WAP president Aguilar recalls how wrestling made its way back to SEA Games

WAP president Alvin Aguilar had to step in to keep wrestling in this year's SEA Games. URCC (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

LOS BAÑOS—Wrestling is back in the Southeast Asian Games.

Removed from the calendar during the last two editions in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, the said sport will be part of this year's meet at the Angeles University Foundation Gymnasium.

However, wrestling came close to being cut from the SEA Games for the third straight time if not for a late push from Wrestling Association of the Philippines president Alvin Aguilar to reinstate it.

In fact, Aguilar, in an interview on Friday over Radyo Pilipinas 2, said that he and the entire national wrestling team were blindsided by the PHISGOC's initial decision to remove the sport from the schedule.

"Actually nabasa na lang namin sa dyaryo na wala na yung wrestling. Walang nag-notify sa amin," Aguilar said, adding that the news came while the team was in training.

It was later revealed to Aguilar that there was a fallout between PHISGOC and the United World Wrestling regarding wrestling's place in the SEA Games.

"Kinausap ko si Cong. Bambol [Tolentino, POC president]. Ang nangyari is may mga tao sa PHISGOC na hindi nag-coordinate sa international federation as in totally zero. Nag-imbento sila ng weight class at ng sarili nilang rules. Siyempre di pumayag yung IF. Sabi ng IF, 'I will not deal with you,'" Aguilar recalled how the initial talks went.

It was only when he stepped in that wrestling was finally reinserted.

"Sabi ko, 'You have to deal with them.' 'No! They're making up their own rules,' sabi sa akin ng IF. Pinakiusapan na lang namin ang IF na 'Sige na. Pagbigyan nyo na yan.' Finally nag-ayos na rin," Aguilar further said.

But while wrestling is finally back as a SEA Games, it was not according to what Aguilar initially wanted as only 14 divisions will be played in the two-day event on Dec. 9-10.

"Nawalan ang Philippines ng sure na 12 golds," Aguilar, also the founder of the URCC, rued.

He initially wanted 25 events to take place in the SEA Games wrestling competition based on the national team's performance in the Southeast Asian Wrestling and Grappling Championship in San Pablo last year.

Still, the Philippines is expected to be the favorite to win the most golds in the SEA Games wrestling event.

The national team will fly back to Russia for training and will only return early December, just in time for the SEA Games.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno