December 5, 2013

Mainers wrestle with Olympic ruling

They fear the vote to drop wrestling from the 2020 Games will reduce young wrestlers' exposure to the sport and leave them without a goal.

By Mike Lowe
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Marshwood Coach Matt Rix walks with wrestler Tyler Everett at the Class A state championship Saturday. Rix said of Olympic wrestling: “One of the things that we’ve always promoted was if you want to put the time in, wrestling will take you as far as you want to go.”

Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Al Kirk, head wrestling coach at Deering High for 35 years: “I don’t know what they’re thinking. It is not a politically sound move for them to do this. It’s the oldest sport, dating back to the Romans and Greeks. Almost all the countries around the world have it.”

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He was shocked at the decision. "Olympics and wrestling are engraved in my mind," he said. "I think it impacts the sport at every level in every country. It draws from all over the world."


Matt Rix, the coach at Marshwood, says the sport will survive, but that the decision will leave young men and women without a goal. He also runs a summer camp that specializes in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

"One of the things that we've always promoted," he said, "was if you want to put the time in, wrestling will take you as far as you want to go. If the Olympics are your goal, we have avenues to push you in the right direction to get you there."

Rix' daughter, Deanna Betterman, said the IOC picked the wrong sport to eliminate.

"They're in for a fight," she said in a phone interview from Colorado Springs. "I think everyone's going to come together and make plans to fight this.

"A lot of those European countries, wrestling is like our football and basketball. It's a national sport."

The 25-year-old Betterman, who made headlines when she competed against boys as Deanna Rix at Marshwood and nearly won a state title, said wrestling gave her something to reach for.

"(Female wrestling) was added to the Olympics in 2004," she said. "It became my goal. If they hadn't added it, I probably wouldn't have wrestled after high school."

Now she fears a new generation of wrestlers will have nothing to dream for. "There will be no Olympic dream," she said.

Terry Devereaux, the Maine director of USA Wrestling, added, "An Olympic gold medal still is the ultimate goal for a lot of wrestlers who compete at the collegiate level. While they could still compete in the world championships, nothing has the prestige of an Olympic gold medal."

Betterman, who is now coaching a middle school wrestling team, could not compete in the London Games because she was pregnant. She and Joe Betterman, who finished second in the 2012 60-kilogram Olympic Trials, now have a 5-month old son, Mason.

She hopes to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, as does her husband, who is in the Army. He was also looking forward to competing in 2020, then retiring to become a coach for the Army.

"It really is heartbreaking," she said of the decision. "You work your whole life for something, then to drop it, it's devastating. Joe and I had talked about Mason some day competing in the Olympics. Now?"

And that's why they hope that the decision will be reversed.

"What sport is more Olympic?" asked Tony Napolitano, the coach at Portland. "It's just a real shame."

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH


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Iain Whitis, Cheverus senior: “Olympics and wrestling are engraved in my mind. I think it impacts the sport at every level in every country. It draws from all over the world.”


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