Final X Matches

Dake v. Deiringer

For those who attended the Final X competition between Kyle Dake and Alex Deiringer, the entry fee of $10.00 was $9.50 more than it should have been.

To be clear, what I’m about to write, has nothing to do with the quality, skill, intelligence or level of sportsmanship regarding either of these gentlemen; just as the words I use in this blog have nothing to do with those who coach, either these athletes, or in general.  

But in the cross-hairs for me, is the UWW, regarding their philosophy of rule creation and then, when it becomes painfully apparent that some of them aren’t advancing the sport, they refuse to say, oops!

More on that later . . .

But for anyone, to have to sit through two complete bouts, wrestled between two of the best athletes’ in the world, and have each of them go the distance without a single takedown occurring; it was truly disappointing.

To make sure everyone is clear where I’m coming from, I believe the wrestlers in this case, wrestled to the rules, just as the coaches in this case, coached to the rules. But those two bouts, helped the sport more than I’ve seen in years, continue its meteoric rise toward mediocrity.

For those who disagree with my assessment, I’m not going to spend time debating the notion that both athletes were so evenly matched that neither could score. Hog wash, pure unadulterated nonsense! They could have scored 10 points had the rules forced them.

But, both athletes wrestled to the rules, and Kyle was better at them than Alex was; and why he’s the one going to the Worlds.

My best to you Kyle, go make us proud.   

But at what cost do these rules hurt wrestling? Who walked away from the gym in Austin thinking, “I can’t wait to see more matches like that?”

Does anyone actually believe that these two bouts were the types of catatonic events that would start a bidding war between television networks for broadcasting rights?  

I haven’t thought much about what to do, I’ve been so focused on the collegiate side of things that international rules haven’t been on my radar.

But obviously, things need to change.

Now, I wouldn’t support such a rule, but if Kyle and Alex had been told before the matches that we changed the rules; there’s only going to be one bout, 10 minutes in length, and the first one to score 3 takedowns wins. And, by the way, if no one gets 3 takedowns in the allotted time, then the outcome is simple; the United States doesn’t send a representative to Kazakhstan at 79kg.

Had that been a rule, I would bet my entire 3rd grade collection of baseball cards that someone would have had 3 takedowns.

My premise is simple, athletes will do whatever they have to, in order to win. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, change the incentives. It’s not rocket science.   

Again, wrestlers’ wrestle to the rules, coaches’ coach to the rules. And they do both while minimizing exposure to losses. In today’s wrestling, that’s the way you win. So, basically, and sadly, knowingly, the UWW has turned our sport into a physical chess match with all the excitement of an actual chess match.

Three cheers for them.

Of course, great matches happen at times, in spite of the rules. But that has more to do with the individual make-up of the competitors than it does about the rules. I wrestled with a damn the torpedo’s mind set, and yes, it cost me on several occasions. But people would travel a great many miles to watch Wade wrestle and never drive home saying, “well, that was a waste of time.”

Mills, Askren, Lewis, Nickal, Sanders, were all like that too. So, for the UWW to hang their hats on some of the wrestlers of today like Snyder, Burroughs and Taylor as a shining example of their rule creations, would be disingenuous at best. There will always be athletes that will charge ahead and keep the score keepers busy; just as the other 98% are perfectly happy to win by a push-out.     

What I’m saying is the way the UWW is doing business doesn’t lend itself to spectator development. And one might ask, why wouldn’t they want spectators?

Why doesn’t the UWW want all their gyms full of screaming fans, and all their events televised? How bad would it be, to be forced to manage hundreds of millions of marketing dollars like the UFC has to do?        

I think they’d love it, if it didn’t come at the expense of them losing control. Which brings me to the heart of the More issue I mentioned earlier.

The UWW doesn’t want the sport to become any more exciting, or popular, than it already isn’t. Because status quo keeps those who currently decide, deciding; in two ways.

#1 People always rise to their level of incompetence. You seldom see the same CEO, or Board of Directors, maintaining their positions, at any company, when it moves from 5 million dollars in annual revenue to 100 million. Larger, smarter, more competent dogs move in, who have decidedly sharper teeth, and oust those who are no longer capable.

The challenge wrestling faces, is, both collegiately and internationally, the survival of leadership happens at the expense of the sport.

#2 Everything is politics. Okay, here’s how it works, or doesn’t work in international wrestling. At what was FILA, and now the UWW, those in charge wish, as you can imagine, to stay in charge. The following is a secondary example of maintaining power.

When anyone’s term limit from the UWW ends, it’s those who are still in governing positions who vote on keeping that same individual or name someone to replace him or her. So, it certainly appears, to remain in the good graces of those sitting next to you, everyone has to go along to get along by creating rules that dummy down scoring, and stagnate action, all for self-serving purposes.

The more matches that are close in score, the easier it is for leadership to insert themselves in the outcomes. And, the more matches we have that are ho-hum, revenue falters and leadership thrives.

Anyone who believes I’m wrong, has to also believe that wrestling isn’t as great a sport as they thought. That wrestling isn’t capable of rising to the level of the NBA, NFL, or the UFC.

I happen to believe, with all my heart, that we have that potential. But there has to be something holding us back; it can’t be maturity. We’ve had several more centuries than any other sport to get it right.

So, in the absence of popularity, one of two things has to be wrong. Either the sport isn’t capable of greatness, or leadership isn’t capable of greatness? Pick one, I don’t see a third option here.             

I just finished watching the Retherford-Yanni wrestle off. There were at least three calls, or no calls, that could have altered the outcome. Or, maybe one or more of them, did?

But as I mentioned with Kyle, go make us proud Zain.

As to inserting themselves in outcomes, leadership has always had a, if you help me come home with a medal at 57kg, I’ll help you when your 79kg wrestler is competing relationship. It’s a one hand washes, or greases, the other agreement.  

Don’t think for a minute that it doesn’t happen that way. Why do you think they inserted the two balls in a bag rule that, thankfully, is no longer around? Might it have been that flipping a coin was too easy, less time consuming, and actually fair?

Fortunately, leadership can’t alter outcomes when matches have athletes who are actually trying to score. That’s good, well, maybe it is. But more than likely it’s bad because it gives leadership the ability to point to those rare occurrences as, “Look see, wrestling is great, and so is the job we’re doing!”   

Sadly, what we have today is leadership making a secondary sport out of the primary one called political gamesmanship. It’s called You give me, I’ll give you.

FILA was caught doing exactly that, on too many occasions. When the IOC finally figured out how bad it was, they were appalled, and we got tossed from the Olympics. But to be clear, the IOC didn’t toss the sport of wrestling, it tossed wrestling’s leadership.

What caused the most difficulty for us, to convince the IOC to reconsider their position and reinstate wrestling, was the belief that it was the sport that was being tossed; when it was its leadership who received the vote of no confidence.

So, we struggled, we had a hell of a time getting the sport back, because FILA was redirecting the attention away from their failures, and pointing fingers at the sport.         

Eventually though, only after FILA was forced to say 3 mea culpa’s, and force their President to resign, did the IOC, reluctantly, decide to reinstate the sport.

But, it didn’t take long before it was business as usual; changing very little, while promising to change a lot.

One of the changes was to promise to increase scoring, to make wrestling more exciting. They accomplished that immediately by doubling the number of points a wrestler would receive for a takedown; then pointed out that bout scores had doubled under their leadership.

They also made a name change, which did make sense. Look, we’re now the UWW, we’re New and Improved. The New portion seemed to be their attack on improprieties, while the Improved part seemed to be their skills at hiding improprieties.

The only reason we have a push out rule is due to the misnomer that athletes are so even; it’s the only way to keep scores from constantly being tied at the end of regulation.

Once again, hog wash.

Why would anyone risk taking actual shots when a push out will achieve the same outcome? How can anyone call that wrestling? Sumo maybe, but not wrestling.

When you make rules that knowingly discourage offensive activity, we’re definitely going in the wrong direction. But it does serve certain purposes within the sports leadership.

Fans have always wanted to see the equivalent of two cats fighting over a ball of yarn. They crave, and deserve, to see score boards lighting up like a winning slot machine.  

Then, they added, God help me, another leadership controlling rule; the shot clock! That’s another inactive inducing way to win a match. And given that, that call is solely at the discretion of the referees, who’s rankings, and number of trips they’re assigned to take, is controlled by the UWW leadership, hmm. I wonder what happens there?

It appears, or a case could be made, that both the push-out rule and placing athletes on a shot clock are in effect to be used as platforms for re-election campaigns. For these rules not only encourage inactivity, the sports leadership thrives on inactivity.               

Maybe it’s time to dump those rules and allow ties to occur? And as crazy at it might sound, only winners advance to the next round. If you lose or tie, one or both of you are out of the winner’s bracket.

Sound harsh, maybe.

But you’d see a heck of a lot more action with that rule than the ones they’re coming up with now. I firmly believe we need to allow athletes to decide. Not the referee’s, or members of the UWW who enjoy the trips, per diems, and bottles of wine that aren’t found on the bottom shelves.

These quotes, are from fans who were at the Dake-Deiringer matches:

“Had those matches been televised, casual fans would have been bored.”

“If we want the sport to grow, we need the rules to force the tempo.”

“These bouts were the kind of wrestling that got the sport booted from the Olympics.”

“Sad the World Team spot is determined without a takedown taking place in either match.”

“Those matches were yawners. And people are happy with the rules as the spectator numbers flatline.”

Yanni v. Rutherford

This match was more exciting than the Dake-Deiringer bouts, but there wasn’t a takedown scored here either.

And although Zain was in deep on several shots, the rules, permitted him to take stalemates when the situations didn’t call for them. That was probably a good thing, given he was wrestling a master of the unusual.  

But as with the previous bouts I wrote about, Zane wrestled to the rules, and was the better at them than Yanni.    

But to my point here; our current freestyle rules, have severely reduced scrambling opportunities, which is some of the most exciting aspects of the sport.  

Others I spoke with who were present, felt Yanni was stale and unimaginative, in relation to what he’s known to be. Zain on the other hand looked fresh, and sharp.

Neither or those were my opinions of the match; I just thought they were wrestling to the rules.

And for the sport, that’s a shame.

Hearing Loss

I’d like to speak to referees for a moment. Are any of you having trouble with your hearing?

I’m wearing hearing aids now, which might be normal for someone of my age. But my hearing began to go south after my first year of officiating, and that was when I was in my 40’s. And I’ve struggled with Tinnitus since that time as well; and the ringing drives me crazy.

To my point, with the way Fox 40 whistles, and others, advertise their products, without any consumer warnings, I was just wondering if I’m alone here?

The manufacturers do advertise their products as being “clear and loud;” maybe they should have added, “continual use could lead to partial or extended hearing loss.”

Of course, that’s assuming there is a problem?

I’d be interested in hearing if other referees have experienced these challenges? Write to me at: wschalles@cfl.rr.com.   

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One thought on “Final X Matches

  1. Hi Wade,
    Haven’t visited your website in a while.

    You are wrong, of course.
    So is the rules committee so don’t feel bad.

    Why are you and the rules committee wrong?

    Neither of you truly understand your sport of wrestling.

    You need to understand your sport through the eyes of a business man and the eyes of a sports reporter.

    What does a business man know that you don’t know? A business man knows, when creating a product, there are three variables. They are the amount of time to create the product, the resources used during that time, and the features of the product. Time, resources, features.

    The business man knows he can control only two of the three variables. If he controls time and resources, he has to compromise on the features. If he controls time and features, he has to compromise on the resources. If he controls resources and features, he has to compromise on the time.

    How does this apply to amateur wrestling?

    Your product is a series of wrestling matches are you trying to sell to the public. Time is the total amount of time you have to create those matches. Resources is the number and type of wrestlers you employ to create those wrestling matches at the same time. Features is what happens during the wrestling matches and how the wrestling matches end.

    Go back to the late 1800s or the early 1900s. Wrestling was a goal-oriented sport. More on goal-oriented sports when we use the eyes of a sports reporter.

    The goal was to get the pin or submission. Pure and simple. Pin or submission. What resources did you have? Your resources consisted of two wrestlers creating the wrestling match. How long did that take? It took as long as it took. The variable they didn’t control was time.

    Think I’m wrong? The longest wrestling match in modern Olympic history happened in 1912 between Martin Klein and Alfred Asikainen. It took 11 hours and 40 minutes for Klein to eventually get the pin.

    The wrestling community didn’t want matches lasting hours. The wresting community can only control two of the three variables, time, resources, features.

    Time was being controlled and resources was being controlled. Features had to become flexible. A match could now end without a pin. We have draws and the birth of stalling.

    The wrestling community didn’t like draws. We needed some other criteria to decide a winner. Are the wrestling fans slipping away yet?

    One criteria might be time advantage. If there is no pin, the wrestler with the most riding time wins. Yikes. Talk about fan frustration. Are the wrestlers just going to lay on one another until the match is over.

    Let’s try a different criteria. The referee can decide which wrestler is more aggressive. That didn’t last long.

    Let’s try a different criteria. We will award points for successfully executing different moves and holds. Congratulations, you completely changed the sport of wrestling.

    Say again? Completely changed the sport of wrestling? Yes, you changed the sport of wrestling from a goal-oriented sport to a point scoring-oriented sport. What does this mean?

    Look at some goal-oriented sports. The goal in most combat sports is the pin or submission. We want the tap-out. The goal in many running sports is to cross the finish line first. That is our well-defined goal. What is one feature goal-oriented sports have in common. You don’t know how long they will take. Remember our businessman and time, resources, features.

    How long does it take to get a tap-out? How long does it take to cross the finish line? You don’t know in goal-oriented sports.

    Look at some point scoring-oriented sports. In football, you have a fixed amount of time to score points. In basketball, you have a fixed amount of time to score points. In weightlifting, you have a fixed amount of time to lift the weight. In the high-jump, you have a fixed amount of time to jump over the bar. You can’t define the goal. You can’t say a football team must earn three touchdowns to win the game. You can’t say the first basketball team to reach one hundred points wins the game. You can’t say what weight a weightlifter needs to lift to win the competition. You can’t say how high the high-jumper needs to jump to win the event. As our business man would say, you are varying the features of the product and fixing the time and resources you put into the product.

    It’s goal-oriented vs point scoring-oriented. You changed the sport of amateur wrestling. Why does this matter?

    You like to say, “it’s as natural for boys to wrestle as it’s for birds to fly.” True, very true, if and only if wrestling is a goal-oriented sport. When it’s natural for boys to wrestle, they have goals. They don’t know how long it will take.

    Why does this matter? Can’t amateur wrestling be a point scoring-oriented sport? If I remove the wrestling family (friends and family of the wrestlers competing) from your fan base, what do you have left? Seems your non-wrestling family fans have gone somewhere else.

    Where have your non-wrestling family fans gone? They’ve gone to the MMA and the UFC and the NAGA, every one.

    Some clever amateur wrestling rule maker said, let’s create the tech fall. The tech fall is just like the pin, only for point-scoring sports. This is a bunch of bull, but to understand why, we need to use the eyes of a sports reporter.

    You are now a sports reporter assigned to cover the football game. It’s a point scoring sport. You need to capture highlights and show them on the ten o’clock news. What do you show?

    Our football team scored three touchdowns. The opponents only scored two. We won! I want us to win. What highlight is the sports reporter going to show on the ten o’clock news?

    Does the sports reporter show the first touchdown, the second touchdown, or the third touchdown? Does the sports reporter show the fans celebrating at the end of the game? This is a point scoring-oriented sport. This is the problem with a point scoring-oriented sport. The climax, the most exciting moment, doesn’t have to happen at the end of the game. Maybe the second touchdown was a beautiful pass and a long touchdown run. That’s the highlight I will show.

    You are still a sports reporter. You are assigned to cover a horse race. Horse racing is a goal-oriented sport. The goal is to cross the finish line first. What highlights do you show on the ten o’clock news? I already know the answer before the event occurs.

    For a horse race, I want two highlights. I want the beginning of the horse race and I want the end of the horse race when the first horse crosses the finish line. The first horse crosses the finish line is the most exciting highlight. The first horse crossing the finish line is the crescendo.

    Okay. So we got point scoring-oriented sports and goal-oriented sports. Big deal. You still think a tech fall is the same as a fall in wrestling.

    I am still a sports reporter. This time I’m assigned to cover a wrestling meet. The first match ends by pin. What are my highlights for the ten o’clock news? You would be daft if you didn’t say the most exciting moment of the wrestling match was the pin. The pin was the crescendo of the match.

    The wrestling meet doesn’t have only one match. Let’s say I want highlights from a second wrestling match. This time, let’s have the wrestling match end by tech fall.

    What happened in the second wrestling match? It varies from wrestling match to wrestling match. I want our wrestler to win so obviously, our wrestler will score the tech fall. Let’s say, the second wrestling match has our wrestler score a take down, and four near falls. That’s a total of fourteen points. The opposing wrestler manages to score an escape. The score is now fourteen to one. Our wrestler, because the star he is, gets a take down. The score is sixteen to one, tech fall. You’re happy, I’m happy, what went wrong?

    What highlight is our sports reporter going to use for the second wrestling match? It’s the same problem as in the football game.

    Do I, the sports reporter highlight the fans celebrating the tech fall at the end of the wrestling match? Do I, the sports reporter highlight one of the near falls. Maybe the second near fall was a beautiful spladle happening right at the end of the first period. That’s my highlight. I want to show that exciting move, that spladle. I want to capture my wrestler grinning with joy with the opposing wrestler suffering in agony during that spladle.

    Okay, I picked my highlight, the spladle near fall, as my highlight. What are my captions? What do I say? Do I say how good our wrestler is as he applies the spladle? Of course I do. But what else do I say and how do I say it? If I’m disappointed a fall didn’t occur, I might say, “Here is our man applying a spladle for the fall. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the fall because time ran out. Eventually, he got the tech fall.” Sounds like I’m disappointed, doesn’t it? What was the highlight of the second match? What was the crescendo of the second match? What was the moment when fans were on the the edge of their seats? It’s not the moment our wrestler got awarded the tech fall.

    Why are you wrong, Wade? You still don’t understand wrestling works best as a goal-oriented sport. You are hung up thinking wrestling is a point scoring-oriented sport.

    The wrestling fans of amateur wrestling are friends and family of the wrestlers. After their wrestlers quit or graduate, if they want to watch combat sports, they move on to real combat sports. They move on to goal-oriented combat sports where the goal is the crescendo that ends the match.

    A tech fall is no substitute for a fall.

    Changing wrestling to a point scoring-oriented sport from a goal-oriented sport is no substitute.

    Please don’t be offended if I say you are wrong. Probably, I’m the one who is wrong. You know a great deal more about the sport of amateur wrestling than I will ever know. My view of amateur wrestling is a fan’s view. My view of amateur wrestling is a business man’s view. My view of amateur wrestling is a sports reporter’s view.

    Like any fan, I think I know more than I know.

    I hope all is going well with your book.

    Yours, anonymously,

    -Rick

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