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Olympic dreams dashed for some area wrestlers

Lane's Max Schneider (left) battles Glenbard North's Brian Murphy (right) during 3A 152 weight championship match IHSA individual state wrestling

Lane's Max Schneider (left) battles Glenbard North's Brian Murphy (right) during the 3A 152 weight championship match of the IHSA individual state wrestling tournament in Assembly Hall Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012, in Champaign. Schneider won the match. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 14, 2013 2:47PM

Max Schneider figured at some point he’d have to make a choice about which Olympic dream to chase.

Now perhaps the decision has been made for him.

Schneider has competed at the international level in judo. He also won a pair of IHSA state wrestling titles for Lane before moving on to college at Cal Poly, where he is taking a redshirt year after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Judo may be a better path to international success for him now that the International Olympic Committee announced this week the sport will be dropped from the list of core Olympic sports after 2016.

Schneider had several texts about the news when he woke up Tuesday and, like many in the wrestling community, had a hard time believing it was real.

“I was pretty surprised,” he said. “Especially after we did so well in the Olympic Games for wrestling last year.”

The unexpected announcement is hard for Schneider to understand in light of wrestling’s place in the Games’ history.

“It was there when the Olympics started in the Greek games, like the discus throw,” he said.

Lincoln-Way West coach Brian Glynn said even one of the sport’s icons was caught off guard by the news.

“My wife’s brother is married to Dan Gable’s daughter,” Glynn said of the former Olympic hero and long-time Iowa coach. “I talked to her first thing [Tuesday] and [Gable] didn’t even know about it. I think everyone is stunned.”

Sandburg coach Eric Siebert definitely falls into that category.

“Wrestling and track are the oldest Olympic sports,” he said. “The [IOC] is continuing a trend of mockery, including ridiculous events at the expense of real sports. I’m waiting for checkers to become an Olympic sport.”

Tuesday’s decision removed wrestling from a list of 26 core sports to be contested in 2020 and beyond. The IOC plans to announce a replacement later this year. Wrestling could be reinstated then, when it will compete for the 26th spot with baseball, softball, karate, squash and some other less well-known sports such as wushu, a Chinese martial art.

The elimination of wrestling drew immediate criticism in part because it saved modern pentathlon, a less widely-contested sport which nonetheless has some powerful defenders on the IOC. The chances of the IOC reversing course and saving wrestling are uncertain. But local coaches don’t expect the sport to go down without a fight.

“I’m not giving up hope, that it’s gone for good,” said Mark Miedona, Schneider’s coach at Lane. “The wrestling community is going to come together. I’m crossing my fingers. In my mind — and I’m biased — I think they’ll find a way to keep it.”

Montini coach Israel Martinez called the move “devastating.”

“It takes away the biggest goal, to be an Olympic champion,” he added.

Like Miedona, Martinez expects a push to get the IOC to reconsider its decision.

“Wrestling is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle,” he said. “What [the IOC] can’t control is the successful businessmen and business women [who support wrestling]. They’re going to unite as a community and develop a way to get back in.”

But Oak Park-River Forest coach Mike Powell suggested that even if the IOC doesn’t change its mind, there could be benefits.

“The silver lining in this is that with the corrupt IOC out of the way, maybe FILA [the sport’s world governing body] will reinstate the previously dropped weight classes and change several of the rules that the IOC pushed for over the last 20 years,” Powell said in an email. “Having the IOC out of the picture could turn out to be a good thing.”

Contributing: Phil Arvia, George M. Wilcox

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