Channeling his inner Howard Beale, Tonight Show host Jay Leno brought American gold medal wrestlers Rulon Gardner and Henry Cejudo on to his show Monday to discuss how upset he is over the IOC’s decision to recommend eliminating wrestling from the Olympics starting in 2020.
“I invited them here because I’m really mad about this,” said Leno, himself a former high school wrestler. “When I think of baseball, you want to go to the World Series. When I think of football, you want to go to the Super Bowl. I think with the wrestling the only place you can go – unless it’s goofball TV wrestling – is the Olympics…
“You take that away, where else do you go?”
Gardner and Cejudo echoed the sentiment, adding that their concern extends well beyond the fact that wrestling fans might simply miss seeing their sport in the Summer Games.
“If they get rid of wrestling at the Olympic level,” Cejudo, the surprise 55kg freestyle champ at the Beijing Games, said, “more likely they’re probably going to take it out of the NCAAs, and then high school, and then the pee-wee division. That’s what I’m afraid of.”
Wrestling has a shot of getting back in the Olympics if it can garner enough support from the IOC before votes in May and September, when the committee members will vote on which of eight prospective sports will fill the one available spot open on the 2020 Olympics schedule.
“This is kind of the call to arms,” said Gardner. “And I think everybody in the sport of wrestling around the world has kind of come together to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t right… We want you to re-look at this.'”
Steve Langton, who was described by driver Steven Holcomb as the “best push athlete in the world,” announced his retirement today.
A collegiate sprinter and jumper at Northeastern University, Langton decided to try bobsledding after watching the 2006 Winter Olympics. He filled out an online athlete resume, and, by the 2010 Games, he was an Olympian.
At the Sochi 2014 Games, Langton teamed with Holcomb to win a bronze medal in the two-man race. It was the first Olympic medal in the event by American sled since 1952. He claimed another bronze medal as a member of Holcomb’s four-man “Night Train.”
“In Sochi I competed on the world’s biggest stage, I won two medals for my country and I did so along not only the best teammates but best friends anyone could ever ask for,” Langton told USA Bobsled.
Langton, who has a 62-inch standing box jump and can squat more than 500 pounds, was described by Men’s Health as “the most powerful winter Olympian” in the lead-up to 2014 Games.
“[Langton’s] work ethic and discipline rubbed off on the other athletes and made everyone better,” said USA Bobsled & Skeleton Chief Executive Officer Darrin Steele. “I have no doubt that he’ll find success in the next chapter of his life as well.”
Langton appeared on “The Amazing Race” in 2015 with his girlfriend, Aly Dudek, an Olympic short track speedskater.
None of the push athletes on the current U.S. roster have Olympic experience. Holcomb will compete in the World Cup opener this Saturday with Sam McGuffie, a former University of Michigan football player. The race will be McGuffie’s World Cup debut.