Thoughts about Holtz event

You might not know it when you talk with him, but Bobby Douglas is looking for help to ensure that the sport he has given so much to remains a part of the Olympics.

The Bridgeport native asked the 700 or so who attended Monday’s Lou Holtz-Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame and Museum dinner at St. Florian Hall to stand up for his sport, wrestling.

That wrestling on the Olympic level should come under the microscope might come as bit of surprise to casual fans. The sport, however, which first was contested in the 708 B.C. games, came close about a year ago to losing its status in the Olympics.

As a matter of fact, its fate was not decided until officials of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, an organization known as FILA and which governs the sport around the world, successfully argued their case to the International Olympic Committee last September. Because of that vote, freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling were reinstated, bringing to an end almost seven anxious months of waiting for wrestling supporters.

Wrestling survived after gathering 49 votes from the IOC, making it the winner over baseball and softball, which received 23 votes, and squash, which received 22 votes.

While great arguments can be made for baseball and softball as well as squash to be a part of the Summer Olympics, the fact the wrestling found itself on the chopping block was a bit unsettling for fans of the sport in particular, as well as the Olympics in general.

Which brings us back to Douglas, who distinguished himself on the mat at West Liberty and Oklahoma State, and became one of the sports greatest coaches while directing the programs at Arizona State and Iowa State. Included in his coaching resume is an NCAA team national title earned while at Arizona State.

“I’m asking for your support in the effort to keep wrestling in the Olympic Games,” Douglas said while making his remarks after being induced into the hall.

Douglas also has a personal connection to the Olympics. While wrestling, he finished fourth in the 1964 Tokyo Games and was captain of the U.S. freestyle team in the Mexico City Games in 1968. He also coached many Olympians, including Cael Sanderson, who won a gold medal in the 2004 Athens Games.

He credits his sport with helping to instill values that have made him a champion and shown him the dedication and sacrifice everyone needs if they want to be able to reach their goals.

Wrestling will look a little different when the 2016 Games get under way in Rio de Janeiro – it will have six weight classes for men and women in freestyle and six for men in Greco-Roman. Plus, the matches will be broken into two three-minute rounds instead of the familiar three two-minute rounds.

Thanks to the efforts of supporters like Douglas, who has built a tremendous legacy in the sport, wrestling should remain vital for at least the next 2,000 years, or so.

While each of the honorees who spoke Monday night told their own stories, they all seemed to hit on a common theme. That includes Douglas and his fellow Hall of Fame inductee Bernie Williams, an East Liverpool native; Harry Rhodes, CEO of the Washington Speakers Bureau who received the Distinguished American Award; Jim Rohr, the retired chair of PNC Bank who received the lifetime achievement award; Frank “Digger” Dawson, president of the hall and museum; Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers quarterback who was the guest speaker; and Holtz himself.

They all spoke about the things that Tri-State Area residents hold dear – dedication and a willingness to work hard, a commitment to give back, a willingness to stand tall in the face of adversity.

Those are good values to have, and they help to make our region strong.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)