Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Olys not on U of W wrestler's mind

IOC decision 'disappointing' but he's aiming for a CIS gold

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Though his sport's Olympic status is likely about to change, wrestler Briston Brenton's goal is the same.

As news circulated Tuesday of the decision by the International Olympic Committee to drop wrestling from its 25 core sports by the 2020 Summer Olympics, Brenton and the University of Winnipeg wrestling program were preparing for the 2013 Canada West conference wrestling championships this weekend at the University of Alberta.

"It was disappointing to hear, but my No. 1 goal is to win the CIS (gold medal)," said Brenton, the No. 1-ranked wrestler in Canadian Interunversity Sport in the 82-kilogram division.

"When wrestlers peak is usually about 27 to 29 years old, and for me, that is the 2020 Olympics. It does take a bit of wind out of my sails, but it's not my main focus right now. It's not official yet (that wrestling is gone from the Olympics). If it becomes official, it'll be a big eye-opener."

Brenton, in his first Wesmen season after transferring from an American college, will take a first step toward his goal this weekend at the Canada West championships, where he will need to finish in the top three of his weight class to qualify for the CIS championship on March 1-2 in London, Ont.

Wesmen wrestling coach Adrian Bruce said he and the Wesmen program are trying to keep the IOC decision in perspective.

"Our goal every day when we go into the training room is not to win a gold medal at the Olympics; our goal is to win a gold medal at the CIS championship.

"We are a university sport, and within the CIS, the sport of wrestling is very healthy," Bruce said. "It's concerning, but at the same time, the Olympics is one tournament that happens every four years.

"We have an opportunity (internationally) at the Pan-American championships, the Pan Am Games, the Commonwealth Games, the Goodwill Games. There's many other opportunities for our athletes to experience that (international) success."

Bruce said he believes the Olympics situation is "long from finalized" because the IOC's executive committee decision is "recommending that wrestling be dropped from the 25 core sports." He said he expects the sport's governing bodies to lobby the IOC to retain wrestling.

"We have some really good people in the sport in Canada, and they're not going to take this lightly and they're not going to let it go by unchallenged," he said. "It really does such a disservice to our sport. It was the very first sport in the Olympics."

Unless the IOC's executive board reconsiders at the next meeting in May, wrestling will be part of the 2016 Olympics for the final time.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 13, 2013 D4

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