2020 Olympic Wrestling – Time to Thin the Herd

By | May 24, 2013

I have to say watching this Olympic level challenge play out has been fascinating. It’s been a blend of emotional roller coaster meets tilt-a-whirl. I read one email and it suggests everything is a done deal and we’re back.  The next has my head spinning, where a complete overhaul of FILA and USAWrestling is being suggested because the battle is lost.

Personally I’m looking for the best result possible because we will never get another opportunity like this to make substantial changes in my lifetime.

Here in lies the dilemma. If we’re reinstated on the strength of some minor rule adjustments, it won’t be due to the efforts of the offending organizations that got us into this mess. It will be on the backs of a few influential men who have put their lives on hold to smooth IOC feathers ruffled by FILA, and bandage our oozing wounds that USAWrestling continues to ignore.

All this scares the heck out of me. Part of me wishes we would crash and burn. Only out of the ashes of incompetence will a stronger sport emerge, but all this is for another day to discuss.

As for now, the IOC wants both structural and attitudinal changes from FILA and if that means changes in wrestling’s leadership, so be it! FILA on the other hand, an organization that is known for their self-importance and world class stubbornness is only willing to meet their detractors half way. As for USAWrestling, they continue to lead as they continually do through their silence.

For those who are spectators in this battle, this Saturday ought to be interesting. It’s when the first of the two IOC meetings to select a sport for inclusion in 2020 takes place. This one is in St. Petersburg, Russia and where FILA will be given 30 minutes to make their pitch for reinstatement.

Up until now many of us thought this week’s meeting was to pick the two or three sports that will be advanced to the IOC’s September meeting for a final vote. But given this is an IOC election year where their organizations next President will be selected, it appears they want to focus solely on that effort. What that means to wrestling is whoever receives the most votes this weekend will be rubberstamped in September for 2020.

Jacques Rogge Opinion on Wrestling

Just today IOC President Jacques Rogge said “wrestling has reacted well and made the necessary changes to give the sport a chance of saving its place in the Olympics.” He noted FILA’s attempt at change and praised them for their efforts. Now what that means is anyone’s guess but I’m not going to get my hopes up too high on the strength of his words. If I had to speculate, I’d say he was posturing to have our sport remember him well and not as the person who hung wrestling as he steps down as President in September. You don’t make it to that level without class, style and being politically savvy.

What FILA’s New Rules Are

In preparation for this weekend, here are a few of the rules that FILA has decided to change in hopes this will be enough to make a difference:

  1. To respond to gender equity concerns; there is rumor that FILA will propose 6 weight classes for women’s freestyle and 6 weight classes for each of the men’s two styles.No word yet as to what the new weights might be but you can bet there will be some infighting over what is best. The Asians will lobby hard for smaller weight classes, the American’s will want to find a way to get both Burroughs and Dake in the lineup and the Soviets have great big men so it’s going to be interesting. Hopefully the 6-6-6 numerical distribution of weight classes doesn’t refer to Revelations 13:15–18 and the end of time.
  2. Greco will retire the use of singlets and go topless (maybe not the best term for it) and just wear tights.Just what the sport needs; a discipline where you’re not allowed to touch your opponent from the waist down and a new rule change that assures you can’t hang onto him from the waist up. Move over grass growing and paint drying, you now have some serious competition on the excitement front.
  3.  The black bag is officially gone. Thank goodness they retired it. 

    When I saw that they used 4 balls in New York last weekend I said to myself, “a pig in a pink dress is still a pig.” Fortunately someone heard me.

  4. Cumulative score for the entire bout. 

    This is a good rule change. They’re dropping the best of three periods wins the match and going back to making scoring points and conditioning a priority.

  5. Two three-minute periods. 

    Not sure this is a great change. It’s almost physically impossible for well-conditioned athletes to have the level of activity necessary to maintain a television audience’s attention with 3 minute periods. Wrestlers with 4% to 7% body fat don’t have enough reserve energy to go hard much beyond 2 minutes. Three 2-minute periods probably makes more sense but this isn’t a huge issue one way or the other. Kudos to FILA here.

  6. A takedown is worth two points, making it more valuable than push outs, reversals or penalties. 

    This is positive as well. Love the 2-point concept. Takedowns should be worth more than those other minor 1-point scoring situations.

  7. Stalling is back. 

    I think there’s a better way of achieving the same goal. Chuck Harmon, the gentleman who started Real Pro Wrestling back in the 90’s had this rule that is far more appealing. He felt that passivity is a negative action reward. I agree.Instead he handed out positive activity point(s) at the end of each period. With 3 judges per match, just like international wrestling, they’d determine who the aggressor was at the end of each period.

    They would then be awarded 1 or 2 points as determined by risk taking and aggressiveness. It took 2 officials agreeing to confirm the point(s). With that “unknown” the wrestlers worked hard all throughout the time we were wrestling. It’s really the same as stalling points but it takes the high road of positive scoring. I like that a lot!

  8. Seeding. Finally! 

    Why not separate the top 2, 3, or 4 wrestlers so they are in different quarter brackets? If you want to save the best matches for last, then it only makes sense to separate the cream in early going.

  9. More representation of women in leadership positions. As part of the new constitution there will be 1 President, 4 Vice Presidents and 1 General Secretary. One of the Vice President positions will be filled by a woman. 

    I’m not sure that’s a great way to win the women’s vote when the IOC looks at what we’re doing. FILA did open the door to the ladies, but only a crack. They have a seat at the table as long as it isn’t the President’s chair or that of General Secretary. They’re just too stubborn. The IOC cited as one of the reasons they voted to dislodge wrestling as an Olympic sport in the first place was FILA’s failure to adequately support women in wrestling.  So FILA gives the women 16% of the leadership roles when they participate in 33% of the disciplines.It’s funny but I guess it’s not too funny . . . FILA is fighting for their Olympic survival and they’re refusing to acquiesce to those who are setting the precedence. Here’s an article by Anita DeFrantz, a member of the IOC taking FILA to task. Obviously she’s not very happy with the men of FILA and she makes her point very clearly.


Hopefully these recommendations will be enough for the IOC to rule in favor of our plight but for those who love wrestling as I do, I won’t be disappointed if they not.

One thought on “2020 Olympic Wrestling – Time to Thin the Herd

  1. Kevin Drendel

    As for point #2, I could not agree more. It tells me that FILA (and I believe USA Wrestling) do not value Greco as much as freestyle. The only outcome of this rule change that I can foresee is that they will decide that Greco is not worthy of keeping after confirming that it is not very exciting – and it will not be very exciting with no scoring. Speaking of pigs, a greased pig is still a pig; and scoring in Greco will be closer to trying to capture a greased pig at a fair than wrestling.


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