I would like to begin this blog by expressing my extreme gratitude to all of you who have been so supportive of my musings. The last five years have been more than enjoyable, while being equally as frustrating.
I have tried to make a difference, and maybe I have, but it seems little has changed. Programs are still being discontinued and spectator appeal is remaining stagnant. However, the biggest issue for me is our decision makers continued lack of interest in doing anything except what they’ve always done.
And unfortunately, the programs that are being dropped, are never the ones that are being coached by those who make the decisions.
I guess they don’t have to worry, most of them have new multi-million dollar wrestling rooms, million dollar budgets, more than reasonable salaries, and big-time RTC’s that on too many occasions redirect financial relief away from athletic departments.
I guess, why would they want to change anything? Doing so would mean they couldn’t cherry pick the best athletes from those programs that are closing their doors, or land the nation’s top athletes.
I understand not everyone appreciates what I write. But at least I hope I’ve been entertaining? That was always my first goal.
As an athlete, if there’s one thing people knew about me when I competed; it was my creative willingness to break from the norm. What I did, at least for my first decade on the national stage, was always considered to be garbage wrestling.
Nothing I did fit inside the single leg, tight waist, grab an ankle and hang on philosophy of wrestling. Coaches refused, as they’re doing today, to consider anything they don’t understand as being worthy of consideration.
Whoever the outlier is, regardless of his or her name, always seems to be overlooked.
Not much has changed, and I’m doing the very same thing I’ve always done, but this time it’s for the sport’s survival. Maybe I’m a little too aggressive for some people’s tastes, but I’m not sure we have a lot of time to sit around the camp fire and hold hands.
Not to worry though, our leadership will once again drag their feet, just as they did with the acceptance of garbage turned funk. And that means it will be the sport, and not my opponents who end up on its back.
For this edition of How Wrestling Wins, I’m going to continue to list what I consider to be the Top 10 must dos for the sport.
We should take a close look at allowing athletes to “Double Up” 3 times a year. Wrestling needs to do that if we’re to create more heroes and legends like baseball did with Babe Ruth, boxing with Mohammad Ali and basketball with Michael Jordan. We need super stars who are just as well-known in our sport as those athletes are in theirs.
Here’s my suggestion for accomplishing that . . .
Wrestling should allow its athletes to compete in two weight classes during a dual meet; but for no more than 3 times a season.
Yes, that’s right, it’s called Doubling Up and I’m sure this will create as much buzz in the media and with our fans as it is doing in your head right now. Doubling Up would be huge for the sport and here’s how it works; and why?
Just think, how many people would buy a ticket to a Los Angeles Lakers game when they knew that LeBron James was only going to be playing for the first four minutes? How about a similar question about Tom Brady? What would the television ratings be like during the last three quarters of the Super Bowl as Brady continued to warm the bench?
Both answers are obvious, so why is it acceptable that we keep our franchise athletes off the mat for a minimum of 90% of every dual meet, and quite possibly 95% given these stars seldom wrestle a full 7 minutes?
In business, you wouldn’t pull your best salesman off the road after the first hour of the day? Then why does that make sense in wrestling?
If we want to develop hero’s and legends that the media will swoon over, what better way than to have Daton Fix go out and decision Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young and then stay out on the mat and do the same thing to Nick Lee? If that happened, wouldn’t it be worthy of a feature article in Sports Illustrated and a guest appearance on ESPN’s Outside the Lines?
Allowing athletes to “Double Up” 3 times a year is a winning idea, something the sport needs more of; but remember, each athlete can only do it 3 times a season.
So why only 3 times if it’s such a good idea?
Because the unintended consequence of such a rule. Coaches would be tempted to take advantage of lesser athletes in their lineup who are one weight class above their team’s best wrestlers. Continually bumping young men out of the lineup after they’ve earned a varsity spot is wrong on so many levels.
What about the safety of the athletes who are doubling up? Would we be overtaxing a wrestler’s system making him wrestle for 14 minutes?
No, and hell no.
If athletes can play football, or soccer for 2 hours, and marathon runners can go for over 4 hours, why can’t wrestlers go for 14 minutes? Don’t we always profess that our athletes are the toughest on the planet?
And if we do the numbers, don’t coaches make their athletes wrestle back to back to back to back matches in practice every day without a break? And no one has ever died from 45 minutes of non-stop wrestling. Besides, I’d bet medical evidence would show that such cardio experiences are good for the human body. So how bad can 14 minutes be when it’s less than a third of what wrestlers go through in practice and one minute less than the length of a UFC fight?
I realize what I’m professing here violates our sports rule relative to the 30-minute rest period. But, who came up with 30-minutes in the first place? I don’t mean the organization, but what is the name of the person who saddled us with that number? I’d like to challenge him, or her, to produce any medical documentation that supports what we’ve had to live with for decades. My gut says, whoever it was, made up the number.
Sometimes it’s really tough to understand how completely obstinate our sports leadership can be about anything that’s suggested and Doubling Up will be just another example. Yet they never question anything that’s already etched in stone, regardless if it makes sense or not.
Folks; Doubling Up in sports is nothing new so let’s not get our tail feathers ruffled. It happens in tennis where an exceptional athlete can represent his team in both singles and doubles competition. Track and Field and Swimming and Diving allow their athletes to participate in 4 different events per meet. In Olympic competition, any athlete may participate in as many sports, or events, as he or she can qualify for; there is no limit!
Football players are allowed to go both ways and play non-stop for the entire 2 hours of a game if they’re good enough. But we have to worry about our athletes because they’re such delicate wall flowers that they need to sit down and rest after 7 minutes.
Are you kidding me; even basketball players are allowed to go non-stop for 2 hours? Making our athletes sit down and rest is simply laughable.
Another solid reason for Doubling Up is the strategic value. Think how exciting it would be for the spectators, and all the decisions that coaches have to make when this rule is in place?
Should Coach Smith put Fix in for a second time and use one of his 3 Double Ups given Oklahoma State is down by 4 points with just 3 matches left? Or should John hold him back with the knowledge that OSU has Penn State, Iowa and Ohio State still on their schedule? There are so many possibilities and strategies here that it becomes nirvana for armchair quarterbacks, and a blessing for the shrewdest of coaches.
Regarding the fine print; athletes can move up one, or two weight classes above their certified weight to Double Up. Why not? Injuries, you have to be kidding me again? Don’t the rules in football allow a 140-pound running back to run at full speed into a 320-pound lineman who’s also running at full speed toward him? But that’s okay, whereas wrestlers dare not believe they can move from 147 to 165 without risking permanent bodily harm.
Jumbling Weight Classes
Jumbling weight classes; let’s consider doing that for every dual meet. That makes Doubling Up; doubly exciting, doubly interesting and doubly strategic.
Here’s how it works. The sport still has the flip of a coin before the match with the winning coach selecting the first weight class that’s to be contested. But after that, the other coach gets to select whatever weight he wants to put out on the mat next from the ones that are left. And so on back and forth.
So no one knows who’s wrestling next except the coach whose turn it is to decide, and of course his athlete. How exciting would that be for the spectators; each one trying to armchair quarterback who’s going to be next, and better yet, who do they believe should be next?
Think of the tactical value of this? Does the coach whose turn it is to select send his best wrestler out to stop the momentum the opposing team has built up or hold him in reserve for a later match?
What weight class does a coach use after Spencer Lee just finished winning a close match against one of his better athletes? Should he jump a couple of weight classes and get Spencer off the mat? Or, should he challenge him with his nationally ranked 133-pound wrestler, given that Spencer might be somewhat fatigued?
Maybe the coach should jump to 184 and try and take advantage of the one athlete on the other team’s bench who hasn’t been warming up?
The strategic possibilities are endless and exactly what spectators yearn for; to have something they can debate, or argue among themselves over, regarding whatever decision the coach makes.
All this is terribly important to attracting, and keeping fans who want to give wrestling a try. The more we compound the number of strategies that coaches have available to them, the more we correspondingly engage those who are sitting in the stands.
It’s critical that we give our fans the ability to out-think, at least in their minds; or out-coach those whose decisions determine the evening’s outcome.
Armchair quarterbacking is a great thing in sports.
As to the naysayers for such a rule, most of them will claim that not knowing what weight is going to go next isn’t fair to the opposing athlete. Why isn’t it fair? Anytime you make changes that are uniformly applied to all, then by definition, it’s fair to all.
In basketball, doesn’t the coach yell down the bench, “Smith, get in there for Jones!” Smith then says, “yes coach” and in he goes; no warm-up, no prior warning. The same happens in football, soccer and baseball. Seldom do athletes who are substituting for others know when they’re going to head into battle.
Only in wrestling do we feel our athletes are so fragile that they need to be forewarned.
There’s simply no physiological reason why this rule is bad and only because “we’ve never done it before” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.
In the next blog I’m going to fix the issue of forfeits.