Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R) launched a petition drive on Friday that he hopes will turn into a national and international campaign to get wrestling reinstated as an Olympic sport.
Calling the surprise announcement by the International Olympic Committee last week to get rid of wrestling from the 2020 games via secret ballot "short-sighted" and a "significant departure from Olympic tradition," Branstad said wrestling was a "part of the fabric of Iowa," and that puts Iowans "in a strong position" to advocate for wrestling.
Legendary U.S. Olympian Dan Gable, the 1972 gold medalist who also coached wrestling at Iowa for over 20 years, winning 16 NCAA team titles, joined him for the announcement in Des Moines, Iowa, where the state's high school wrestling championships were taking place. So did Iowa Lieutenant Gov. Kim Reynolds, University of Iowa associate head wrestling coach Terry Brands and University of Northern Iowa wrestling coach Doug Schwab.
Gable said the petition will "merge to the national and international level" and noted that since there is a precedent for a sport being reinstated, the fight will be less difficult. Branstad said he was using funds from his reelection campaign committee to finance the effort because there just was not enough to get "appropriation" for state funds.
Branstad said the Let's Keep Wrestling campaign would go "beyond the state of Iowa." In fact, Russia, Iran, and the United States, three countries that do not agree on much, all strongly criticized the IOC's decision to exclude wrestling from the 2020 Games.
"This is bigger than our state," Branstad said, while noting "Iowa is kinda the epicenter of" wrestling. "When wrestling in threatened, the number one elected official in the state, the governor, I believe, should lead the fight.”
Interested parties can sign the petition on the "Let's Keep Wrestling" website.
"Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the Olympics, and the International Olympic Committee has put it on the chopping block for 2020," the site says. "Join Governor Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds and fellow Iowans in opposing this affront to the Olympic tradition by signaling your support for Olympic wrestling below. Let's Keep Wrestling!"
"Bottom line is wrestling is good for the economy," Gable said at the press conference. "When you're good for the economy you're going to survive."