Centennial High wrestler Hayden Tuma can't recall exactly when he decided on his future plans, but he remembers the conversation he had with his father.
"I told my dad I want to wrestle in the Olympics and he said, 'That's a big goal to have.' I said, 'Well, it's something to reach for,' and I've been working hard trying to get to that goal,'' he said.
Tuma has kept up his end of the bargain.
The 138-pound junior improved to 37-0 this season with a pin 35 seconds into his 5A District Three title match against teammate Michael Algate on Saturday. It was his third consecutive district crown, and he'll chase a third straight state title in his third different weight class next weekend in Pocatello.
Tuma won a junior national title last year, placed first in an international tournament in Bulgaria and finished ninth in the junior world championships. He is headed to Austria in March, then to tryouts for the world championships in April.
"He is the best in the U.S. in Greco-Roman wrestling and one of the best in the world for his age group," said Centennial Athletic Director Jon Watson, the Patriots' former coach and a former Boise State wrestler. "Hayden Tuma in 2020 has a legitimate, legitimate shot of being on the Olympic team."
While Tuma has been working his way toward the Olympics, the Games changed the rules on him. The International Olympic Committee's executive board voted last week to remove wrestling from the 2020 Games.
Citing low popularity figures, the IOC opted to remove wrestling - which was in the first modern Games in 1896 - from its program while keeping modern pentathlon (fencing, horse riding, swimming, running and shooting).
It is one of the dumber decisions made by the IOC.
And that is saying a lot.
Wrestling has one more chance to stick around. The sport, along with a combined bid from baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu (a martial art) are competing for a single opening in the 2020 Games.
Wrestling coaches worry about the impact of the decision on high school participation and the number of colleges that offer the sport. Wrestling is the sixth-most popular boys sport based on high school participation numbers.
For Tuma, it means something else. Each day he sees a big picture of Charles Burton on a wall inside the wrestling room at Centennial. Burton, a Centennial graduate and former Boise State wrestler, finished fifth in the 2000 Sydney Games.
"It impacts a lot of people that have been training their whole lives to get prepared for the Olympics," said Tuma, who helped Centennial to its fourth consecutive district title. "I don't know what we'll do without it."
Tuma will have to pick up the pace. Though his wrestling prime would coincide with the 2020 and 2024 Games, he will push to make the 2016 team when he will be 21.
"I've got to work harder. I've got to make up for the time that I would have if I couldn't make it to the 2016 Olympics. Now I've got to push and try to get that goal. I'll go as hard as I can," Tuma said. "I'd have more strength, more experience if I was older. But that's stuff I can pick up."
The IOC has made it tougher, but Tuma - so used to winning on the mat - isn't ready to concede anything just yet.
"Wrestlers are crazy," he said. "We do hard diets, we work hard. I'm pretty sure we'll come back through."
Brian Murphy: 377-6444,Twitter: @MurphsTurph