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At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Penn wrestling coach Rob Eiter represented the United States, coming in eighth out of a field of 19.

On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee decided to drop wrestling from the Olympic program starting with the 2020 Summer Games. The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke with Penn wrestling coach Rob Eiter — who wrestled for the U.S. at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the 105-pound weightclass — to gain some insight on the IOC’s decision.

Daily Pennsylvanian: First off, as an ex-Olympian yourself and as a college wrestling coach, what did you think of the IOC’s decision?

Rob Eiter: I think everybody’s pretty much in shock. I truly had no idea that wrestling was put in this position and the potential of it happening … Honestly I haven’t really processed everything right now.

DP: What does this mean for the future of the sport? Does it change anything about the next four years, especially since wrestling is still in the 2016 Olympics?

Eiter: [There] seems to be an outside chance that [the IOC] can reinstate it perpetually. Again, you never feel comfortable in that situation but obviously [the wrestling community] is going to give it a try and give [its] best effort.

If it does stick and wrestling is discontinued from the 2020 Olympics, as to the next Olympic cycle, it can go either way. It’s a huge crossroads for a lot of the athletes right now. [Preparing for the Olympics] is a huge four-year commitment; obviously your personal life, your social life and your family — you put pretty much everything on hold to wrestle for this one day. The age factor has to be considered in there, [as] a 25-year old athlete will think twice about another four years because you’re getting a little bit later in your years — career-wise and family-wise you got to start thinking about the next stage of your life — [whereas] a younger athlete has a little bit more flexibility with time.

But also it can be a chance to prove to everybody that it is the greatest sport, the original sport — in reality there wouldn’t be the Olympics without wrestling. Honestly I don’t know how the next four years will present if it does get discontinued after that. Right now I know there’s a lot of wrestlers that are just in disbelief and obviously not very happy and a little disgruntled with the [IOC]. But you got to think positive, to think that we do have a chance to get it back so being the type of athletes that we are we’re definitely going to go in there and make sure we give it our best bet.

DP: What is the wrestling community planning to do in response to the decision?

Eiter: Right now, I don’t even know everything so I think there’s just a big question mark as to why exactly — we’re really just trying to gather some more facts here. At the end there seems to be a second vote with the potential to get back in, but from what I could understand there’s quite a few sports that are vying for this one slot that’s left for the Olympics. Right now obviously I think we’re just getting over the shock of the fact that we’re in this position and I think the wrestling community right now is just in the stage now of ‘Okay, what’s the next step, what do we need to do, how do we need to go about this second procedure and strategize?’. I’m sure USA Wrestling, which is our governing body, is working hard to put together a good plan.

One of [the pictures from the last Olympics] was featured in quite a few mainstream magazines because it has Jordan Burroughs, who won a gold medal for us, in wrestling shoulder-to-shoulder, arms around each other with the Iranian [Sadegh Goudarzi] that he defeated in the finals — a very powerful image. It’s one of the few times — this instance right here — that Russia, Iran and the USA are going to collectively work together and put up their differences aside to get this sport reinstated. So it’ll be pretty interesting to see how that happens. Three of the most powerful countries in the world coming there for the same cause, that’s pretty amazing — that’s what wrestling did.


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