The Olympic Challenge Is Not an Attack on Wrestling, It is a Result of Poor Leadership

By | July 4, 2013

Statement from USA Wrestling President, Jim Ravannack

“USA Wrestling is pleased with the decision of the International Olympic Committee Executive Board to select wrestling as one of the three sports on the short list for consideration for a position in the 2020 Olympic Games program.

This outcome was made possible by the hard work and dedication of the worldwide wrestling community. USA Wrestling has taken a leadership role in supporting FILA in its efforts to improve our sport and retain its Olympic status. I want to thank all Americans who have stepped up in the last few months for wrestling, especially those who are involved in USA Wrestling’s grassroots programs, working daily on behalf of our nation’s young people.

There is much more work to be done, and we look forward to the challenges ahead. We believe in our leadership team and in the passion of the wrestling community as it pursues the goal of remaining an Olympic sport.”

Statement from Passionate Observer, Wade Schalles

I have to agree with Jim’s assessment of our Olympic effort. We should be pleased with the IOC’s decision. It was the outcome we wanted and the sport needed. But it was a culmination of a great many powerful individuals, many abroad, pulling together for a common cause and here is where Jim and I differ. What transpired in St. Petersburg had very little to do with what the leadership at FILA did or didn’t do or how much USAWrestling feels they contributed. Success last month was far more about those two organizations getting out of the way so those who actually wielded the power could broker deals. Someone should explain to our leaders the difference between crowing and eating crow.

If you believe everything USAWrestling tells you, you will continue to receive exactly what you’ve had for more than a decade . . . stagnated membership numbers, abysmal retention rates, blue moon television coverage’s, dreadful performances in World Competition (only 2 World Freestyle champions in the last 12 years), never a major sponsor like Coke, Chevrolet or Boeing and as we’ve recently seen, Olympic level administrative shortcomings.

USAWrestling hasn’t even seen the wisdom of creating a national database from the 6 to 8 million ex-wrestlers we have in the country. To me that’s Marketing 101 and one of the first things I would tackle as Executive Director. No, I’m not lobbying for that position nor am I qualified to sit in that chair. But can you imagine what could be accomplished with a database even half that size?

Our national governing body is even so unsure of their obligations to FILA and international protocol that for decades our representatives have only spoken English when French is the sports official language. It’s this level of arrogance, or ignorance, that fathered the term “ugly American.” Sadly, Colorado Springs doesn’t even realize that what they continually do is bad form. Sigh.

To be clear, Don’t let anyone tell you, especially leadership, that our Olympic challenge was an attack on the sport of wrestling. It wasn’t and it’s not! The greatness of wrestling, the specialness of our sport is not being called into question. The weakness of our leadership is and why USAWrestling (and Jim above) is attempting the corporate razzle-dazzle.

They know if they admit to fathering our current challenges their jobs would be in jeopardy. So instead they claim this is all an attack on the sport itself, knowing full well that all of us will join hands as we always do in its defense. This is nothing more than a magician’s smoke and mirrors trick; they screwed up, again, and expect another mea culpa will bail them out.

Personally I don’t mind putting out forest fires. We all do it on a daily basis. But to always be a fireman and never an arson investigator is flat out stupid! There are times when it’s important to figure out who’s throwing the matches and hold them accountable for the damage. Change is needed in Colorado Springs and it’s not musical chairs where everyone stays put and just rotates titles. That’s what has been going on for years now and why I’m writing this blog and you’re reading it.

Lost Revenue, Wasted IOU’s

One of the major issues that caused our current predicament was our two governing bodies ignoring the 2012 Olympic Evaluation Form that the IOC sends every four years to each sport that competes in the Olympics. They are looking for facts and figures that would allow them to better serve the sporting community in future Games.

It is reported that wrestling, the only sport that did so, sent the form back signed but blank. Good job guys. Maybe it was FILA’s responsibility to complete but USAWrestling set aside their values and leadership capabilities by staying quiet while it occurred. That shouldn’t surprise anyone though, it’s how Colorado Springs does business and handles their obligations to the sport.

So regarding this Olympic misadventure, let’s look at some outcomes that aren’t so obvious.

Given their failure to lead USAWrestling:

1) Has been forced to pull staff members from their regular duties to handle damage control to the tune of hundreds of thousands of membership dollars.

2) Had to ask for both financial and time favors from their most influential supporters and;

3) Solicit prayers and financial assistance from the general wrestling community.

The problem with all this is that every dollar of the millions that have been spent fixing that which Colorado Springs has broken and every hour that has been donated by our industrial giants all fall into the category of lost resources. Going back to that well anytime soon will be difficult.

However if you listen to USAWrestling, “You should be thanking us! Yes, we punched you in the nose and it is broken in three places but we did drive you to the hospital.”  That’s pretty close to the way they look at things.

Next, I’ll take a look at the September vote.  Stay tuned and spread this message to your wrestling contacts.  We need to organize and unite.

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