The following proposal recently made it’s way to the National High School Association for possible inclusion as a rule for next season. I’m sure it won’t see the light of day but it got that far; that’s a start. At least a few decision makers actually get to think about “what if” relative to a point earned is a point scored. The first section is what the committee got to read. The second part is what I wrote for the individual who is actually proposing the change. I wanted him to be able to answer any questions the committee might have.
Effective for the 2015-2016 season no longer will wrestling have 3, 4, 5, and 6 team point match outcomes. Instead every point scored by an athlete is a team point recorded. Example: wrestler A wins by a score of 7-4. Wrestler A’s team receives 7 team points and wrestler B’s team receives 4 points.
Forfeits: 15 team points. Example: wrestler A receives a forfeit, wrestler A’s team receives 15 team points; the opposing team receives 0 points.
Disqualifications: 15 team points added to bout score. Example . . . wrestler A is winning 5-2 at the time of wrestler B being disqualified, wrestler A’s team receives 20 points (15 + 5) and wrestler B’s team receives 2 team points.
Default: 10 team points are added to the bout score. Example: wrestler A is winning 5-2 at the time of wrestler B being injured, wrestler A’s team receives 15 points (10 + 5) and wrestler B’s team receives 2 team points.
Pins: 10 team points are added to the bout score. Example: wrestler A is winning 5-2 at the time of wrestler B being pinned, wrestler A’s team receives 15 points (10 + 5) and wrestler B’s team receives 2 team points.
Match termination: 15 point separation. Example: when wrestler A is ahead by the score of 18-3 the match ends with wrestler A’s team receiving 18 team points and wrestler B’s team receiving 3 team points.
The benefits of these changes are immense. To begin there are no additional risks to athlete safety, there is no additional training that is necessary for officials and there is no additional cost to the schools when these rules are adopted.
Over all, the system of a point scored is a point recorded:
- Immensely encourages more scoring and thus more excitement.
- Allows every wrestler to contribute to the team score even in a losing effort.
- Pushes both athletes to score points right up to the end of a match regardless of who’s ahead, or by how much.
- Increases the number of pins by virtue of higher scoring.
- Discourages stalling because even in a losing effort a last second escape actually means a lot to teams totals.
- Allows a team whose behind by 40 or more points to come back and win the dual. Come from behind wins are the sweetest events in spectators lives and keeps fans in their seats right up to the very end.
- Makes the sport easy to understand for those who are new to wrestling.
- It seriously discourages forfeits and bad behavior that are extremely positive outcomes.
- With larger team scores, the chance of two teams tying is severely reduced as is having to explain to spectators our complicated tie-breaking criteria.
As to the basis for change, wrestling strategies have slowly eroded over the years to the point that winning is all about who can make the least amount of mistakes. Consequently very low scoring with one point wins has become the norm. This defensive posturing has quietly ground down spectator interest in wrestling to the point of near extinction and with it every collegiate program in the country has a negative budget. The goal should be that every school should be in the plus column financially. This is the quickest way of moving toward that target.
Granted the sport has more than a few issues, but the most important one that must be addressed before all others is a lack of individual scoring. These proposed changes are huge for the sport, something that will create a great deal of controversy, most of it coming from the coaches. The source of their complaints will be their repulsion of being forced to change a long held belief that negative action is preferred over positive action.
But as soon as the first whistle blows next season, I can promise the rules committee that coaches will forget every issue they had with the changes and start coaching to the new rules. They’re competitors, and they will compete.
As to the story behind the story, here is what I wrote in my blog about these proposed changes. When you’re done reading here you should be able to make a supportive case.
The Big Picture . . . anytime you change rules that aren’t related to safety I believe they should meet three criteria. Does it increase scoring, will it escalate action and does it attract the interest of the spectator? This rule change does all three.
Speaking of losing spectators; my son who wasn’t a bad wrestler and knows the sport at an NCAA championship level won’t go to matches. I asked him why out of curiosity and he said, “They’re too boring to watch and I know the nuances of the game. If they offered me free beer and a ticket, I wouldn’t go. I’d rather sit home and watch Jeopardy.” This is exactly what I’m trying to explain to our leadership; there’s a crisis going on in the sport.
Regarding team scoring, what I listed above is something that Jim Guinta, the founder of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association and I have been working on. He used their own version of it for the last two seasons at his NCWA National Dual Meet Championships.
Both versions (his and mine) have at their core the basic concept that every individual point scored in a match becomes a team point once the match has ended. And each version, whether it is Jim’s or mine with some tweaks, was developed because the current system does not, is not and will not encourage athletes to score points.
It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that coaches who win the most, teach the slowdown approach to wrestling; it’s the way you become successful using today’s rules. You get a lead, you play the edge and control the tie-up, down block on your opponent’s shots and follow them with a few half shots of your own. That’s how you keep the referee at bay while waiting for the match to end.
A vast majority of athletes don’t care what the score is when the final buzzer sounds, as long as they get their hand raised. So I don’t blame the competitors or in some cases the coaches for low scoring and often boring matches. It’s the rules they’re playing to.
Granted, these changes are way over the top from what we’re accustomed to but we don’t have much time left before really bad things befall the sport. But please think about these changes. They’re really very simple, all be it aggressive.
But once the committee has had time to think about how simple they are and how effective they will be at pulling athletes out of their comfort zone, I believe everyone will embrace them.
But be prepared, coaches will hate it and they will be very vocal about their opinions. Because it’s all about the fear they’ll have of losing matches to teams that previously were walk-overs. But is that a bad thing? Not the loss’s but the fear? Isn’t fear the greatest motivator? If we scare the coaches, they in turn will see to it that their athletes feel the same amount of anxiety they’re feeling and everything will change. People love upsets and the sport needs more parity; this rule helps both to occur.
So in review, I’m suggesting that we eliminate the current 3, 4, 5, and 6 point match point outcomes. They should no longer exist because they never made sense in the first place. They confuse every new spectator we get while being patently unfair to the athletes who take risks to score points.
In every other sport a point earned is a point registered. So why not wrestling? Can you imagine basketball waiting to the end of a game to tally the team scores? How crazy would it be to give a player 5 team points if he scores between 1 and 10 points and 10 team points if he scores between 11 to 20 points? That’s what wrestling does? How about a quarterback who throws for 3 touchdowns and is only given credit for 1 at the end of the game? Serve 3 aces in tennis and look up to see the score is only 15 love. Hit a bases loaded home run and only get credit for your run, not the other three. That’s what wrestling does.
The basic concept is every point scored by either wrestler is a point earned when the match ends. That’s so easy for everyone to understand.
To this the NCWA and I agree; wrestling must heavily penalize Forfeits and Disqualifications. There should be a consequence beyond a 10 point pin for poor behavior on the part of an athlete or for a team who can’t find a body to plug a hole in their lineup.
Regarding forfeits, it’s my contention that well over 90% of teams who forfeit a weight has someone on their current roster who could have wrestled. And 100% of the teams have someone at their school who would love to fill that spot if the coach would go to the club team or intermural tournament and find them. The coach just decided he’d prefer not to have a match at that weight. The most common reason is it’s more strategic to skip over a weight class than throw a lesser athlete out there to get pinned and with it lose team momentum.
We should all understand when there’s a forfeit, the offending coach is basically breaching a legal contract that spectators have with the host school to provide a set number of matches for the price of a ticket. There should be an additional cost, a substantially larger penalty for this behavior and why it’s worth 15 points. Wrestling cannot grow as a sport when we knowingly choose to shortchange customers.
How would you feel about a restaurant that served you 10 oysters when you ordered a dozen and are paying for a dozen? If baseball skipped the 5th and 6th inning would consumers feel slighted? What if Nascar decided to take 25 laps out of the Daytona 500? How about a movie theater randomly cutting 10 minutes out of the middle of the movie? Forfeits are the same thing; coaches are knowingly cheating those who bought tickets. That behavior tears at the fabric of our sport and certainly customer service.
With these new rules there’s a reason why athletes would want to fight to get off the bottom with 15 seconds left in a match, even if their losing 9-3. And conversely, there are tremendous incentives for the dominant wrestler to keep scoring up until the end of the match. If the athlete doesn’t get it, I’m sure his coach will remind him of the importance of scoring.
Regarding the pin, this was the most difficult aspect to get a handle on relative to scoring. As simple as it is to say a point earned is a team point scored, throwing in how to handle the pin was nothing short of maddening. Trust me; I went through dozens of mental contortions to reach the following conclusion.
My problem was; if an athlete is winning 15-4 and gets pinned, the team score under this system is 15 points for the person who got pinned (loser) and 14 points (10+4) for the winner.
“Now wait a minute Wade. That’s not fair; the loser gets more team points than the winner!” That’s exactly right because points scored are points earned. We must reward all wrestlers, in all situations, who put points on the board.
No one knows more than me how difficult this was to think about and then type. But I’ve looked at this 20 ways to Sunday and it’s the best way of handling it because the pin is nothing more than a scoring technique that’s a level above a near fall. Think of a pin as being similar to a takedown or a reversal. All three are scoring techniques but as it has always been, the pin ends the match.
I know that sounds crazy but the whole premise behind this system is to reward effort. We must incentivize wrestlers to score more and score often while forcing coaches out of their “protect the lead” approach to wrestling. Once everyone understands the game has changed, they’ll change with it; they’re too competitive not to!
Continuing the discussion regarding a pin, actually, how many times does the wrestler who’s ahead on points get pinned? So should we get our underwear all knotted up over something that seldom if ever happens? But when it does, the offensive machine that racked up more points than his opponent should be rewarded for his effort.
If you think this rule will scare the bejesus out of coaches, you’re probably right. But we have to force each of them to alter the way they handle their athletes. Scoring must be our top priority. Wrestlers must be forced or sufficiently motivated to engage their opponents as often as boxers throw punches or basketball players take shots.
Just because the current system is the way it’s been doesn’t make it right or mean it’s the best way to handle things. Actually the current system is socialistic to its core. Win 15-9 and receive 3 team points. Win 1-0 and receive 3 points. We penalize for trying and succeeding and reward those who don’t try and succeed. So where’s the incentive?
So much of what we do in wrestling doesn’t make sense. We’ve been piling so many rule alterations on top of existing rules that everything is a jumble of greys in a sport that should be black and white.
If we’re to make significant changes to wrestling relative to scoring, athletes need to know that each point earned makes a difference. They also need to feel that the sport respects them enough to make this change.
So let’s say for the sake of argument that a team wins a dual meet by the score of 126 to 122. And one of the winning team’s wrestlers lost his individual bout 10-5. How valuable do you think he feels knowing that his 5 points made the difference in the outcome of the match? How vocal do you think his teammates were when he wrestled knowing that every point he scored could make the difference? Peer pressure is a wonderful thing.
Currently, when an athlete is losing 10-4 in the third period with 45 seconds left the match is basically over and the atmosphere in the arena is ghostly silent. The person with 4 points has given up and the one with 10 is just riding out the period. As for the spectators, they’re talking among themselves about what they’re going to do after the match. But when every point counts, coaches are screaming, fans are cheering and the athletes are scrambling due to the pressure to produce. None of this can be a bad thing.
Tournaments should be scored in the same way but maybe that should be a discussion for another day.
Granted, there could be a few occasional upsets early on with this rule but over time the pecking order of teams will remain pretty much the same. Successful coaches know how they became successful and will continue being that way regardless of the rules. But when we change I’m sure you’ll see a lot more spectators smiling.
Two years ago when the NCWA checked to see what would have happened using this system at their National Dual Meet Championships here’s what they found.
Out of the 4 quarter-finals, 2 semi-finals and Championship match only 1 of the 7 duals would have had a different winner under this system.
Now if anyone is concerned about those high school teams that have 2 pinners and 12 average wrestlers defeating a team with 14 good wrestlers they should be. But think about this; how is this scoring system any different than our major sports? One 6’ 11” basketball star in high school surrounded by 4 average players has a legitimist shot at winning the state championships. A great running back or quarterback can carry a so-so football team through the playoffs. An outstanding tennis player will compete in both singles and doubles and account for 30 percent of a team’s score. One good pitcher in baseball surrounded by 8 average players will defeat 8 good players with an average pitcher. Just because this is different from what we’ve grown accustomed to in wrestling, which is the reason why the slowdown approach to scoring is so popular, it doesn’t mean the change isn’t worth making.
As for the fans, what’s not to like about more scoring? This rule alteration completely eliminates the challenge we currently have trying to explain what regular decisions, majors and technical falls are to the sports newcomers. As to the referee’s; which one wouldn’t embrace any rule change that increased scoring and reduced the number of stalling calls?
I have to admit I was and still am perplexed about a Default? How many points should it be worth? 15 like we award teams for forfeits and disqualifications or where I have it now in the 10 point category? This was another dilemma where I ended up choosing between the better of two imperfect choices. I didn’t want an athlete who was injured trying to finish the match because he didn’t want the other team to receive 15 points. Yet on the other hand, I worry those wrestlers who have to wrestle an athletic scoring machine might feign injury to keep his team from losing too many points. But in the end, given that you can’t legislate morality, but you can protect athletes by your decisions, I chose the latter and made injury default a 10 point occurrence.
Now, not everything that’s wrong in wrestling is the coach’s fault but most of our fixes need to start there. The point is coaches don’t make the rules but they influence the rule makers enough that if they don’t like something, it seldom happens. That hurts the sport more than anyone realizes. Wrestling can’t win when the coaches have that level of power because they will always do what is in the best interest of their programs. Never have we heard, “we can’t do that; it will hurt our spectator numbers.”
To be fair coaches aren’t all callous, they’re just a product of their competitive environment; the need to win completely dominates their personas. So it’s probably reasonable to conclude that coaches don’t always know the best way to accomplish goals that are outside the realm of winning and losing, and why their direct involvement in managing the needs of the sport should be rethought.
Hopefully the high school league will see the wisdom in what we’re trying to do.