Olympic cutback upsets Sanderson

UNIVERSITY PARK – The International Olympic Committee’s decision Tuesday to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympics came as a surprise to Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, one of the sport’s top figures.

The 2004 gold medalist isn’t giving up without a fight, though.

“I don’t think I’ve really accepted it yet. It’s more like Round 1. We’ve still got two rounds to go,” Sanderson said before practice Tuesday. He promised he would join other high-profile members of the wrestling community in a campaign to have the IOC reverse its decision.

Wrestling will now join seven other sports in applying for inclusion in 2020. The others are a combined bid from baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu. They will be vying for a single opening in 2020.

The IOC executive board will meet in May in St. Petersburg, Russia, to decide which sport or sports to propose for 2020 inclusion. The final vote will be in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Sanderson first learned about the IOC decision Tuesday on Twitter.

“I’ll absolutely do everything in my power to make sure that the decision doesn’t go through and it isn’t finalized in the fall. This is a big deal,” he said. “You’re talking about your kids having that dream of winning a gold medal. It inspires you to be better, to work hard, to set goals.”

Wrestling was on the program of the inaugural modern Olympic program in 1896.

“Being one of the original sports,” he said, “you don’t really think it would be an option that you would pull that out of the Olympics.”

Nittany Lions senior Quentin Wright has aspirations to win Olympic gold, just like his coach. Wright is a three-time NCAA All-American and a 2011 champion.

“In wrestling, that’s the ultimate goal. That’s the ultimate platform to show your expertise about wrestling,” Wright said. “It’s kind of like soccer has the World Cup every four years. With wrestling, the Olympics are every four years. It makes it that much more special.”

Top-ranked and two-time defending champion Penn State hosts Rider in the home finale Sunday.