While I have tremendous respect for athletes of every Olympic sport, it is difficult to understand why wrestling was singled out for exclusion. I would imagine that it has at least as many fans across the globe as ribbon twirling, trampoline and speed-walking. No wonder the decision has been met with bafflement in many quarters. U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun was among those who were surprised, “given the history and tradition of wrestling, and its popularity and universality.”
To exclude wrestling from the Olympics would be a tragedy for the sport, for the athletes and for the proud tradition of the Games. Over thousands of years, wrestling has spread to every continent. It is practiced in hundreds of countries and expressed through a multiplicity of cultures. It has thrived through war, depression, social changes and globalization. But the Olympic committee panel didn’t see fit to include it in the 2020 Games. Something is wrong with that picture.
Over my eight decades, I’ve collected a list of maxims and life lessons that I’ve found meaningful and instructive. These eventually became dubbed “Rumsfeld’s Rules.” One of the more recent additions comes from one of the most successful wrestlers in the world, Dan Gable, who won the gold medal in the 1972 Olympics without giving up a single point. “Once you’ve wrestled,” he said, “everything else in life is easy.” Indeed, it’s hard to imagine many other sports that require such focus, discipline and second-by-second attention to the movements of an opponent.