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.'”
Check out a clip of the show here: