Abbotsford kids with athletic ambitions are grappling with the International Olympic Committee's (IOC's) decision to cut wrestling from the 2020 Summer Games.
"We're all pretty choked and the students aren't happy about it," said Sucha Mann, wrestling coach for the Rick Hansen Secondary boys team and the Miri Piri wrestling club.
Young wrestlers of all ages have been approaching the coach in dismay since the IOC board's decision to remove the event from the list of 25 core summer sports hit the news Feb. 12.
Within hours of the announcement, Mann found himself consoling a Grade 5 wrestler with Olympic ambitions.
"Well, I don't have an answer for that little boy but to say they are still discussing it," said Mann.
Wrestling, a core sport since the modern Games in Athens in 1896, is now one of eight events vying for a single spot in the 2020 Olympics.
It will be competing with baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu, also known as Kung Fu.
Grade 11 Hansen student Justin Gill, who took provincial gold last year and just snagged gold in the 70kg final at the Fraser Valley Zone Championship last weekend, said the news was hard to take.
"I was disappointed and kind of mad because now there's not a future goal you can look forward to," said the 16-year-old.
Like every aspiring talented young athlete, his sights were set on the Olympics.
"Now I don't think the sport will be that big of a thing."
W.J. Mouat boys wrestling coach Jim Mitchell said if the IOC's decision sticks, it will badly damage the sport in terms of new interest and funding opportunities.
Abbotsford is a hotbed of talented young wrestlers, thanks in part to the South Asian community's enthusiasm for the sport, said Mitchell.
Case in point, the Mouat Hawks boys team dominated the FraserValley Zone tournament last weekend and captured its second championship title in the past three years.
However, finding new blood for the sport will become difficult, he said.
"If it's not an Olympic sport the country doesn't fund it the same way," said Mitchell.
"And kids look at what the end result [of a sport] is. They ask, 'What can I do with this? Can I get to the Olympics or into a university?'"
The news won't help efforts underway to make wrestling part of the athletics program at the University of the Fraser Valley, he added.
"It's sure not a positive thing . . . it's a bump in the road," he said.
Despite protests and promises to battle the decision made by international and national wrestling organizations, Mitchell isn't banking on a reversal.
"If you are a core sport, once you're out, your chances of getting back in are pretty small," he said.
The final vote on the matter takes place at the IOC general assembly set for September.
Abbotsford elite heavyweight wrestler Sunny Dhinsa, whose wins include a triple gold at the 2012 Canadian nationals and a Commonwealth gold and Pan-Am Games silver in 2011, can't fathom the IOC will go ahead and cut wrestling.
"I don't believe it will go through because wrestling was one of the original sports alongside running or the javelin," said Dhinsa, a former Mouat grad now competing for SFU, which groomed Canada's Olympic gold grapplers Daniel Igali and Carol Huynh.
"Wrestling allows all countries equal chance at a medal," Dhinsa added.
Having narrowly missed a berth for the 2012 London Olympics, the 19-year-old is focusing on the 2016 Games.
But at least he still has a chance at getting to the Olympics, he said.
"[The decision] is hard on young guys like me, but even harder for the younger wrestlers," said Dhinsa.
"Everyone has the dream to go to the Olympics . . . this pushes aside goals and crushes dreams."