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April 23, 2013

Angle wants to save Olympic wrestling

JOHNSTOWN — Kurt Angle wants to help save wrestling.

No, not professional wrestling, the craft that the 11-time world champion has mastered since the 1990s. Between Angle’s employer, Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling; his former employer, World Wrestling Entertainment, along with independent and regional promotions, the sports entertainment strain of wrestling is doing just fine.

Amateur wrestling at the Olympic Games is what Angle – a Pittsburgh native and a gold medalist at the 1996 Atlanta games in the heavyweight freestyle wrestling tournament – is trying to save.

Since it was announced in February that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was dropping wrestling from the Summer Games, starting in 2020, Angle has been proactive in the movement to ensure the sport’s return for 2020 and in future Olympiads.

It’s something he can’t do on his own, though he’s willing to do what he can to help the cause – even wearing a T-shirt with the text “Save Wrestling 2020” on it while appearing on TNA programming. 

“I’m just a small part of it,” Angle said. “There’s so many people bigger than me. It’s just my passion for wrestling, and for the IOC to even think about dropping it was a slap in the face to the wrestling community. It’s a fight to keep it (as an Olympic sport).”

Angle praised the direction that FILA – wrestling’s international governing body – has taken in regrouping since the IOC’s decision while voicing support for interim president Nenad Lalovic.

“He’s a great politician,” Angle said of Lalovic. “He knows eight different languages. He’s going to be able to get the job done for us.”

Angle was in the area on Tuesday to promote TNA’s upcoming live taping of “Impact Wrestling” at Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex adjacent to the campus at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

His day included a stop at Value-It on Scalp Avenue in Richland Township to sign autographs and meet fans in advance of the taping.

The opportunity for Angle to perform in the ring in the region he was raised in is one he cherishes each time a tour stops in the area.

“You would think that (TNA) would have booked a TV event for Pittsburgh, but they didn’t,” Angle said. “There’s a reason. It’s a very strong community of wrestling fans outside of Pittsburgh in Johnstown, Indiana and Altoona. Obviously you’ll get the fans from Pittsburgh to come, but it just speaks volumes for the area. I’m not just a Pittsburgher, I’m a Western Pennsylvania boy, so I do consider this my homecoming.

“The people here are my family and friends and this is the area I’m proud of.” 

The live taping will air Thursday night at 8 p.m. on Spike TV. Bell time for the event is 7 p.m.

Angle’s amateur wrestling resume includes a PIAA championship in 1987 while at Mount Lebanon High School, a pair of NCAA Division I titles won at Clarion University and a 1995 FILA World Wrestling Championships gold medal. Keeping wrestling on the Olympic docket for the 2020 Summer Games is the focus of Angle and a developing groundswell from international wrestling unions and fans.

“I’d say everybody’s come together, thank God,” Angle said. “We’ve kind of united. We’ve got countries like the United States of America and Iran agreeing on a term. That’s wrestling. It’s beginning to pull nations closer together to save wrestling and bring wrestling back to the Olympics for 2020.

“In many ways, it’s been a positive reflection on how countries can come together, even when they’re at odds politically. They come together on one simple thing and that’s the oldest sport in the world, wrestling.”

 

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