U.S. Olympic Team Trials champions pose for a photo (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)According to NBC -- the official broadcast network for the 2016 Rio Games -- the U.S. had qualified 13 of 18 classes across men's and women's freestyle and Greco-Roman competition as of Saturday. The one hope for an additional weight class -- 65 kilograms/143 pounds freestyle -- fell by the wayside as Frank Molinaro lost in the quarterfinals at the final Olympic qualifying tournament held in Istanbul, Turkey Sunday, eventually placing third and earning a bronze medal. (Had the former Penn State mat champ made it to the finals, he would have qualified his weight for this summer's Olympics.)
The U.S. has not sent fewer than 16 wrestlers to the Olympics since 1952, when it didn't send a Greco-Roman team to the Helsinki Games. In the past 64 years, the U.S. had never failed to qualify more than two classes at one Olympics.
In its article, NBC did not point out some aspects which provide some additional historical perspective.
From the 1948 London Olympics through the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, the Games had 16 weight classes, evenly divided with eight weights each in men's freestyle and men's Greco-Roman. In 1972, opportunities for wrestlers opened up, as there were ten weight classes each for free and Greco, for a total of 20 weight classes, all for men. This age of greater opportunity ended with the 2000 Sydney Games, which reverted back to the eight-and-eight structure prior to the '72 Munich Olympics. In 2004, the Athens Olympics welcomed women's freestyle wrestling for the first time… and a new weight class structure: seven weights for men's freestyle, six for Greco, and four for women's freestyle. This structure endured through the 2012 London Games.
In February 2013, the Executive Committee of the International Olympic Committee eliminated all wrestling from the Olympics, effective in 2020. This decision was reversed by the entire IOC in August 2013. United World Wrestling -- the Olympic governing body for wrestling -- then implemented a new weight class structure consisting of 18 weight classes, six each in men's and women's freestyle, and men's Greco-Roman, for the 2016 Rio Olympics.