be blind, you can have missing limbs, everybody can wrestle and the Olympics is traditionally the ultimate goal for the wrestler,” Huber said.