2020 Olympic Wrestling – Continual Screw-Ups

A Comedy of Errors

As soon as the news broke of our departure from the Olympics, FILA responded with an 11 to 10 vote of no confidence regarding Martinetti’s ability to govern. The vote was actually baffling.

Wrestling is removed from the Olympics due to non-compliance to requests and 48% of FILA’s board members go on record as supporting his leadership. Beyond baffling is FILA’s willingness to turn around and make the vote public like it might appease the IOC.

The smart play would have been to release the results as being 20 to 1. Fake it if you have to, it really doesn’t matter if Martinetti was killed by 11 bullets or 20, dead is dead. At least this way wrestling would have sent a message to the IOC that “we heard you” and are in the process of making changes.

This lack of creativity or political acumen alone would mean pink slips for everyone if they were in corporate America.

Wrestling Still Doesn’t Get It!

This battle is not an attack on the sport of wrestling! It’s not about the millions of children the sport helps or about it being man’s oldest sport or that we have 235K signatures on a petition.

It’s all about FILA and to a lesser extent USAWrestling failing to listen to their bosses – the IOC.

The sport is just a pawn in the battle. This is a yard stick measuring contest between different groups.  Note to FILA . . . the IOC has the power, they are in charge. You need to find out what they want and provide it… in spades.

This is a Golden Rule moment for you, pay attention, the one with the gold rules.

As To Rule Changes . . .

I firmly believe that, “If you can’t offer suggestions for improvement, you don’t have a right to bitch.” With that said, here are a few suggestions:

1.  Uniforms: dump the singlet, move wrestling out of the dark ages. I’d like to see long sleeved Under Armour compression gear tops and ½ length shorts. Such a change would:

  • Allow athletes to get a better grip on their opponents to the enhancement of scoring.
  • Provide each country with the ability to print fun and imaginative designs on the additional material this uniform offers. Think collegiate football and the current athletic shoe marketplace.
  • Give wrestling an aggressive but classy look that new wrestlers are demanding and is appealing to viewers, and
  • Deliver visual proof that wrestling is serious about change; exactly what the IOC wants to see.

2.  Wrestling needs a major scoring overhaul. Currently the rules encourage inactivity and reward wrestlers who shut down immediately following the go-ahead point. I know I’m talking collegiate wrestling here, but what’s wrong with 2 point takedowns, 2 point reversals, 2 and 3 point near falls and 1 point escapes? Why not reward proficiency in all three positions? I know, that’s a big change from what has been, but isn’t that exactly the idea – change!? More scoring equals more fans, additional sponsors, less opportunities for corruption and once again change – exactly the things the IOC wants.

3.  Bring back the old black mark system with some collegiate modifications. Losing by fall gives you 6 black marks, winning by fall 0 black marks. Losing by 8 or more points gives you 5 black marks, winning by 8 or more 1 black mark. Lose by 7 or less points gives you 4 black marks, winning by 7 or less 2 black marks. All weight classes are wrestled using a round robin format and wrestling continues until you have a champion. Elimination occurs as soon as a wrestler receives 8 or more black marks. This system is all about forcing competitors to score points. It’s possible to be eliminated after four rounds of regular decisions. You might think that’s not quite fair. Sure it is, everyone is playing by the same rules. If scoring is truly important and the goal, then make it important. This system was in place for decades before FILA decided they wanted to help participate in the outcomes.

4. For the black mark system to work, we have to dump the current three period format. Replace it with a single period of 6 minutes. Although winning each period was attractive at its inception, over 70% of all periods were decided by 1 point wins. We need more scoring to take place and for conditioning to play a more important role.

5. Retire the ball grab.  It’s done more damage to wrestling than any rule in the sport’s history. It makes it look like we’re a game of chance or a den of corruption.

6. The push out rule clearly needs to get pushed out. What it’s led to is offenses being proportionally diminished as the athletes get closer to the out of bounds. The unintended consequence of a rule not well thought out.

7.  Bring back stalling complete with penalty points. If the athletes aren’t motivated to score points, then others will motivate them.

8.  Regardless of what happens this September, FILA should move back to 10 weight classes for the men and the same number for the women at the World Championships. I realize that means we’ll have some frustrated wrestlers sitting at home every 4 years but at least they had opportunities to shine in world competition for the three years in between.

Everything FILA does, every rule they make must enhance scoring. These suggestions will no doubt spark a wide spectrum of controversy but one thing’s for sure; they are a hell of a lot closer to making the sport exciting than what we currently have. Remember, the IOC wants the type of change they can see.

Where are the Women?

It still concerns me that the women’s groups haven’t joined in the fight. Knowing how passionate they are about their cause, and should be, their silence is deafening. Men beware, me think something’s afoot.

I’ve heard . . .

FILA is toying with the idea of having Greco athletes wrestle topless. They want to throw out the singlet and bring in MMA styled trunks. Officially for the record, deep sigh, I think they’ve gone off the deep end here.  Trying to throw someone who’s slipperier than he was before the rule change means less scoring if that’s possible. We might be a blue collar sport in some regards but we don’t have to act blue collar. We need to elevate the sport to the level of the people who decide our fate. Who’s sitting in the stands isn’t near as important as who do we want sitting in the stands? We always need to market to that demographic if survival and growth is the goal.

What’s on the menu for next week?

Let’s keep that one a surprise, until then . . .

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9 thoughts on “2020 Olympic Wrestling – Continual Screw-Ups

  1. AMEN!!! I especially agree with your statements about rule changes: “Currently the rules encourage inactivity and reward wrestlers…” “…what’s wrong with 2 point takedowns, 2 point reversals, 2 and 3 point near falls and 1 point escapes?” Things started going down hill when they got rid of passivity calls. You said it perfectly: “Bring back stalling complete with penalty points. If the athletes aren’t motivated to score points, then others will motivate them.” Freestyle wrestling used to have so much more action and was very exciting to watch. I was so disappointed and underwhelmed watching wrestling during the last Olympics. The rules were ridiculous. It made me sad, because I grew up attending World Cup (freestyle) every year in Toledo, OH, and the matches were great to watch.

  2. Well put Wade. When I watched the rumble at the rails it was so boring I found myself fast forwarding through to see Kyle Dake. Sad. When you’re in the great circle get it on and put on a show! Pummeling, sweeping, throwing, dragging, picking,and no one knows better than you Pinning!
    Great article.

  3. Sounds like you’re describing most (but not all) of the things that FILA is doing with Grappling. Nice article.

  4. Very well said. Wrestling needs to change and do it world wide to survive. The stalling and scoring changes you proposed would go a long way to liven the sport up in international competition. I know personally, watching freestyle on TV with the current system is rather boring to watch and for those who don’t understand it, would make them turn the channel. Thanks Mr. Schalles, you hit the nail right on the head!!!

  5. Once again great input by one of the world’s greatest wrestling minds.

  6. Most knowledgeable and well-written article I have read on the subject. You had me at “dump the singlet!” Keep up the good work, Wade.

  7. Great suggestions and insights! I hope people are heading your ideas for change!

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