Olympic Wrestling Fights for Its Survival
Wrestling is “brotherhood.” This is the way cause leader Olin Morris described the sport that has been a signature part of his life. On February 12, 2013, news outlets around the world reported a surprising decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC): Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling would be scrapped by the 2020 games. Without hesitation, Olin created a petition on Causes.com asking the IOC to reverse its decision. To date, the petition has attracted more than 25,000 signatures from around the world. Olin, a first-time leader, chatted with us this week about his campaign.
Olin is from Philadelphia, PA and grew up in a working-class neighborhood where getting knocked around, and defending yourself, was a daily routine. He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s a fighter: both with his fists and with his heart. Olin said, “I come from a town in between New York City, New Jersey and a hour and a half away from Philadelphia. I come from two generations of wrestling in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. I was a naturally competitive kid and wrestling just became my number one focus. As I got a little older my focus came to other things such as drinking, and getting into trouble and eventually things most parents would not be proud of. I would seem to teeter on disaster. I had this sport that I enjoyed so much that during the season all of those mischievous things would fall to the way side.”
The Olympics gave Olin a reason to set aside mischief and admire world-class athletes. “Every Olympics I would find out who we had running for the gold. It took some of the key coaches in my life to spark that love for wrestling back in me. One of my coaches was a wrestler on the international level. My coach had wrestled all around the world and spoke seven languages. He was like a second father and taught me how he learned wrestling in Russia. An Armenian who had friends from all around the world — Muslim, Christian, Jewish and of every race and creed. He showed me that this was a universal sport much larger than us. It was the love for the sport and the universal respect and brotherhood amongst wrestlers that was eye-opening.”
Olin was angry upon hearing news that the IOC wanted to ban a staple of the games. But he quickly channeled that energy into action. He said, “I knew about Causes.com and thought it would be a good platform for a petition. I share causes I believe in on Facebook and it seems to make a difference.”
Like most people who have been critical of the IOC’s decision, Olin couldn’t understand why such an integral part of the Olympics — a sport anchored by history and tradition — could be cast aside so easily. He said, “The games are for the sport, the competition. The original sports of the Athenian games should never be replaced. There are staples of the games. You have running, wrestling, track and field, and everything else is like whipped cream on apple pie.”
Olin’s career and training have allowed him to meet people, tough competitors he respects greatly, from all across the world. His motivations are rooted in the global part of the games and the wrestling’s unifying components. “Its important to a wrestler that wants to take their skill beyond a high school wrestling mat. This sport has been around for centuries and is practiced in some form in every country: In the Middle East, the old Soviet countries, Asia, and even Cuba. This is a sport that runs deep in the culture of these countries. And when a wrestler wants to become the best at this sport they must compete nationally or internationally for recognition. Wrestling in America is a rite of passage in some families and a tradition. The sport goes back to early immigrants and the indigenous peoples of this country. We call our wrestling Folkstyle and it is what you would see in most high schools in America.”
Olin hopes his petition will capture the hearts of the athlete and competitor in all of us. The quest to challenge yourself, train, sacrifice, and fulfill a dream is what he believes his campaign can help save. “There is no million dollar contract or reality show spin off from this sport; It is that gold medal, in the Olympics, where wrestlers gain their respect.”
Visit Olin Morris’ petition to learn more about his cause and keep track of his progress.