Angle also thinks the amateur ranks could take a page out of the professional playbook by encouraging displays of emotion after rounds and trash-talking before big matches.
“Wrestling is such a traditional sport, it’s hard to pull it away from the beginning,” he said. “But when it first started, it was wrestling to the death.”
The popularity of mixed martial arts gives Angle hope for sustained interest in amateur wrestling. He would even support the addition of MMA to the Olympics, though it wouldn’t be as the blood sport it is now.
“Is the IOC going to let MMA come in and be what they are, as graphic as they are?” he said. “Are they going to be able to kick a guy while he’s down? Are they going to be able to ground and pound, and wear 16-ounce gloves and shin guards?
“So it’s going to become a watered-down, diluted version of MMA.”
The decision on wrestling in the Olympics is far from final, and Angle isn’t alone in his support of one of the world’s oldest, most elemental sports — one he hopes to coach when his days of vanquishing enemies with his fabled “ankle lock” submission maneuver are over. But until then, he is enjoying life in the part of the sport that makes up for a lack of competition with the razzle-dazzle and ratings the other part desperately needs.
“It’s kind of bittersweet because I want people to remember me as an Olympic gold medalist,” he said. “I love [professional wrestling] but at the same time, you know, every guy I wrestle in that ring, none of them have gone through what I have, in the Olympics and winning a gold medal.
“It’s what separates me from the rest.”
Mike Carraggi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@GlobeCarraggi.