LI Herald: BHS grad goes to the mat for wrestling

20.03.2013 | World News RSS

LI Herald: BHS grad goes to the mat for wrestling

Michael DerGarabedian, an attorney and a graduate of Baldwin Senior High School who was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame last April, has been nominated to a committee charged with the preservation of wrestling as an Olympic sport.

DerGarabedian is a criminal defense attorney at DerGarabedian, Dillon, Nathan, Marino & Rodriguez, and has practices in Rockville Centre, Manhattan and Miami. He was one of 19 people chosen for the committee, which was formed by USA Wrestling. Noel Thompson, a former Freeport High School and Hofstra star with experience in marketing and hedge fund management, is another member.

On Feb. 12, the 15-member International Olympic Committee executive board recommended that wrestling be dropped from the Olympic Games in 2020. The sport, which is still on the schedule for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has been a fixture at the Modern Olympics since they began in 1896, and was contested in the Ancient Olympics as well, first appearing 708 B.C.

According to reports in the Associated Press, the IOC reviewed 26 sports on its current summer roster, looking to replace one in 2020. (The host city for that year’s Summer Games has not yet been named.) The IOC analyzed 39 criteria, including ticket sales, global participation and popularity, along with TV ratings, in order to make its decision, according to the A.P. Wrestling was thought to have underperformed at the 2012 London Games. Although the sport sold approximately 114,000 of 117,000 available tickets, the events ranked just below a 5 on a 10-point popularity ranking, and did not produce what the IOC felt was sufficient press and Internet interest.

Pundits who observed the elimination process favored the modern pentathlon — a sport combining fencing, horsemanship, swimming, running and shooting — for elimination, and many were shocked when wrestling was named the odd sport out. Charges of favoritism and grandstanding accompanied the announcement, and continue to echo around the sporting world today.

“My initial reaction was that it was so crazy that it had to be a publicity stunt — a way to drum up attention,” said DerGarabedian, who compiled a 92-8-1 record at BHS before going on to compete for the
University of Michigan. “Wrestling is a sport that demonstrates agility, fitness, strength and mental strategy. These skills are the core of all Olympic sports. There is no logical reason for the recommendation made by the International Olympic Committee’s executive board. We intend to fully challenge the board’s position.”

To many in the wrestling world, the board’s move was akin to the cancellation of football’s Super Bowl or soccer’s World Cup. Like all sports, wrestling has other championships besides the Olympics, but success at the Games has long represented the pinnacle of achievement for wrestlers who have finished with National Collegiate Athletic Association competition.

“The Olympics are the ultimate prize for any wrestler,” DerGarabedian said. “The NCAA is the local thing, but after wrestlers graduate college, it’s what everyone dreams of.”

The Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling will meet for the first time in Des Moines, Iowa, later this month. DerGarabedian said that there is not yet a formal agenda, but he recently took part in a conference call, during which committee members discussed a variety of ideas. He said he favors an aggressive approach — perhaps even threatening to start a competition that would compete with the Olympics, and place “core sports” like wrestling on the main stage.

The committee will make its case to the IOC in May, before a final decision is announced in September. Knowledgeable observers do not like wrestling’s odds of being reinstated, believing that the IOC is unlikely to reverse a decision it made only months ago. Still, DerGarabedian, founder of the Teeth of the Dog Wrestling Club and a member of Friends of Long Island Wrestling, says that in his work as a trial attorney, he has grown accustomed to standing up for the underdog.

“The sport deserves respect from other athletes and the public,” he said. “You don’t want to go up against a wrestler.”

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