Make Scoring Simpler to Explain

Last year I posted on my How Wrestling Wins blog the importance of adding a point to nearfalls and takedowns. Fortunately the NCAA agreed with me regarding the 4 point nearfall and implemented it. They have yet to see the wisdom of going with the 3-point takedown but they will because 1) it simplifies how we explain the sport to new fans while 2) putting an emphasis on what’s important in the sport; takedowns and pins. Both rule alterations were used at this year’s NWCA All-Star Dual meet in Atlanta and the fans overwhelmingly supported the changes.

Here’s that post . . . remember it was written before the 4 point nearfall was passed.

Simplifying the rules: they’re too complicated. Spectators who are new to any sport will overlook the little nuances that make understanding it so much fun to watch. But they won’t return if the most basic of rules make them feel inept. Sports have to be easy to understand and even easier to explain. Right now wrestling’s rules are neither simple nor easy.  

Here’s a suggestion relative to making the sport easier explain and understand while pleasing those who still think pinning is king and takedowns are a close second. Please remember these scoring adjustments are designed to simplify the sport for the spectators, increase the number of points scored per bout while putting a strong emphasis on what’s truly important. 

Individual Scoring

Nearfall = a point for every hand count up to 4 points.

Takedown = 3 points

Reversal = 2 points

Escape = 1 point

This 4-3-2-1 scoring system is easy to remember and more importantly explain to any first time spectator. Remember who’s important here, without spectators we don’t need coaches or athletes because there won’t be a sport.

The problem the NCAA Rules Committee has when they meet is failing to ask the most critical question when they craft new rules, “will this increase spectator interest?” Instead they spend most of their time finding solutions to problems that were created by rules they made in previous years to fix problems that were created by rules they created before that . . .  They’re so busy swatting at mosquito’s that they forgot the reason they’re in the swamp in the first place was to drain it.      

As to nearfalls, a point for every stroke of the arm makes sense because it’s simple, easy to explain and rewards the efforts of offensive wrestlers more than ever before. It spotlights the importance of pinning and highlights its relationship to wrestling’s endgame.

How many know that in 1941 all nearfalls were worth 4 points? So why is it blasphemes to suggest 4 point nearfalls? Then in 1955 the rules committee added a 1 point nearfall and then a year later created the 2 and 3 point nearfall. So if we turn back the hands of time to where it was 75 years ago, is it really a big deal? Remember today the maximum nearfall is worth 3 points which is 1 more point than a takedown. So if we make these two changes, we’re only adding an extra point to each outcome so proportionally to one another, they’re still the same.    

But regardless of what your individual feelings are about 4-3-2-1, if the rules committee agrees, the very least that will happen will be higher scoring matches and spectators, especially new ones smiling more. Neither can be a bad thing.

Now if I could only get the rules committee to buy into the absolute critical need to adopt the rule, a point scored is a point earned, we’d fix so many ills that the sport’s “desirability index” would skyrocket. It would transform the sport like no other rule in the history of wrestling. If you haven’t read about it yet, you should.

I will re-post it later this week.

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4 thoughts on “Make Scoring Simpler to Explain

  1. Wade,
    Have you discussed or suggested the idea of moving collegiate wrestling to a spring sport?
    – upside: nicer weather, fewer cancellations
    – more outside, large- stadium venues possible.
    – Allows wrestlers to be more of a student in the fall semester – attend football games, etc before the real grind begins Jan 1.
    – move the post season of freestyle events to the fall for the senior level and university nationals.
    – fall season would be open wrestling.
    – season go Jan 1 (like Oct 1) to mid May.
    – spring break is a change to compete in warm weather and lowers the risk of their athletes getting into trouble during post-season craziness.
    – allows wrestlers to enjoy the thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with family.

  2. I’m ok with the 4 point NF. However, I think your 1-2-3-4 points per count idea is too much, and will cause issues during matches. The referee awards 2 sets of backpoints over a 30 sec scramble with a reversal, escape and takedown in there. The coach calls him over and questions the counting. Was that a 2-3 count or 1-3 count…prone for errors and confusion. A short/long count help refs and score keepers get it right on paper/on the clock.

    • DR . . . appreciate your thoughts. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

      If you’re saying that referees can’t count to 4 and remember where they were if someone or something interrupts their count, then they shouldn’t be given a whistle.

      You’re thinking like a wrestling person always thinks. About the coach, the athlete, table issues, etc. Of course we want to get everything right, but everything we do has to be about the spectator and keeping it simple. This does it.

      Will there always be controversy in the sport regardless of what we do or don’t do, that’s a given and perfectly natural. But the risk of that shouldn’t dictate what we do especially when it involves being responsible to count to 4 and remember how close you got to 4 before having to stop.

      • Wade,
        Not quite what I meant. What you propose is basically 4 ways to score back points, 1-2-3 or 4. Of course a referee will know where his count is and reward points, at the moment. My concern is that this makes it more complex and harder to follow, as a ref, scorekeeper, fan. Again, image a 2 min period where one wrestler is awarded backers of 1-2-3-2 and the other wrestler 3-2-3-1, without a break. If the score table gets one of those wrong and the score is incorrect, I wager is will be almost impossible for the ref to remember every scoring count and reconstruct the correct score. Ask refs what they think.

Tell us what you think