Olympic gold: 'Keep Stanford Wrestling' aims to save program

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FILE - Stanford's Shane Griffith celebrates after defeating Pittsburgh's Jake Wentzel during their 165-pound match in the finals of the NCAA wrestling championships in St. Louis, in this Saturday, March 20, 2021, file photo. Griffith wore a black singlet minus the Stanford logo as a statement after the school announced in July that wrestling and 10 other sports, most of them that produce athletes for the U.S. Olympic team, would be dropped to save money. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

The Stanford logo was missing on Shane Griffith's all-black wrestling singlet when he won an NCAA national title last month.

By design. To draw attention.

He also celebrated his victory at 165 pounds by donning a black sweatshirt which read: “Keep Stanford Wrestling.”

Griffith's way — his team’s way — of making a statement after the school announced in July that wrestling, which has been at Stanford since 1916, and 10 other sports would be dropped to save money. The Cardinal wrestling community organized fundraising efforts and has raised about $12.5 million so far.

The program may not be pinned to the mat just yet — or so they're optimistically hoping.

“We’re still in confusion and kind of in denial of what happened,” said Griffith, who competed on March 20 in what — for now — could be the last match in program history. “Because we don’t have a feasible answer from them to move on with our lives.”

Stanford wrestling is one of at least 85 Division I sports programs to be shuttered since the coronavirus pandemic started a year ago because of financial strains. Olympic and college-sports leaders fear it will only continue as changes in the college system take hold. Congress and the NCAA are considering allowing athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness (NIL). There are also proposals in Congress that would allow schools to pay players beyond the scholarship and stipends they already receive.

On the line is an Olympic feeder system that buoys Team USA. Nearly 80% of U.S. athletes at the 2016 Rio Games came from an American college program.