A Potpourri of thoughts . . .

Did you know . . .

  • That the average roster size for college programs has shrunk in size from 37 wrestlers in 1975 to 23 today?
  • Scholastically almost 1/3rd of all high school matches are forfeits. Yet the sports leadership, at all levels, is operating under the assertion that all is well.
  • There isn’t a single Division I wrestling program that makes more money than they spend. That means were a red sport, not Democratic, just broke.
  • Academically, wrestling ranks at the bottom or near the bottom (depending upon the year you check) in relation to all the other collegiate sports. Reason; we have too many competitive dates on our calendars and the coaches care more about expanded schedules than elevating athletic department averages.
  • Medically, wrestling ranks at the top or near the top of all sports (depending upon the year you check) in relation to sport injuries. This doesn’t endear us to anyone but the Cramer tape company loves us.
  • At USAWrestling, the national governing body for wrestling, you don’t want to know what percentage of their card holders this year won’t renew their memberships next year. The number is actually staggering, not quite half, which is reflective of not being a customer service organization.
  • Instead of always saying how well we’re doing collegiately, let’s look at a list of big time schools that don’t offer wrestling and maybe we can then see how well we’re doing. LSU, Florida, Mississippi State, Colorado State, USC, Oregon, Washington, UCLA, Arizona, Georgia Tech, New Mexico, Texas, Baylor, Kansas, Notre Dame, Florida State, Clemson, California, Alabama, Arizona, Kentucky, Boston University, UTEP, Tulsa, Utah State, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, UConn, Rice, Yale, Houston, Idaho, San Diego State, San Jose State, Utah, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU, Georgia, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Colorado, Boston College, Mississippi, Georgetown, South Carolina, DePaul, Villanova, East Carolina, Xavier, Gonzaga, Creighton, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Dayton, Butler, University of Central Florida, Washington State, Louisville, SMU, Memphis, Temple, Montana, Miami, Duquesne, Auburn and Tulane.

Of the Top 25 Junior Colleges in America, there’s not a single school from Pennsylvania which is the hands down best state in the union for producing All Americans. I know what that says to me, what does it say to you? Whatever it is, it can’t be good.

Of the Top 30 collegiate women’s programs in the country there isn’t a single one from PA either. Yet the Keystone state with 33 intercollegiate wrestling programs can’t convince a single Athletic Director to help their Title IX numbers by adding a women’s program? What message do you think they’re sending us?

Rule Changes . . . just thinking with a glass of scotch in hand.

  • Given that most of us believe stalling has a negative connotation, what do you think about the offending athlete’s team losing a point along with the athlete? If we actually want to stop stalling, let the coach whose wrestler is being passive handle it. You can bet stalling would become extinct, and quite quickly.
  • Allow every wrestler to wrestle 2 weight classes per dual if they want to, but no more than three times a season. Why? Because our stars typically pin their opponents in the first or early second periods and are done for the night. This is akin to paying a bunch of money to watch LeBron James play for half of the first quarter and then sit the bench for the rest of the evening. That doesn’t sound like a great marketing move on the part of the Cavilers just as it isn’t a wise use of our resources either.
  • And how about the concept that an athlete can’t be saved by the buzzer if he’s being pinned? If someone is on his back at the end of the period the referee may, at his discretion, allow the action to continue. If and when it becomes obvious that the pin isn’t going to occur, the action can be stopped.

Random Thoughts . . . I usually have a few.   

  1. The more I look at collegiate wrestling I can’t help but marvel why teams like Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Iowa haven’t thought about hiring assistants who have pedigrees in pinning? Let’s use Penn State’s successes at the NCAA tournament as an example. It’s not that the Nittany Lions always dominate the competition with regards to the number of wins they have or All-Americans they produce at the NCAA’s; they’re just dominant in the bouts they wrestle. That’s what sets them apart from the competition; they typically score about two dozen more bonus points than the next best team. That’s been the difference in most of PSU’s title runs; they simply outscore the competition . . . and by a lot. Hopefully I’m not telling coaches something that should be obvious but if they’re not teaching pinning and developing bonus point mentalities, finishing ahead of Penn State becomes very problematic.

To prove my point, as of the end of November, of the wrestlers who are nationally ranked, Penn State has pinned 45% of their opponents as opposed to 17% for Oklahoma State. If this trend continues, which history would suggest, the Nittany Lions should be able to count on receiving at least 15 more bonus points than the Cowboys at this year’s NCAA tournament. That’s a lot of points in a close race.

  1. I wonder what it says for USAW that both freestyle medalists in Rio on the men’s side were collegians who were coming off successful folkstyle seasons. Isn’t it Colorado Springs that always explains to everyone that their international failings are a direct result of America’s love of folkstyle? Maybe I’m off base here but if anyone counted the number of shots that Cox and Snyder took on their way to the medal stand it would be in excess of twice as many shots as their 4 teammates took cumulatively. Myth debunked.
  2. Given that we finished ahead of Russia in men’s freestyle, I have to wonder how that occurred. It certainly wasn’t that we had a good performance or even a fair one so was this the first Olympics where the soviets were actually wrestling “clean?” Hmmm. We know their track athletes haven’t been playing nice for quite some time and it’s been recently determined that their whole Olympic program is riddled with performance enhancing drugs. So were they always better than us or just superior as a result of chemistry?
  3. I was dismayed to see one of our Greco coaches in Rio lose control of his emotions and throw the protest brick when it was obvious to everyone (except him) that he should have let sleeping dogs lay. Instead of reversing the 2-point call he questioned, the judges decided that he was right about questioning their call and instead awarded 4-points which was enough to end the bout and eliminate the American wrestler from competition. It seems to me if we ask and expect our wrestlers to do everything humanly possible to be ready for world level competition, shouldn’t USAWrestling hold their coaches to the same standard? Those who can’t help the athletes should be in the stands; and those whose actions might cause negative outcomes should be at home watching the competition on TV.
  4. How about the Mongolian coaches stripping down on world-wide television in protest of an official’s call. I understand that removing ones clothes is an acceptable form of protest where they come from but that’s not the case in any other country that I’m aware of. And we wonder why the IOC feels wrestling might not be a sport they want in their stable. Can you imagine Coach Krzyzewski at Duke dropping his drawers at mid-court over a questionable call? Behavior like that combined with internal corruption is exactly why the IOC’s executives have placed wrestling on their soon to be extinct list. I can’t believe it took the UWW 6 weeks to discipline that coach. This isn’t good. It’s the same as spanking a puppy for soiling your rug 6 weeks after the occurrence. I understand due-process and going slow but the IOC is watching. President Lalovic should have walked onto the mat and taken our exhibitionist by the arm and escorted him to an exit. Social decorum has to rule the day. Now we learn that Mikhail Mamiashvili, the president of the Russian Wrestling Federation and Vice President of the UWW is under investigation by the Russian Olympic Committee and United World Wrestling’s ethics committee for punching one of his women wrestlers after a loss. I know wrestling is combative but we also need to be civil, especially in the court of public opinion. This is just another death by a thousand cuts occurrences that hurts what we all fight so hard to achieve. We have to remember that there are three very competent spectator-friendly sports who would love to replace us in the Games and if they can help the IOC decide our fate, they will gladly do so by handing us a concrete life preserver.
  5. USAWrestling might want to consider filling a few of their positions with people who don’t always agree with leadership. The greatest growth in any organization comes from hearing the uncomfortable while understanding the way others see you and the job you’re doing. I understand that surrounding yourself with “yes men” comes with amazing levels of comfort while you’re being fed disinformation, ineffective viewpoints and distorted signals. But you can’t get ahead when all you hear is “you’re right.”
  6. Remember in 2013 when we first heard of our dismissal from the Games how fast FILA began saying they were going to change their image? So they changed their name but not the organizations leadership. They changed the colors of the singlets and mats but not how they do business. They promised more scoring so they increased the number of points a person could earn for a takedown from 1 to 2 points. Amazingly that single change doubled the number of points scored in the finals in Rio compared to those in London. But in math according to Wade if the points for a takedown were doubled from one event to the next, that doesn’t mean the action has doubled. Even a fourth grader can see through that attempt at deception. So has anything really changed? Half empty stands are still the norm and they don’t even try to hide the corruption anymore . . . but we do have different colored mats. Yea for us.
  7. Television and the Games; it’s not NBC’s job or any other network to cover a sport or make it popular. Rather it’s the sport’s responsibility to make itself popular which in turn draws the attention of television executives. Wrestling doesn’t seem to understand that and the fact that the UWW can’t even find a way to structure their events in a way to keep all their mats operating at one time only adds to the sports Ambien moments. None of this is what the UWW promised or NBC is interested in covering.
  8. If you have a restaurant that’s known to have sub-par cuisine, if you upgrade to linen tablecloths and lay new carpet down you still have the same problem. The food sucks and that’s why people pick one restaurant over another. Ambiance is secondary and only adds to the experience if the food is yummy. In wrestling our problem is the sport’s not exciting which is the equivalent of food to a restaurant. That’s where the sport needs to focus its attention. Paying television to broadcast events only points out, with great clarity, how badly we cook. Charismatic announcers, music, cheerleaders, fog machines and elevated platforms won’t make us a meaningful entertainment source even though it does give everyone a sense of accomplishment for doing something, even if their efforts are all false-positives.
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17 thoughts on “A Potpourri of thoughts . . .

  1. Wade,

    Two questions if I may on a point earned is a point scored coupled with the view a pin ends a match.

    First, doesn’t a point earned is a point scored encourage star wrestlers to prolong the match to maximize the number of points earned?

    Second, doesn’t a point earned is a point scored encourage an average opponent of a star wrestler to try to end the match as quickly as possible to minimize the number of points the star wrestler earns, even to the point of trying to take a dive, sacrificing himself for the team?

    If a point earned is a point scored and a pin ends the match, the incentives for who wants to prolong the match and who wants to end the match quickly seem reversed.

  2. A previous comment asked why take risks if taking risks can cause you to lose.

    If you do a point scored, a point earned, and are way ahead on points, it wouldn’t matter if you got pinned, would it? You’d still contribute more points to the team score.

    Wouldn’t it be to the star athlete’s advantage to “not pin” an opponent until the end of the third period? Remember professional wrestling when the eventual winner deliberately lets his opponent up so he can beat on him a while longer? Why wouldn’t the star athlete do the same and not pin his opponent right away to maximize team points?

    A silly question if I may. Why should a pin end the match? A pin could end the period, if you still wish to keep periods, and I suggest you not have periods but that’s another matter, but why should a pin end the match?

    Some suggest let the star athlete wrestle multiple matches because he pins his opponents too quickly. Why not, instead, let him pin an opponent multiple times?

    There is a problem with this suggestion. What do you do with forfeits? Wouldn’t watching a star athlete run up the score encourage the opposing team to forfeit?

    I have a suggestion regarding forfeits. Make forfeits be death blows.

    Adopt the following rule: if your team has more forfeits than the opposing team, you automatically lose the dual, no matter the team score. You didn’t come with a full deck to play; why should you have a chance to win?

    Unless there’s collusion between coaches, every coach will want to have a full team because the opposing team may have a full team, and any coach who doesn’t bring a full team will have to wonder if they will automatically forfeit the dual..

  3. How about eliminating overtime? If you tie in a tournament in regulation, then you both drop down into consolation. Or something like that. The 1st period stalling, 2nd period I escape, 3rd period you escape routine needs to go away. So boring. Only half in jest.

  4. Wrestling is too tough for the typical American youth of today. As a kid, we had an out house, a party line, one TV channel in winter and another in summer. Oh, venison was dinner and apples from our trees was dessert. Talent – have you been to the national junior tournaments – amazing.
    My point, we had nothing else better to do. Our fathers in Oregon cut down trees in the endless forests, and our matches were packed.
    It is all about the money in America. Have you been to a university swim meet or a gymnastics meet ? Folk style wrestling is dying as an organized school sport. In South Africa, everything is a club sport. Here in Las Vegas we have UFC gyms popping up.
    Wade, in my youth, your style etc made a positive impact on me. I like your mature, well written articles.
    Robert Hixon, MBA, JD, PhD candidate
    (( *5 state HS titles * several HS silver and bronze HS ntls * Earned varisty at Oregon State at 17, beat the Pac 10 champion and all-american – Jr college champ. South African ntl gold, Army 4th div champion. In this masters division, 3 gold, four silver and three bronze))

    Chasing the money, I will be ruffling feathers, I have began my own association. You do remember when there was only AAU. It would be my pleasure to have a Big Name supporting my products.

  5. The team point deduction is quite interesting and has merit. Maybe go with a warning for stalling, then 1 point for your opponent, then -1 team point, then a DQ with -2 team points.

    Can’t say I like the “extend the 7 minutes” idea for a possible fall in progress. I think the “saved by the bell” rule exists in many sports for a reason (except soccer’s stupid “stoppage time”), and sometimes it adds to the drama and excitement of competition. Wrestler A vs. Wrestler B, and sometimes the clock matters. I’m a Lehigh fan, and even though Lehigh’s Rob Rohn did pin Josh Lambrecht with 13 seconds left in the NCAA Finals after trailing 14-2 in the 3rd period, I would have been okay if the buzzer sounded and Rob didn’t get the fall. There have been many matches won or lost in the same scenario. Sometimes the clock is the mechanical version of the “interloper”.

    As always Wade, it’s great to read your thoughts. Lehigh fans still talk about you. I miss the old, hot and steamy Grace Hall. Being there in the ’70s was an amazing experience.

  6. To grow the fan base I go back to your excellent thoughts – and responders’ comments — on youth wrestling from last year. As a youth coach I was gratified to see people like you saying things I’d been thinking for years as I watched retention rates suffer from adults taking the fun out of sports again. Teaching LT fundamentals and letting kids grow into competition on their timetable requires everyone to set their egos aside – but we’ll all have a lot more to brag about when the HS lineups are full.

  7. First get the word out! #1for1pointscored and start a movement!!! Get the kids talking on social media! An abundance of strong emotional passion for wrestling is found in our youth!

    Secondly recruit the future to save our past! Host events during school hours like pep rallies, and bring in the arch rival team to dual it out in front of the whole school! Charge a dollar and make it a “raise money for ____(your cause) event” to get school administrators on board. Everyone wins: kids will pay a dollar to get out of class, wrestling will get exposure, and we present our sport as good Samaritans, all while growing our fan base.

    • Jacob . . . love your ideas but not until we fix the food – read below. If the restaurant isn’t getting the food right, you don’t want customers eating at your place. Don’t encourage pep rallies where everyone sees for themselves how bad the food is because you’ll lose them forever. Many of my friends who have written here have great ideas, but I’d like to place them in a holding pattern until we fix the most important issues. Action and action.

  8. Why are we afraid to make changes? Add the push out, penalize for blocking action with your head, allow 1 wrestler per dual to wrestle twice, adjust the HS weight classes back to 12 weights distributed by survey of weights of high school age athletes. We have go to add more action and strategy to coaching.

    • I believe we need to look to the coaches and stop thinking of rule changes that force athletes to pick up the pace. The coaches dictate how his or her athletes compete. The athletes just follow their lead. As long as 1 point difference determines the winner coaches will always encourage the slow down approach to competition, regardless of the rules or any change to stalling, push outs etc., because that’s how they win as well. If every point scored is a team point earned the game changes – dramatically. Win 10-2 and one team gets 10 points and the other team 2 points; just like EVERY other sport you can think of. In basketball you don’t get 5 team points for scoring 23 points or 7 points for scoring 4 touchdowns or scoring 1 run when you hit a grand slam. That’s the largest idiotic set of rules we’ve ever created – 3 points for a decision, 4 points for a major etc. It forces, it encourages and it promotes inactivity. When you place the responsibility for action on the backs of the coaches I assure you they will take care of the problem.

      Read the earlier blog on a Point Scored Is A Point Earned if you want to see how that would play out, it’s far longer than I wish to type here. When this becomes the rule of the land, coaches will be screaming at their athletes for points and more points and everything changes. We need to have 20 David Taylor’s in each collegiate dual meet wrestling each other, not Zach Ray’s. Sorry Zach, you’re a champion but you’re not known as a scoring machine.

      Sure we have other issues, especially with youth wrestling but I know, with every fiber of my being that with a few bold changes in the way we think, the way we look at our sport and everything changes for the good.

      As always, thank you Ted for contributing.

      • I was thinking along the same lines as you have stated until I head an interview with Tom Brands who said it does not matter what philosophy we preach in practice or what we holler from the corner, the wrestler is going to wrestle the best path to victory and that is dictated by the rules and the official. When risk is not rewarded why would a wrestler take a risk. If he knows that getting behind a point or two is going to be a loss because the official is not going to call stalling, he will not wrestle aggressively.

        [This is paraphrased and if others heard this interview and they heard what he said differently please comment.]

        I just don’t see a wrestler who is leading 4-2 going in to the 3rd period taking a risk that could cost him an individual win to score a few extra team points.
        I appreciate the opportunity that you are giving us to explore how to improve the rules that govern man’s greatest sport.

  9. Lots of negativity in this article. The leaders of USA wrestling at all levels, (international, college, high school), are aware of the challenges facing humankind’s oldest and greatest sport. This is especially true regarding the level of participation. Wade brings up good points and the discussion that hopefully follows will yield effective solutions to the challenges plaguing wrestling. I am in the camp he the glass is half full and by working together the brim will start flowing over!

    • Ed . . .certainly appreciate your contributions here and you’re right about lots of negativity. But to sit around the camp fire and talk about working together and tackling our challenges doesn’t, hasn’t and won’t yield action of any significance. Leadership is afraid of change because with change comes change and that always has them reaching for the Pepto-Bismol. Leaders fear becoming yesterday’s leaders so they do noting but very minor tweaks if that to protect their power base. Leadership will not change anything – ever – unless they are forced to by the masses who threaten them with a loss of control. Being aware is one thing, stepping up is another.

  10. Wade–from what source comes the 1/3 forfeit rate?

      • That’s a good source. The number is higher than we’ve seen in our user results, but I think our sample is biased toward schools with bigger rosters. In a sample of 116 duals, we saw about 18% forfeits across all weight classes. For lower weights the number is higher than average at 28%. I wonder if the NWCA sees the 1/3 rate spread evenly across weight classes or not? That would be interesting and helpful.

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