Published: July 23, 2013
Mitch Hull has been mulling his future with USA Wrestling for several months.
The national teams director, who joined the organization in June 1992, and his wife, Peggy, finally decided it's time to return to Hull's native Wisconsin and turn their focus to family.
"I'm leaving the best job I've had to do my most important job, and that's being a grandfather," Hull said, noting that his son Calyn and two granddaughters live in Madison, Wis.
USA Wrestling announced Hull's departure Tuesday. The move comes less than two months before the International Olympic Committee will vote Sept. 8 on whether wrestling will be reinstated and take part in the 2020 Olympics.
The IOC decided in February to eliminate the sport from the 2020 Games. Wrestling's Olympic history began in ancient Greece and continued in the first modern games in 1896.
In late May, wrestling got a temporary reprieve from Olympic extinction, however. The IOC executive board voted to put the sport on a short list that includes squash and baseball/softball for the final spot in 2020 and 2024.
Hull insists his decision to step down after the world championships in late September had nothing to do with the tumultuous six months since his sport's Olympics future became uncertain.
"The decision wasn't made in regard to us being in the Games or not," Hull said. "I haven't thought about anything else other than us winning (the Sept. 8) vote."
The former Big Ten wrestling champion and two-time All-American with Wisconsin called the battle for Olympic reinstatement the "most exciting and most important six months for the sport in the last 20-plus years."
Hull said people within the international world of wrestling who had become complacent again began to voice their passion.
"When the atomic bomb hit us, then everybody spoke up," Hull said, noting that adversarial nations immediately became allies, at least for the sake of wrestling.
"Russians, Iranians and Americans began to work together toward a common goal," he said.
Leadership changed at FILA - the sports international governing body - and much-needed rule changes were put in place to make the sport more spectator friendly and easier to understand, Hull said. Among those rule changes was a switch to cumulative scoring instead of a best of three-period format. Wrestlers will also compete in two three-minute periods instead of three two-minute stanzas.
"For sure the rule changes helped us," said new FILA president Nenad Lalovic, shortly after FILA's presentation to the IOC in May.
Hull's decision to stay on as national teams director until late September was made with purpose. He wants to allow USA Wrestling leadership, including executive director Rich Bender, the chance to totally focus on helping prepare for the Sept. 8 vote by the IOC.
Hull said he will continue to contribute to USA Wrestling on a volunteer basis.
"He's been a real important part of our team for a long time and made a huge difference," said USA Wrestling spokesman Gary Abbott, who has been with the organization for 25 years.
Under Hull's direction, the United States won 102 medals at the world championships, including 28 gold medals. At the Olympic Games since 1992, the United States won 36 Olympic medals, including 12 Olympic gold medals.
Hull's national teams won four world championships - two in freestyle wrestling (1993, 1995), one women's title (1999) and one Greco-Ramon championship (2007).
"The success of our national team programs is a direct result of Mitch Hull's tireless efforts for our sport and his commitment to move the program forward," said Bender in a statement.
Once he moves back to Wisconsin, Hull will take a full-time job as executive director of the Wisconsin Regional Training Center and volunteer with the Badger Wrestling Club program.
Hull said the regional training center is an important project in his home state. It will allow young wrestlers to work toward the goal of becoming NCAA champions and give college graduates a place to train for international careers beyond their NCAA competition.
That type of facility will help strengthen the sport whether or not wrestling is reinstated for the 2020 games. Hull said if the IOC chooses squash or baseball/softball in early September, FILA and USA Wrestling will need to "keep the pedal to the medal" and focus on future Olympic Games.
"This doesn't end with the Sept. 8 vote," he said. "We have to keep this momentum going and don't let it go."