As a member of the MIT wrestling team and the greater wrestling community, I was saddened by Boston University’s recent decision to drop its wrestling program. At a time when wrestling is still recovering from the shock of being dropped from the Olympics, this decision came as an added blow. However, I have been inspired by the way the wrestlers across the country have rallied together to try to save the program. While the university’s decision was disappointing, it is also emblematic of a larger problem with the sport.
People think wrestlers are crazy. Wrestlers are perceived as a bunch of guys who willingly starve themselves to roll around with other sweaty guys in spandex. In a recent article on BU’s program, Kevin Paul Dupont writes, “Wrestlers are a stern bunch, often with a threshold for pain and love of near-hopelessness that borders on the maniacal, if not masochistic.” Dupont perfectly captures the problem with wrestling: people outside the wrestling community view the actions of wrestlers as crazy because they don’t realize what wrestlers get out the sport.
The wrestling community must do a better job publicizing the life lessons wrestling teaches. When others gain this perspective and realize the joys the sport offers, our behavior may no longer seem so crazy.
The best way to change the perception of wrestling is by having wrestlers share their stories of dedication, resilience, pride, sacrifice and triumph. Hopefully, by catalyzing a greater understanding of the sport, we will be able to inspire the next generation of great wrestlers, and great men.
When more people understand the merits of the sport, the chances of programs being cut may decline, and the sport may even return to the Olympic Games.
Since the Olympic announcement, the wrestling community has rallied together in support of our sport. Now, we should capitalize on this momentum.