#1 A Point Earned, is a Point Scored

This will be, or could be, the most important rule change the sport has ever adopted, or rejected, and it’s so logical that it’s beyond comprehension how we could have overlooked it.

The current system of receiving 3 team points for a decision, 4 points for a major, 5 points for a tech, and 6 points for a fall is so bad, I can’t even begin to think of a word to describe the lunacy.

Whoever came up with this system of scoring had to have been a closet socialist. Win by 1-point and you receive 3-team points. Win by 7-points and you receive 3-team points. What ever happened to capitalism and the idea of rewarding the producer?

What we’ve been doing for decades is simply socialistic, and at the basis for our decline; take from the producer so you can reward those who don’t. And with this system, the producer always ends up . . . producing less.

Can anyone name a sport, any sport, that has a point system like ours?

I can just hear the coaches about a point earned; “it’s unfair, I don’t like it.”

But is that really a bad thing?

Wrestling has to make rules that benefit spectators, not the individuals who coach. For those who question this, I might ask; “how’s the current system working for us?” In 1911, Frank Gotch and George Hackenschmidt wrestled in front of 30,000 fans in Chicago’s Comiskey Park, and today we average less than 1,000 fans per dual to watch 10 times as many bouts.

And, if I can mention the UFC for a moment? They are a little over 20 years old, and their company is worth several billion dollars. It’s a mega sport. How’d that happen? Collegiate wrestling is 5 times older and we’re still begging for scraps? And the why is simple; wrestling is boring! In the UFC, fighters throw punches every 2.5 seconds. In wrestling, our athletes take shots every 2.5 minutes.

Okay, enough. Here’s the fine print of a Point Earned is a Point Scored.

We need to retire the thought process of having 3, 4, 5, and 6-point match outcomes. Instead we change to . . . every point an athlete scores, is a team point recorded.

If wrestler A wins by a score of 7-5. Wrestler A’s team receives 7 team points and wrestler B’s team receives 5 points. Reward the producer and the producer will produce more.

Now for the fine print; forfeits are worth 15 team points because that’s the same number of points a person can receive for a tech fall in the current system. So, when wrestler A receives a forfeit, wrestler A’s team receives 15 team points; the opposing team receives 0 points.

For the five levels of disqualifications; Flagrant Misconduct, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, Unnecessary Roughness, Illegal Holds and Stalling: 15 team points are added to the winner’s bout score. If wrestler A is winning 5-4 at the time of wrestler B being disqualified, wrestler A’s team receives 20 points (15 + 5) and wrestler B’s team receives 4 team points. No one wants to see an athlete get disqualified, but if he does, there should be a large enough penalty that dissuades him from doing it again.

Injury default: 15 team points are added to the winner’s bout score. If wrestler A is winning 5-4 at the time of wrestler B being injured, wrestler A’s team receives 20 points (15 + 5) and wrestler B’s team receives 4 team points.

Pins: 15 team points are added to the winner’s bout score. Notice the consistency here, 15 points for all of these bout ending situations. So, if wrestler A is winning 5-4 at the time of wrestler B being pinned, wrestler A’s team receives 20 points (15 + 5) and wrestler B’s team receives 4 team points.

Tech falls are just like they are now, any 15-point separation. If wrestler A is ahead by the score of 20-5 the match ends with wrestler A’s team receiving 20 team points and wrestler B’s team receiving 5 team points.

I’m sure this raises a few eyebrows . . . and I’ll try and address everyone’s concerns as you read.

The benefits of this change in scoring is immense.

  • There are no additional risks to athlete safety with this system.
  • There is no additional training that’s necessary for officials with this system.
  • There’s no additional costs to the schools with this system.
  • It doesn’t change who’s going to win; it just changes by how much.
  • It encourages scoring, which means action, which means excitement. Re-read that again.
  • It allows every wrestler to contribute to the team score even in a losing effort.
  • It pushes both athletes to score points right up to the end of a match regardless of who’s ahead, who’s behind, or by how much.
  • It logically increases the number of pins by virtue of higher scoring.
  • It severely discourages stalling because even in a losing effort a last second escape actually means a lot to a team’s total.
  • It allows a team who’s losing rather badly to possibly come back and win the dual. Come from behind victories are the sweetest events in spectators lives, and keeps fans in their seats right up to the very end.
  • It makes the sport easy to understand for those who are new to wrestling, because this system of scoring is what they see in all the other sports.
  • It seriously discourages forfeits and bad behavior on the part of the athletes which are positive outcomes, especially given the number of times we see forfeits cheating spectators out of that which was promised – 10 matches for the price of admission.
  • And, with larger team scores, the chance of two teams tying is nearly impossible as is having to explain to the spectators our complicated system of tie-breaking.

Our current system has slowly eroded scoring to the point that winning is all about who can make the least amount of mistakes and take the least amount of shots. Consequently, low scoring matches with one or two points separating the combatants has become the norm. It’s this defensive posturing that has quietly ground down spectator interest in our sport while keeping new fans at home.

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. A point earned is a huge change for wrestling, something that will obviously create a great deal of controversy, most of it coming from the coaches. The source of their objections will center on the fear they have that they might lose to a team that had previously been a walk over. But that won’t happen, at least in the long run because coaches know how they won in the past and will adjust accordingly.

Please remember, a vast majority of wrestlers don’t care what the score is when the final buzzer sounds, as long as they have their hand raised. So the athletes don’t have a dog in the fight, and I don’t blame them for low scoring, and often boring matches. It’s the rules they’re playing to and if it is action we want, we need to change the rules the athletes are playing to.

In every other sport, a point earned is a point registered. So why is wrestling different? 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 10 and 15 points and 10 team points if he scores between 15 to 30 points? But that’s what wrestling does? How about a quarterback who throws for 3 touchdowns and the scoreboard only gives him 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. Or winning in Rugby 27-23 and your team receives 10 team points for scoring 27 and your opponent loses all 23 of their points because they lost. Sound crazy, yep, but it is exactly what we do in wrestling. So where’s the incentive?

With this new rule there’s now a strong impetus for athletes to fight to get off the bottom with 15 seconds left in a match, even if they’re losing 9-3. And conversely, there are tremendous incentives for the dominant wrestler to keep scoring points right up until the end of the match. If the athlete doesn’t understand this, I’m sure his coach will remind him of the importance of scoring as often as he can, probably with a very loud voice and a foot up his athlete’s butt.

If we’re to make significant changes to wrestling relative to scoring, athletes need to know that each point they earn makes a difference. They also need to feel that the sport respects them enough and the chances they take 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 was wrestling a better opponent, knowing that every point he scored could make the difference? Peer pressure is a wonderful thing.

Currently, when an athlete is losing 12-4 in the third period with 1:15 left, the match is basically over and the atmosphere in the arena is anemic. The person with 4 points has given up and the one with 12 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, or maybe they’re wondering why they came? But when every point counts, coaches are screaming, fans are cheering and the athletes are scrambling as a result of the pressure to produce. None of this can be a bad thing.

Tournaments should be scored the same, but maybe that’s a discussion for another day.

I doubt there would be any upsets early on with this rule but if there were, by the following year the pecking order of teams would return to normal. Again, successful coaches know how they became successful and will continue being that way regardless of the rules.

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 they had to make?

Now if anyone is concerned about those teams that have 2 pinners and 8 average wrestlers defeating a team with 10 good wrestlers they should be. But think about this; how is this scoring system any different than America’s 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 has persisted, doesn’t mean the change isn’t worth making.

13 Comments

  • Rick S. says:

    Given evolutionary scoring changes might be palatable, not revolutionary scoring changes, may I suggest a slight modification to the way a technical fall works, please?

    Rather than have a technical fall automatically end the match, may I suggest the coach of the wrestler who is ahead by 15 or more points have the option to have the match ended then and there, whenever the match is stopped for any reason, be it out-of-bounds, end of the period, stopping the wrestling to prevent injury, stalemate, whatever.

    This allows the coach of the wrestler who is ahead by 15 or more points to decide if the coach is satisfied with a technical fall or if the coach wants a pin.

    I believe there are times when a very good wrestler is cheated out of a pin because the wrestler scores too many points having the match end, prematurely, by technical fall.

  • davenowa says:

    I feel like we are getting closer in theory, but now might be the best time to make a strong push for a change. I say this because with the NFHS rule regarding states adopting 12/13/14 weights, many will base their decision on wanting an odd number to avoid the tie-break criteria (as opposed to what is best in terms of weight classes). Any change such as this to scoring makes the dual tiebreaker virtually moot. With the “all points scored” plan, I do worry about wrestlers running up the score against inferior opponents before securing the pin, in the same way I worry about inferior wrestlers going to their back and wanting to get pinned to avoid giving up additional team points, as well as coaches opting to forfeit to save points (and the fear of a team winning 1 match by forfeit and winning the dual, with all other team’s wins by 1 point). I have been a proponent of MOV (margin of victory) scoring, which encourages scoring throughout the whole match, and not just when approaching a major decision. Essentially, all points scored count, such that a 5-4 win is worth 3.1 pts, while a 11-2 win is worth 3.9 points. A tech is still 5, while a pin is still 6…but all other decisions are 3.0 (OT win) to 4.4 (14 point margin of victory). Don’t fear the decimal. The other variant (slightly more complex, but an attempt to more greatly incentivize scoring) is to make the win worth 2 points, add the MOV component (0.1 to 1.4) AND add 1/10 points for every point the winner scored, such that a 3-2 win is only 2 +.1 + .3 for 2.4 pts, whereas an 11-10 win would be 2 + .1+ 1.1, for a total of 3.2. (max out pts scored at 1.5 for scoring 15 or more points, such that a high scoring 18-4 bout would generate 4.9, just a hair less than a tech fall). Also, I am a proponent of making forfeits more painful, especially if a team has a wrestler that could be sent out. To differentiate, we need to impose “locked line-ups” that are presented to the official just prior to the match start (anthem time). This also diminishes the effect of the coin toss. If a team lists a wrestler for a weight class and then forfeits, that is worth 8 points (and you can’t move your kid to another weight to duck someone). Couple these with 4-3-2-1 scoring and action would certainly increase (3 pt takedown, 2 point reversal, 1 point escape and near falls ranging from 2-4 pts (2 seconds, 4 seconds/6seconds) and penalties 1-2-3-4. Lastly, thank you for all your ideas, and agree that as long as the decision-making process centers on coaches and their individual teams, nothing drastic will change. I like your college season proposal, and trying to return the focus to dual meets.

    • Wade Schalles says:

      Dave . . . interesting thoughts. Here are mine to yours. First off, KISS for the fans. Especially the new ones. Having any plus .2 type of scoring adds a complexity to scoring we can’t afford to have. Keeping It Simple is the way to go. Other points, who doesn’t run up the score on his opponents if he of she can? And if not, why not? Life is tough, as is our sport. Don’t we always preach to have our wrestlers doing their best.

      Name one titan of industry who when he or she makes a billion dollars, certainly has enough money to survive $5.00 a gallon of gas, isn’t trying to reach the 100 billion mark? Welcome to life. You fight like hell to get ahead and keep performing. Isn’t that exactly what we brag about that wrestling does for our children as they mature. Strive for excellence? Do your best. I remember one match where I let up on a wrestler, and got caught and pinned. I learned a lesson there about not doing my utmost best, all the time, from the first whistle to the last one.

      As to forfeits, I’d love to add to my suggestions, which won’t be well received, if a team forfeits any weight class, they lose the dual. All the other matches are only for individual pride. In other sports, you forfeit the game if you don’t have enough players to field a whole team. Why are we whining about “that’s not fair.” Toughen up butter cup.

      However, in no instance can you legislate morality or pride. Either the child will compete or he or she won’t. I can’t see where I would ever change any rules because I’m worried about some individuals rolling over and purposely getting pinned. If I were their Dad or Coach, we’d have several long talks about character and personal pride. Can you imagine yourself saying to a child, “Jimmy, I need you to forget about everything I taught you about personal pride and doing your best. I need you to go out there and roll over and get pinned in front of your parents and classmates.” Wow.

      Too many respondents have brought up how one wrestler could win a dual meet when the other team had 12 or 13 one-point wins. Hog wash, mathematically it’s possible, but if you as a coach can’t get 12 or 13 of your wrestlers to win by more than one point, you need to find another profession.

      Are the things I’m proposing 100% perfect, hell no. But they may hit at the 90% level. And given that our sport is currently firing on 3 of 8 cylinders, why is anyone worried about the other 10%? Nothing is perfect, or close to perfect anymore. But these suggestions are at least half of a light year ahead of where we currently are.

  • Wade Schalles says:

    Vince . . . appreciate your response. Thank you. In the big picture, wrestling is an individual sport with a team component. Under this suggested system, nothing I wrote affects the individual. The best wrestler still wins. That’s where we must, we have to place our focus. As to the team, as long as everyone knows the rules before the game begins, by definition, it’s fair. Everyone knows. Regarding your concern, I would believe this system would substantially reduce forfeits. Right now, there is little impetus for coaches not to forfeit. And forfeits really hurt our sport. You need to focus on the benefits of this system, not which is of minimal concern in the big picture. The sport is about individuals, not teams. And I must assume by the way you wrote your response, that you coach? If so, let me ask, what are your average spectator numbers? And if you take parents and relatives out of the equation, how many are left? I’m not trying to attack here, just point out that we’re, all of us, in deep do-do. We must, we have to change what we’re doing, even if there are a few sticking points. Administrators aren’t going to put up with non performing sports much longer. We must have a lot more compelling action, and a lot more scoring. My best to you.

    • Vince Stravino says:

      Not a coach. Wrestled at Bethlehem Catholic/Princeton. Attended a few clinic graced by you decades ago and have great appreciation for all you have meant to the sport.

      Wrestling, even NCAAs, is really difficult for anyone not versed in the sport to watch. It is kind of boring to a general sports fan.

      I would say, however, that two evenly matched teams squaring off (especially rivals) can generate as great and exciting a sporting event as you can witness. At a local level, two equal derby schools where the kids grew up together, going head to head…just hard to beat as a fan.

      Your argument that if teams know the scoring mechanisms beforehand, they can adapt accordingly. That argument can be made just as strongly for the current (or any) system.

      My guess is that if two teams squared off with 9/10 matches decided by a point, it would be dramatic. By any metric, a team winning nine of ten bouts deserves the victory.

      Regardless, your efforts to improve the optics of the sport are appreciated.

  • Vince Stravino says:

    Team A wins one match by forfeit. Team B wins the nine remaining bouts each by one point.

    Team A wins the match.

    Hmmmm. Not sure that works for me.

    You are thinking outside the box and making wrestling more exciting by rewarding offense is laudable. It, however, discounts the underdog who keeps from giving up bonus points in a key match as a contributor to a team effort. Sometimes duals are decided not by the team points won, but by the team points not given up. Often, those matches can be the most compelling.

    • Wade Schalles says:

      Vince . . . appreciate your response. Thank you. In the big picture, wrestling is an individual sport with a team component. Under this suggested system, nothing I wrote affects the individual. The best wrestler still wins. That’s where we must, we have to place our focus. As to the team, as long as everyone knows the rules before the game begins, by definition, it’s fair. Everyone knows. Regarding your concern, I would believe this system would substantially reduce forfeits. Right now, there is little impetus for coaches not to forfeit. And forfeits really hurt our sport. You need to focus on the benefits of this system, not which is of minimal concern in the big picture. The sport is about individuals, not teams. And I must assume by the way you wrote your response, that you coach? If so, let me ask, what are your average spectator numbers? And if you take parents and relatives out of the equation, how many are left? I’m not trying to attack here, just point out that we’re, all of us, in deep do-do. We must, we have to change what we’re doing, even if there are a few sticking points. Administrators aren’t going to put up with non performing sports much longer. We must have a lot more action, and a lot more scoring. My best to you.

  • Howard lindstrom says:

    Never thought about the team point system
    Make every point valuable.
    You never stop thinking and analyzing
    I think you’ll semi retire
    Be well

  • Art Donahoe says:

    This idea is great; one desperately needed by the sport. In addition to the advantages listed above, this system allows for match-ups between team, and even national, leaders in points scored. How would you feel about an NCAA final featuring the top two scorers in the country? Better yet, make it a semi-final bout. It gets even more interesting if one wrestler scores most of his/her points from the feet, while the other scores from pinning combinations. Once again, Schalles for the W.

  • William says:

    I like the idea, but believe some tweaking is in order. If I read and understand correctly? You have a pin as 15 points + whatever points the Wrestlers scored at time of pin added. In your example, you had it 5-4 at time of pin so 20-4 team points scored. A dominate wrestler may look to run the score up to 14-0 then pin a kid. This would add 29 team points to one school, zero to the other. The bigger problem as i see it though is. The dominate wrestler who could have just pinned the kid in 20 seconds, now would kind of embarrass his opponent to score team points. It would also make it beneficial for a coach to FFT a weight. A pin should be scored higher as it is the ultimate goal. Maybe adding points based on the time of fall would work? Even better, quickest fall of meet or tournament gets 15 team points. This way kids would be looking for quick falls and team scores could be in question till the very last match!!!

    • Wade Schalles says:

      William . . . thank you for your thoughts. Logical as they are, there’s always a downside to all rules, whether they are the current ones or suggested ones. As to your first concern, running up the score can be done today to secure a 15-point tech fall. So, the possibility of embarrassment is already there with today’s rules. The only difference is now, the team points would be 29-0. However, is that a bad thing? It sounds like a lot of points, and it is. But isn’t that what the sport needs, human scoring machines. Remember, the other team has the same opportunity in every one of the other 9 collegiate bouts or 13 scholastic bouts to run up points too. So, although it seems unfair based on most dual meets being won today under the current system with less than 29 points, I see how you could question the fairness of it. But, if both teams have the same advantage, or disadvantage, isn’t that fair by definition? Forfeit, sure that might happen, but the coach wouldn’t know for sure that his wrestler might have only lost the bout 12-2 had he wrestled him. I thought about a sliding scale for when a fall is registered, but we have tooooo many rules and what ifs, and how abouts now. That’s what got into this mess in the first place. I like your willingness to think these things out, but whatever the rules are, even the current ones, if they’re evenly applied, then by definition, they’re fair to all. I’d rather try and fine tune high scoring bouts than keep the rules the way they are given the number of fans we don’t have. As a final thought, is LeBron James scoring 87 points out of the teams 101 points bad for his teammates or the sport of basketball? How about Tom Brady being involved in every point the Buccaneers score per game except for maybe extra points a bad thing, or somehow unfair. The way we’re doing things isn’t working. And our position in the sports hierarchy says we need to change, or remain a third class sport.

  • Paul Miller says:

    I think this new scoring system is brilliant. Having a kid currently wrestling college most matches aa over in the first 30 seconds. Going down 6/8 zip and it’s already over. I love it!

    • Wade Schalles says:

      Paul . . . thank you. There are obvious concerns when something like this is suggested. But, as I wrote in the blog, the only thing that changes in this system is the total number of points scored. The same athletes will win as won before, there is no need to retrain officials, and the fans will love it. Maybe not all of the 5% we have now out of the 95% we need to attract to become a self-sufficient sport. But over time, kids will get tougher, and coaches will learn to teach the speed-up approach instead of the current slow-down approach. None of that can be a bad thing.

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