The news of wrestling's ouster from the 2020 Olympics hit former Fresno State coach Dennis DeLiddo hard.
"I feel like there's been a death in the family right now, my stomach is so upset," DeLiddo said. "This thing is so out of left field, I just can't believe it."
For Ryan Flores and Nikko Reyes -- a pair of former state high school champions with Olympic aspirations -- Tuesday's vote by the International Olympic Committee's executive board to drop wrestling after the 2016 Games is likely life altering.
Flores, formerly of Buchanan High, already had a plan in place.
The four-time NCAA Tournament qualifier who finished second as a junior and sixth as a senior last year at heavyweight for American University -- wants to attend grad school.
He'd like to get his master's and lay the foundation for his professional future while coaching and training as a graduate assistant, with the goal of competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 2020.
At least that was the plan.
"The Olympics in 2016 is something on my radar, but I wasn't necessarily going to commit to it because I have other things I need to do in my life," said Flores, currently an assistant at Clovis North. "If 2020 is not an option, I think it will be a situation where my hand is forced and I'll have to drop everything and give it my all."
Reyes faces a tougher path.
The former Clovis West standout is redshirting as a freshman at NCAA No. 6-ranked Illinois.
Assuming he cracks the starting lineup next season, that would leave Reyes with only two years of college competition before the final Olympics cycle begins.
"I'd like to try out for both, but I think 2016 would be a little too soon for me with juggling college wrestling," Reyes said. "But 2020 was ideal. That was the year I wanted to make a big run for it."
Beyond his own Olympic dreams, Reyes is worried about the future of a sport that already has seen drastic cutbacks at the college level, such as the elimination of Fresno State's program in 2006.
"I wanted to be a college coach after my five years here," Reyes said. "That's going to be a little tough to plan for when we don't know what the cause and effect is going to be. I'm really concerned there is not going to be a sport."
DeLiddo, who has continued to stump for wrestling's return to Fresno State, said it's too early to give up on the sport's Olympic future.
Wrestling still has a chance to regain its spot. It will join seven others that will apply for inclusion on the 2020 lineup. A combined baseball/softball bid is among that group.
The IOC executive board will meet in May in Russia to decide which sport or sports to propose for 2020. A final vote will be in September in Argentina.
Americans have won a record 113 freestyle Olympic medals, by far the most of any nation.
Wrestling is also one of the most popular youth sports in the U.S. The National Federation of State High School Associations listed it sixth among prep boys with nearly 275,000 competing in 2010-11.
"We're not going to sit still and take it, we're going to fight it," DeLiddo said. "We've got a chance to get it back. And we're not alone in this. Russia, Cuba, Hungary, they're all big on wrestling. It's a popular sport throughout the world."
The Associated Press contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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