Waynesburg grad Scott, wrestling unite in Iran
Wrestling has been fighting for a reversal of sorts following a recommendation that would leave the sport out of the 2020 Olympics.
There isn't a stronger statement of solidarity than Americans and Iranians standing shoulder to shoulder on the issue that has galvanized the international wrestling community. Waynesburg High graduate Coleman Scott experienced that firsthand when he helped the United States finish third in the recent Freestyle World Cup in Iran.
Scott said he and his teammates were cheered in a country that is at odds with the United States. That support, he said, is emblematic of a bond between wrestlers that transcends borders, politics, race and religion. It is also why Scott is optimistic that wrestling has a future in the Olympics even though the International Olympic Committee recommended last month to drop wrestling after 2016. A vote won't be taken until early September, giving the wrestling community plenty of time to marshal support for the sport that has been a part of the Olympics since the Games' modern-day inception.
“I don't think the IOC realized how big of a fight we would put up,” said Scott, who won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London.
The Freestyle World Cup brought together the top 10 wrestling nations. The games weren't just about competition, as leaders in the coalition that is advocating to keep wrestling in the Olympics met to discuss strategy and unity.
Scott would attest that the wrestling community doesn't appear to be lacking when it comes to the latter.
Not after what he experienced in Tehran.
Among the scenes that would otherwise qualify as surreal: Iranians giving a standing ovation to U.S. wrestler Jordan Burrows and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shaking hands with every member of the U.S. team and posing for a picture with the squad after it finished third.
Scott said such gestures show how embedded wrestling is in Iran's culture and how universal the respect is among wrestlers.
That wrestling can bridge — if only temporarily — the gulf that has existed between Iran and the United States, which is one of the biggest reasons it needs to remain a part of the Olympics, said Jim Scherr, a former CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“I think wrestling (brings people together) better than any other Olympic sport,” said Scherr, who is leading the push to keep wrestling in the Olympics.
Scott said that message emerged from the Freestyle World Cup.
“There was a big push as a whole to let the IOC know how the world feels about wrestling,” said Scott, who returned from Iran on Saturday, “and that we will fight the fight not as individuals but as a whole.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ ScottBrown_Trib.