Trent Paulson couldn't believe what he was hearing.
The Council Bluffs Lewis Central graduate was wrestling with the U.S. national team in Cuba in February when the news broke: His sport was being kicked out of the Olympics.
“We thought at first it was a joke and couldn't take it seriously,” Paulson said. “Ever since then we've kind of taken it personally and done whatever we could in our own personal roles to get involved and get this thing rolling and let (people) know we're not going to lay down without a fight.”
Paulson has lived up to his vow. Now the head coach of the Cyclone Wrestling Club, he's a big reason why the CWC held a “Save Olympic Wrestling” fundraiser Saturday evening at Iowa Western. The event included a live and silent auction of various wrestling memorabilia, including some signed by past Olympic champions.
Trent and brother Travis Paulson both spoke along with former Iowa State standout and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner, among others. Trent Paulson said the dinner pre-sold 120 while others walked up.
The CWC has held events in the Ames and Des Moines areas, but Paulson said he wanted to get his hometown involved in the fight to save Olympic wrestling. Some proceeds go to the Committee to Preserve Olympic Wrestling while some will help fund Olympic wrestling hopefuls training at Iowa State.
“Ever since (the decision to drop wrestling) we've been collaborating with the best marketing and strategic planning firms in the country to get our sport reinstated,” Paulson said. “To do that, it costs money.”
Those interested in joining the cause can donate to the CWC — or the Hawkeye Wrestling Club or Panther Wrestling Club for Iowa or Northern Iowa fans.
Saturday's meeting wouldn't have happened had wrestling not survived a Wednesday vote by the International Olympic Committee's executive board. The sport advances to a final September vote by the IOC in which it, baseball-softball or squash will earn a spot in the 2020 Games.
Trent Paulson also said neither he nor his brother, who coaches at Iowa State, have made any commitments to try for a 2016 Olympic wrestling berth. They will assess whether to compete in any World Team Trials on an annual basis.
“Right now we're taking everything a year at a time,” Trent Paulson said.