Olympic wrestling saved, Pirozhkova relieved

That didn’t take long: Wrestling is back in the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee voted Sunday to return the sport on a provisional basis to the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games.

The move came roughly seven months after the IOC voted in February to include 25 sports on the Olympic card beginning in 2020. That vote bumped wrestling, which has been around since the very first Olympics. That would have meant that wrestling as an Olympic sport would end with the 2016 Olympics.

The sport had one more chance to get in, and it came down to Sunday’s vote. Wrestling went in with a pool of eight other sports — baseball-softball (combined for one bid), squash, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu — for the final slot that would make up the final list of 26 sports beginning at the 2020 Olympics. The list of eight was narrowed down to three prior to Sunday and wrestling made that cut along with baseball-softball and squash.

The final vote gave wrestling 49 votes, baseball-softball 24, and squash 22. Greenfield native Elena Pirozhkova, who wrestled at the 2012 Games and is slated to wrestle in 2016, said that there were a lot of nerves on the team as it gathered Sunday to watch the vote.

“We were watching the announcement and after the presentations felt confident, but it was always in the back of our minds that it might not get back in,” she said. “We were all on the edge of our seats. It was going to be such a bummer if it didn’t get voted back. The whole day was just nerve-racking.”

The International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) helped win the vote by making some changes — adding two weight classes for women beginning for the 2016 Games, and also making changes to the rules to help increase the action and decrease stalling. The winner will now be decided on total points, not the best two-of-three periods, and stalling will be penalized. Offensive takedowns will also earn two points.

As for Pirozhkova, she is getting ready to head to Budapest, Hungary, where she’ll compete in the 2013 World Championships trying to defend her 2012 title at 63 kilograms. Her first match in that tournament takes place on Sept. 19, a date she’s eagerly anticipating.

“There’s a few key people who were not there,” she said of the 2012 Championships. “It is going to be tough defending my title, but I feel confident.”

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