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:   


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