How Wrestling Wins – Chapter 9

By | November 30, 2014

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Chapter 9

This next segment of rule changes is designed to unscript that which is boring. Some of these are as critical to implement as many of my previous suggestions and when combined together they should change the landscape of wrestling.

To begin let’s minimize, no let’s eliminate the importance of starting lines. Of course I’m not talking about out of bounds lines. But we should take an eraser to those that are in the middle of the mat for both the standing and down positions. Wrestling needs to do something to reduce the number of cautions that spectators have to endure and those extra seconds it takes to get athletes set. Granted, we’ll still need to keep cautions for pre-mature starts but what I’m proposing will speed up matches and add strategic interplay.

To begin, in the standing position . . . as long as the two athletes are somewhere close to the middle of the mat, facing one another and ready to defend themselves the referee should blow his whistle. International wrestling has done this for as far back as I can remember and it definitely speeds up the action while shortening the time it takes to complete a match.

Having to stand with one foot on a colored line is nothing more than time consuming drool that kills spectator interest. I know referees would do backflips over this change because they hate calling cautions as much as spectators dislike watching them happen. The athletes can be 2 feet away from one another or 6 feet away from one another, as long as they are facing each other, close to the middle of the mat and ready to go, the match should start. This is so easy to understand and administer I can’t understand why we haven’t done it to date.

Relative to down wrestling, if you want to open up the sport strategically give this idea a try. The bottom man in the defensive position can assume any position he wishes, as long as both his hands and knees are touching the mat. He can crouch down if he wishes, lie on his belly if he wants, put his hands next to his knees or learn back and place his hands next to his ankles with his chest pointing up if he wants. Any position is legal as long as his hands and knees are touching the mat. And no, nothing has to be 12 inches apart.

Now to start the match the top man places the palms of his hands on any part of the defensive man’s body. It’s somewhat similar to the international style of wrestling but with some minor, or are they major tweaks. You decide.

The offensive wrestler could place his hands on his opponents back like you see in freestyle and Greco, or on the underside of each ankle, or both palms on his opponent’s chest or one on an arm and the other somewhere on his opponent’s neck. There are no off limits except the eyes, nose, throat, mouth and certain boy parts.

As to the positioning of the offensive man’s body, he could be on both knees, one knee or standing behind his opponent or off to one side or in front of him. He could even straddle him like he’s riding a horse if he wanted too as long as the only thing that’s touching the down wrestler when the referee starts the match is the palms of his hands.

Just think of the offensive and defensive options that these new starting positions offer; the creative decisions and new techniques, the strategies and corresponding buzz in the stands. We’re allowing the wrestlers to devise his or her own unique styles and individual plans of attack and subsequent counters for the unexpected. What great fun this rule would be to watch develop with the additional benefit of minimal cautions and shorter dual meets.

If you don’t like that idea, given I believe everyone is tired of seeing the same starting positions, how about we spice it up a bit! But before you read any further be forewarned that this next idea is the one really crazy thought I allow myself every fifty or so pages. For the down starting position, why not make the bottom wrestler lie flat and the top man is allowed a far side one on one and near side half nelson. Then the referee blows his whistle. That will have the fans hooting and hollering and the bottom man scrambling for his life.

Are some of these ideas off the wall, maybe, but maybe not. But at the risk of being labeled what I’m not sure, I’m trying to pull the rules committee out of their comfort zone. I know they’re capable of it; they improved the sport immensely when they changed the rule for takedowns from requiring two feet to be inbounds to one. That demonstrated a level of creativeness previously unseen by this group and a willingness to work toward bettering the sport. Kudos to them!

8. Activity outshines inactivity: spectators enjoy following dynamic sports which usually means ones that put a lot of points on the board. This might be the reason why major league soccer has never caught on in the United States and why the NBA instituted the 30 second shot clock, painted a 3-point arc on the court and FILA has moved to 2-point takedowns.

Wrestling needs their athletes to wrestle more, score more and excite more.

There is always change in sports, and the ones that keep up with the wants of the spectators are the ones who survive. The ones who don’t they call wrestling. We can no longer get away with saying we’re man’s oldest sport and think that will impress someone. Bragging about how many lives programs like Beats the Streets saves each year is impressive but means little when the sport is sinking in debt. The only thing that matters today is how the sport is doing in business terms?

Boxing hung onto the belief that they were a national institution and too big to fail so they didn’t change while the UFC chipped away at their spectator base. Now Dana White is the one who controls America’s love affair with pugilism and legalized brutality. Is there a lesson to learn here?


But unfortunately for us the way our rules have been written and rewritten, they encourage less and less scoring, not more. There’s not many Randy Lewis’s, Ben Askren’s and David Taylor’s around so please don’t point to them as a way to make a point that our current way of doing business is working. Just as I won’t point to the thousands of wrestlers who try to annually break the NCAA record for scoring the least amount of offensive points in winning the most matches each season. The rules are most certainly to blame for what we see and the coaches whether they know it or not are the ones who are culpable; for anything the NCAA Rules Committee passes first has to have the blessing of the coaches.

So regarding action and change, let’s allow the coaches to become a larger part of the show visually. Permit them to get out of their seats and walk the length of either side of the wrestling mat for tournaments and their quarter of the mat for dual meets? Why not? Basketball coaches pace back and forth as do their counterparts in football and soccer. In baseball coaches periodically come out of the dugout. All this adds visual stimulation for the spectators. So why not in wrestling too?

But as a retired NCAA official I understand why it’s not allowed and the coaches are shackled to their chairs. It’s not to keep them under control. It’s because the coaches typically determine who referee’s where, when and how often. The National Wrestling Official’s Association might say otherwise but coaches with power use it when it suits them to retaliate against officials who don’t agree with their opinions or actions.

The current directive that keeps coaches in their seats came about as a way of defusing the conflicts that occur between coaches who lose control of their emotions and officials who are just doing their jobs.

To be clear, referees don’t have a problem enforcing the rules but they do have to tread lightly given their rankings and future employment options rely on what the coaches like and don’t like. Thankfully the NWOA has been working to correct this but powerful coaches and their opinions still way heavily on those decisions.

So how about this as an alternative to the “seat belt” rule for those occasions where the official still needs to control the bench.

Instead of a series of warnings and team points being deducted, why not handle it like they do in basketball and call a technical foul? Give the other wrestler the equivalent of a free throw or in our sport, his choice of positions. That will control those who are on the bench far more than taking away team points.

If you think about it, doesn’t a majority of team point deductions occur when 1) the offending coach is too far behind to win the dual and his frustrations are showing or 2) during a tight match when the referee’s call that caused the confrontation puts the outcome of that bout in question.

In theory all penalties should have the same amount of bite regardless of the scenario. But in the first scenario; where’s the bite? What difference does it make if the coach loses 21-12 or 21-11? In that case there is little incentive to behave. However, if the athlete who’s on the mat is going to be hurt by his coach’s actions, we have a whole new ballgame here. Coaches don’t mind losing a team point when the match is out of hand, but they’ll think twice when their actions effect one of their own.

Or for those who prefer tougher sanctions, why not keep the old rule of losing a team point for conduct unbecoming and give it more teeth by adding the choice of position consequence as well? But the whole idea here is to increase the visual the spectators see of a sport where coaching matters and the actions of the coaches are animated but controlled.

9. Simplify the rules: they’re too complicated. Anytime a sport has to produce an annual 2-hour video to cover changes and clarifications, something’s amiss. Strategically spectators will overlook the nuances of a sport realizing it’s going to take time to learn the game. However they won’t return if you make them feel inept. Rules have to be simple to understand and even easier to explain. Right now neither is simple or easy.

Here’s an example of a way to make scoring easier to explain and understand while pleasing the sports takedown evangelists. Please remember these scoring adjustments are designed to simplify the sport for the spectators and put a strong emphasis on takedowns being the second most important aspect of the sport to pinning.

Individual Scoring

Nearfall = up to 4 points, 1 for every hand count up to a maximum of 4.

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 the rules shouldn’t be about the coaches or the athletes, they are about the spectator. We need to make everything simple to understand.

Regarding nearfalls, the offensive wrestler receives 1 point for every stroke of the referees arm. That’s simple to understand and easy to explain and rewards the efforts of the offensive wrestler 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 is this really a change to or a change back?

But regardless of what your individual preferences are about 5-4-3-2-1, if the rules committee agrees, the very least that will happen will be higher scoring matches even without an increase in action with spectators smiling more. Is any of that a bad thing.

Next up, the rules committee should immediately embrace is a rule that states a wrestler cannot be saved by the buzzer if he’s on his back.

The name of the game is pinning, it’s what everyone wants to see. Take’m down and cut’m loose wrestling is okay for a while but it’s not a pin. Granted, knocking someone off their feet is better than two wrestlers standing around staring at one another. But the pin must be king and wrestlers should be rewarded for taking the risks necessary to put someone on their back. So what’s wrong with allowing wrestling to continue after the buzzer until the pin occurs or the bottom man gets off his back? Sounds like fun to me and they already do it in overtime matches.

Football does it that way as well; can you imagine the uproar that would have occurred a year ago in the Auburn-Alabama Iron Bowl if the game winning 109 yard touchdown run didn’t count? Remember, Alabama’s field goal attempt fell a couple yards short as time expired. Then ten seconds later Chris Davis crossed Alabama’s end zone to win the game. Had that been wrestling, the greatest play in football history wouldn’t have occurred because time had expired before the score.

In basketball, all shots count that leaves the players hand before the buzzer. So what’s wrong with letting wrestling continue if it means that spectators get to cheer just a little longer?

In boxing, an athlete who’s been knocked down, in any round, can’t be saved by the bell. Wrestling should follow that lead; it just makes sense if we believe that excited spectators are a good thing.

I know 3-time NCAA Champion Mark Churella would vote for it. His son lost in the NCAA finals to Johnny Hendricks from Oklahoma State a few years back. But at the end of the first period Churella had locked up a cradle and pinned Hendricks. Unfortunately for Michigan fans, the pin didn’t count because it was determined it occurred .03 seconds after time had elapsed. Not being able to be saved by the buzzer is a rule whose time has come.


On a similar subject, I just read a wonderful article by Chris Brewer on Gary Kurdelmeier in the Hawk Daily Talk. In it Chris praised Coach Kurdelmeier’s kindness as a human being, greatness as a coach and promotional genius.

“He believed in shaking things up” Chris wrote, attempting the uncomfortable so the Hawks could reach the impossible. Most may not remember that prior to Coach Kurdelmeier arriving in 1972 the Hawks couldn’t beat Iowa State’s B team. Iowa was so bad that Clarionites; that would be the Pennsylvania variety, use to wring their hands when they drew a Hawk in competition. But two years into Coach Kurdelmeier’s tenure all that ended and they never looked back.

What caused the change was the obvious hiring of Dan Gable and how the Hawks treated their spectators. For even Dan would have struggled to make the team reach previously unheard of levels if it wasn’t for their gym being filled with ticket holders. The Hawk faithful became the unheralded mental gas station that powered the black and gold machine.

Coach Kurdelmeier intuitively knew what needed to be done and creatively began a campaign of doing things vastly different from anything other coaches were doing.

In 1975, when Oklahoma came to town, it was widely known that the Sooners had a reputation for wrestling on the edge of the mat. So Iowa slid 4 full sized mats together to create a 74-foot wrestling circle. That thinking was so ahead of its time. Everyone loved it but Coach Abel!

Rumor had it from those that were there that night that only three Sooners made it out of bounds during the dual, and only one time each. The spectators loved everything about it and the match ended 70 minutes after it began which is 30 minutes shorter than an average dual. Final score, Hawks 34 and the defending NCAA champions 5.

That same evening Coach Kurdelmeier worked a deal with McDonald’s to give everyone who came to the meet free hamburgers. He always felt if you put the spectators first they would reciprocate with their support. I think he was right.


What people are saying about How Wrestling Wins

“Wade’s is certainly questioning the status quo in our sport; as we all should be. Whether you agree or disagree with his opinions, it’s a tremendous read and he’ll have you checking your rear view mirror as you go from page to page and fearing the road ahead.”

Brian Hazard


If you want an out of the box thought, what do you think about awarding a mandatory silent “performance point” at the end of each period? Whichever athlete demonstrates the most effort and takes the greatest risks receives a point at the end of each period. That would mean that there are 3 points up for grabs which isn’t tied to traditional scoring methods. The best part of this is they’re silent points; only to be added to the score at the end of the match by the referee, not at the end of each period.

This keeps everyone guessing about which athlete won the point each period just like spectators in boxing and Mixed Martial Arts don’t know who’s winning until the end of the fight. I’m sure this is what keeps the fighters throwing punches each round because no one is sure who’s winning unless it’s by a wide margin.

In wrestling it would significantly increase the action because 75% of all matches end with the victor having less than a 3-point lead. Gone will be the days of playing the edge and taking half shots when the match is close; which as we all know is the strategy of the day and why we bore new spectators and most of the old ones.

Now I’m aware of all the reasons why people might not like this rule suggestion; at least initially. But none of the reasons, not a one has anything to do with what’s best for the sport. Will referees get it wrong every now and then, that’s a possibility, but as everyone gets use to performance points being awarded as they are in all other combatant sports, those occurrences will become fewer and further apart as action increases.

If there is one thing I’m sure about its how seriously motivated athletes will become the very minute this rule goes into effect. With 3 points hanging in the balance for the athlete who is working hard to perform, the upsides clearly outweigh any downside.

For that matter, anytime rules are changed regarding the match itself they should meet three criteria.

  1. Does it increase scoring?
  2. Will it escalate action?
  3. Does it attract the interest of the spectator?


Fairfax, Virginia

 “Wow!  Wade is right on the money!  We need to seriously consider changes like these to not only keep our great sport, but attract a new audience.  Great job Wade!”

Dennis Hynek, Cedar Rapids, Iowa


Speaking of losing spectators; my son who wasn’t a bad wrestler and knows the sport inside out won’t go to matches. I asked him why out of curiosity and he said, “They’re too boring to watch and I know what’s going on. If they offered me free beer and a ticket, I wouldn’t go. I’d rather sit home and watch Jeopardy.” This is what I’m trying to explain to our leadership, there’s a crisis going on in the sport.

Regarding team scoring, here’s a system my inner demons have been wrestling with for some time. It’s similar to the one Jim Guinta, the founder of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association and I have been working on. He used their own version of it last year on a trial basis and is planning to officially incorporate theirs this season for the NCWA National Dual Meet Championships.

Both versions have at their core the basic concept that every individual point scored in a match becomes a team point once the match has ended. And each version, whether it is Jim’s or mine, was developed because the current system does not encourage athletes to score points.

It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that coaches who win the most, teach the slowdown approach to wrestling; it’s the way you become successful using today’s rules. You get a lead, you play the edge and control the tie-up, down block on your opponent’s shots and follow them with a few half shots of your own. That’s how you keep the referee at bay while waiting for the match to end.

A vast majority of athletes don’t care what the score is when the final buzzer sounds, as long as they get their hand raised. So I don’t blame the competitors or in some cases the coaches for low scoring and often boring matches. It’s our rules committee again. They simply don’t get how much peril the sport is in or have a clue how to revive the dead.

So here I go again, putting myself out there so the purists can jump on me with both feet. But I’m willing to take the hit for it, the sports that important. Initially I’m sure you will find this scoring system to be way over the top, because it is far removed from our current system.

But once you’ve had time to think about how simple it is and how effective it would be at pulling athletes out of their comfort zone, I believe you’ll start to like it.

But prepare yourselves, coaches will hate it and they will be very vocal about their opinions here. Because it’s all about their fear of losing matches to teams that previously were walk-overs. But is that bad; not the loss’s but the fear? Isn’t fear the greatest motivator? If we scare the coaches, they in turn will see to it that their athletes feel the anxiety they’re feeling and everything will change.


To begin . . . I’m suggesting that we eliminate the current 3, 4, 5, and 6 point match point outcomes. They should no longer exist because they never made sense in the first place. They confuse whoever we have to explain our rules to while being unfair to the athletes who take risks to score points.

So when I said earlier that a pin was worth 5 points I meant bout points; not team points. But they will become team points when the match ends for every point scored by either wrestler is a team point recorded. Win 7-4 and your team receives 7 points and you opponent receives 4 points.

In every other sport a point earned is a point registered. So why not wrestling? 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 1 and 10 points and 10 team points if he scores between 11 to 20 points? That’s what we do? How about a quarterback who throws for 3 touchdowns and is only given 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. That’s what wrestling does.

But we’re used to it that way, that’s our problem.

I’ll do my best to explain what I’m suggesting here. Please read everything before forming an opinion.

The basic concept is every point scored by either wrestler is a point earned when the match ends. As I said, win 7-4 and the person who had his hand raised receives 7 team points. The vanquished receives 4 team points. There are no longer 3 points decisions, 4 point majors, 5 points techs or 6 points pins as we know them today.

Forfeits: 15 team points. Example: wrestler A receives a forfeit, wrestler A’s team receives 15 team points; the opposing team receives 0 points.

Disqualifications: 15 team points added to bout score. Example . . . wrestler A is winning 5-2 at the time of wrestler B being disqualified, wrestler A’s team receives 20 points (15 + 5) and wrestler B’s team receives 2 team points.

Injury default: 10 team points are added to the bout score. Example: wrestler A is winning 5-2 at the time of wrestler B being injured, wrestler A’s team receives 15 points (10 + 5) and wrestler B’s team receives 2 team points.

Pins: 10 team points are added to the bout score. Example: wrestler A is winning 5-2 at the time of wrestler B being pinned, wrestler A’s team receives 15 points (10 + 5) and wrestler B’s team receives 2 team points.

Match termination: 15 point separation. Example: when wrestler A is ahead by the score of 18-3 the match ends with wrestler A’s team receiving 18 team points and wrestler B’s team receiving 3 team points.

In the case of forfeits and disqualifications, the athlete who has his hand raised receives 15 points which would be registered as team points. If the disqualification occurs during a match, the winner receives 15 points in addition to the match score. So if the winner was ahead 5-2 at the time of the disqualification, team points would be distributed 20 (15+5) for the winner and 2 points for the loser.

Relative to default, the victor receives 10 points that is added to his bout score. So if the winner was ahead 5-2 at the time of the injury default, team points would be distributed 15 (10+5) for the winner and 2 points for the loser.

Regarding a pin, the match ends and the victor receives 10 points that is added to his bout score. So if the winner was ahead 5-2 at the time of a pin, team points would be distributed 20 (15+5) for the winner and 2 points for the loser.

Remember, all points scored are team points recorded regardless of the outcome. That’s easy for everyone to understand.

To this the NCWA and I agree; wrestling must heavily penalize Forfeits and Disqualifications. There should be a consequence beyond a 10 point pin for poor behavior on the part of an athlete or for a team who can’t find a body to plug a hole in their lineup.

Regarding forfeits, it’s my contention that well over 90% of teams who forfeit a weight has someone who could have wrestled. The coach just decided he’d prefer not to have a match at that weight for some reason? The most common one being it’s more strategic to skip over a weight class than throw an inferior athlete out there to get pinned and with it lose team momentum.

We should all understand when there’s a forfeit, the offending coach is basically breaching the contract spectators have with the host school to provide a set number of matches for the price of a ticket. There should be an additional cost, a substantially larger penalty for this behavior and why it’s worth 15 points. Wrestling cannot grow as a sport when we knowingly choose to shortchange customers.

How would you feel about a restaurant that served you 10 oysters when you ordered a dozen and are paying for a dozen? If baseball skipped the 5th and 6th inning would consumers feel slighted? What if Nascar decided to take 25 laps out of the Daytona 500? How about a movie theater randomly cutting 10 minutes out of the middle of the movie? Forfeits are the same thing; coaches are knowingly cheating those who bought tickets. That behavior tears at the fabric of customer service and it must stop.   

With these new rules there’s a reason why athletes would want to fight to get off the bottom with 15 seconds left in a match, even if their losing 9-3. And conversely, there are tremendous incentives for the dominant wrestler to keep scoring up until the end of the match. If the athlete doesn’t get it, I’m sure his coach will remind him of the importance to keep scoring.

Regarding the pin, this was the most difficult aspect to get a handle on relative to scoring. As simple as it is to say a point earned is a team point scored, throwing in how to handle the pin was nothing short of maddening. Trust me; I went through dozens of mental contortions to reach the following conclusion.

My problem was; if an athlete is winning 15-4 and gets pinned, the team score under this system is 15 points for the person who got pinned and 14 points (4+10) for the winner.

“Now wait a minute Wade. That’s not fair; the loser gets more team points than the winner!” That’s exactly right because points scored are points earned. We must, we have to reward all wrestlers, in all situations, who put points on the board.

No one knows more than me how difficult this is to swallow. But I’ve looked at this 20 ways to Sunday and it’s the best way of handling it because the pin is nothing more than a scoring technique that’s a level above a near fall. Think of a pin as being similar to a takedown or a reversal. All three are scoring techniques but as it has always been, a pin ends the match to much fanfare.

I know that sounds crazy but the whole premise behind this system is to reward effort. We must incentivize wrestlers to score more and score often while forcing coaches out of their “protect the lead” approach to wrestling. Once they understand the game has changed, they’ll change with it; they’re too competitive no to . . .

If more excitement is the key to our survival, then more scoring has to occur.

Continuing the discussion regarding a pin, actually, how many times does the wrestler who’s ahead on points get pinned? So should we get our underwear all knotted up over something that seldom if ever happens? But when it does, the offensive machine that racked up more points than his opponent, shouldn’t he be rewarded for his effort?

If you think I just scared the bejesus out of coaches, you’re probably right. But we have to force each of them to alter the way they handle their athletes. Scoring must be our top priority. Wrestlers must be forced or sufficiently motivated to engage their opponents as often as boxers throw punches or basketball players take shots.

Just because the current system is the way it’s been doesn’t make it right or mean it’s the best way to handle things. Actually the current system is socialistic to its core. Win 15-9 and receive 3 team points. Win 1-0 and receive 3 points. We penalize for trying and succeeding and reward for trying and not succeeding. So where’s the incentive?

So much of what we do in wrestling doesn’t make sense. We’ve been piling so many rule alterations on top of existing rules that everything is a jumble of greys in a sport that should be black and white.

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

Currently, when an athlete is losing 10-4 in the third period with 45 seconds left the match is basically over and the atmosphere in the arena is ghostly silent. The person with 4 points has given up and the one with 10 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. But when every point counts, coaches are screaming, fans are cheering and the athletes are scrambling due to the pressure to produce. None of this can be a bad thing.

Tournaments should be scored in the same way. A point earned is a point scored. Right now, as I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, athletes don’t have much of a reason to continue scoring beyond what it’s going to take to win. It’s this lack of incentive which is the main cause of narcolepsy with the spectators we have and apathy in the ones we don’t.

Granted, there could be a few occasional upsets early on with this rule but over time the national pecking order of teams will remain pretty much the same. Successful coaches know how they became successful and will continue being that way regardless of the rules. But when we change I’m sure you’ll see a lot more spectators smiling.

Last season, when the NCWA checked to see what would have happened using this system at their National Dual Meet Championships here’s what they found.

Out of the 4 quarter-finals, 2 semi-finals and Championship match only 1 of the 7 duals would have had a different winner under this system.

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 our 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 is so popular, it doesn’t mean the change isn’t worth making.

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 reduced the number of stalling calls?

The system of a point scored is a point recorded:

  1. Encourages more wrestling, more scoring and thus more excitement.
  2. Allows every wrestler to contribute to the team score even in losing.
  3. Pushes both athletes to score points right up to the end of a match regardless of who’s ahead, or by how much.
  4. Has to increase the number of pins we see.
  5. Discourages stalling because even in a losing effort a last second escape means something.
  6. Allows a team whose behind by 40 points to come back and win the dual. Come from behind wins are the sweetest events in spectators lives and keeps fans in their seats right up to the very end.
  7. Makes the sport easy to understand for those who are new to wrestling.
  8. It seriously discourages forfeits and bad behavior which are extremely positive outcomes.

I have to admit I was and still am perplexed about an Injury Default? How many points should it be worth? 15 like we award teams for forfeits and disqualifications or where I have it now in the 10 point category? This was another dilemma where I ended up choosing between the better of two imperfect choices. I didn’t want an athlete who was injured trying to finish the match because he didn’t want the other team to receive 15 points. Yet on the other hand, I worry those wrestlers who have to wrestle a David Taylor type might feign injury to keep his team from losing too many points. But in the end, given that you can’t legislate morality, but you can protect athletes by your decisions, I chose the latter and made injury default a 10 point occurrence.

Now, not everything that’s wrong in wrestling is the coach’s fault but most of our fixes need to start there. The point is coaches don’t make the rules but they influence the rule makers enough that if they don’t like something, it doesn’t happen. That hurts the sport more than anyone realizes. Wrestling can’t win when the coaches have that level of power because they will always do what is in the best interest of their programs. Never have we heard, “we can’t do that; it will hurt our spectator numbers.”

To be fair coaches aren’t callous, they’re just a product of their competitive environment; the need to win completely dominates their personas. So it’s probably reasonable to conclude that coaches don’t always know the best way to accomplish goals that are outside the realm of winning and losing, and why their direct involvement in managing the needs of the sport should be rethought.

I would imagine few will remember that every NFL coach in the league voted against Monday Night Football when it was first proposed. I think it’s safe to say that football fans are delighted that no one was listening to the coaches.

Chapter 10 next Sunday.

7 thoughts on “How Wrestling Wins – Chapter 9

  1. Wade Schalles

    Rick . . . appreciate the time you took to respond. You raised several good questions, most of which have already been covered in previous How Wrestling Wins blogs or will be in the next few weeks.

    I’m not so sure you’ll see near-fall after near-fall. If you do, then my premise is correct that wrestlers have been holding back (stalling their butts off) for decades. I would think that if a wrestler could turn someone over he would. You’re question is a legitimate one, I’m just not sure it’s as big a deal as your concern.

    As a pinner, I’d worry if I got someone on their back that I might not get him there again if I allowed him to get off. Could this happen I guess. But even if that happened, it’s a far better problem to have to address then the ones we have currently. We need to see points going up on the board. Nothing is going to be perfect, just better or worse than what we currently have.

    If you gave the pin 25 points, that makes the fear of people racking up even more points before the pin all the more real. I just can’t see 1) a coach telling a wrestler to go out there and roll over and 2) the wrestler saying okay coach.

    What’s the point of being out for the sport and training 15 hours a week to roll over in front of your girl friend, parents and peers. I hope I’m right here or what I have believed about the sport for 50 years has been a lie.

    I understand why you suggested that the person who lost by pin looses his points. But that goes against the entire premise of score a point, register a point. I think that is a solid rule and one that’s easy to understand by everyone while providing the impetuous to keep wrestling and looking for points.


    1. Dom Mancini

      I have always liked freestyle and greco roman duals because of the technical point the losing wrestler can score – I think it could apply here in a way to make their effort more valuable – here is what I would do with the team scoring.

      Pin 5 points for the winner 0 points for the loser
      Technical Fall where the losing wrestler does not score – 4 points for the winner 0 points for the loser
      Technical Fall where the losing wrestler scores at least 1 point – 4 points for the winner 1 point for the loser
      Major Decision where the losing wrestler does not score a point – 3 points for the winner and 0 points for the loser
      Major Decision where the losing wrestler scores at least one point – 3 points for the winner and 1 point for the loser
      Decision where the losing wrestler does not score a point 2 points for the winner and 0 points for the loser
      Decision where the losing wrestler scores at least 1 point 2 points for the winner and 1 point for the loser

      I have always thought that one of the biggest problems with dual meets is a scoring system especially in high school that numerically finishes a match with several matches to go – this would keep team scoring closer.

      Lets look at a college scenario
      current new
      125 A wins 2-1 A 3-0 A 2-1
      133 A wins 8-6 A 6-0 A 4-2
      141 A wins 2-0 A 9-0 A 6-2
      149 A wins 11-2 A 13-0 A 9-3
      157 B pins A 13-6 A 9-8
      165 A wins 4-3 A 16-6 A 11-9
      174 B pins A 16-12 B 14-11
      184 B wins 5-1 A 16 15 B 16-12
      197 A wins 6-0 A 19-15 B 16-14
      285 B wins 2-1 A 20 -19 B 18-15

      Team getting pins is rewarded more

      Another dual meet idea that I have had is instead of wrestling in weight class order – odd or even means that you select the weight class i.e. A sends out 125 first B sends out 165 second A sends out 285 third B sends out 133 fourth etc etc. – this way a coach has more strategy in actually determining the match outcome – i.e. your team losses 3 in a row and your not favored in the next match – so you pick your best chance of winning wrestler to stop the bleeding – would keep matches interesting longer.

      1. Rick S.

        The Olympic style of scoring is interesting. I didn’t know of it before. It does not suffer the problem one can rack up lots of points getting multiple near-falls making multiple near-falls better than a pin.

        I tried to watch Olympic wrestling long ago and immediately stopped watching. All matches seem to end by a ten point advantage where one wrestler grabs the ankles of the other wrestler and constantly rolls him over and over and over. If you can roll him over and over and over, why can’t you pin him?

        Wade does raise an interesting point when he says, one will try for the pin because one doesn’t know if he can get his opponent back down again. This may be true in matches with Olympic caliber wrestlers. Is this true if a decidedly better wrestler is facing a less experienced wrestler? Is this true with less experienced wrestlers in grade school or middle school or high school?

        From the point of view of a spectator, I want the pin to be all important. My father, for some reason, did like to watch professional wrestling. All matches ended either by fall or submission. A match that ended in a draw did not feel right.

        Wade also raises a valid question when asking what wrestler would willingly take a dive. I hope Wade is correct.

        It’s hard to tell what a wrestler might do for his team. It’s hard to tell what a coach might ask a wrestler to do. It’s also hard for a spectator to tell if a wrestler is taking a dive or actually couldn’t prevent the pin. I’m not sure the wrestler’s parents or girl friend or buddies might know the difference.

        As a mental exercise, to be considered before being dismissed, may I offer the following scoring system.

        This scoring system is a very radical idea.

        This scoring system is based on the belief getting a pin and not being disqualified and not forfeiting is most important. If a pin doesn’t happen, next in importance are near-falls. After near-falls in importance would be take downs. After take downs in importance would be reversals. Last in importance would be escapes.

        May I suggest each match be won or lost as follows:
        1) if a pin occurs or a disqualification or forfeit occurs, the match is recorded as win by pin, disqualification, or forfeit.

        2) If a match is not won by 1) above, the match is won based on which wrestler has more near falls. It does not matter if the wrestler has one more near fall or ten more near falls. The winning wrestler wins the match by near fall advantage.

        3) If a match is not won by 1) or 2) above, the match is won based on which wrestler has more take downs. It does not matter if the wrestler has one more take down or ten more take downs. The winning wrestler wins the match by take down advantage.

        4) If a match is not won by 1) or 2) or 3) above, the match is won based on which wrestler has more reversals. It does not matter if the wrestler has one more reversal or ten more reversals. The winning wrestler wins the match by reversal advantage.

        5) If a match is not won by 1) or 2) or 3) or 4) above, the match is won based on which wrestler has more escapes. It does not matter if the wrestler has one more escape or ten more escapes. The winning wrestler wins the match by escape advantage.

        I would suggest the following for determining which team won the dual meet.

        A) Consider only the matches that are won by pin, disqualification, or forfeit. The team winning the most matches in this way is the winner. This was the first criteria for winning a match above.

        B) If both teams have the same number of matches ending by pin, disqualification, forfeit, examine only the matches that ended by near fall advantage. The team winning the most matches in this way is the winner. This was the second criteria for winning a match above if the first criteria had not been met.

        C) If both teams have the same number of matches ending by the first criteria and second criteria above, consider only the matches ending by the third criteria, the take down advantage criteria. The team winning the most matches in this way would be the winner.

        D) The same pattern repeats if the first three criteria do not decide which team won the dual meet with the fourth criteria, the reversal advantage criteria.

        E) Finally, if the winning team cannot be determined by the first four criteria, the matches being won by the escape advantage criteria would be considered.

        There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach.

        It is true a team wins if only one wrestler gets a pin and no wrestler on the opposing team gets the pin. This is true even if every other match ends with the opposing team getting a near fall advantage in their matches.

        I would suggest every wrestler on the winning team did contribute even if they lost by near fall advantage. They didn’t get pinned.

        I would suggest the wrestlers on the losing team were highly motivated to get a pin.

        This approach has the advantage of making the pin the most important thing to accomplish. A wrestler might try to get a one or two near fall lead before working exclusively for a pin, but once a wrestler has more near falls than his opponent, a wrestler would be motivated to work for a pin.

        This approach would discourage take down, defence, defence, defence. The take down advantage criteria for deciding the winning team is below the pin criteria and the near fall advantage criteria.

        This approach would discourage take down, release, take down release. I have the impression take down, release, take down, release, is a strategy used by some college wrestling teams. It wouldn’t matter how many more take downs a wrestler got if the opposing wrestler managed to get an advantage in the number of near falls.

        A coach would have no motivation to ask a wrestler to take a dive and a wrestler would have no motivation to take a dive. I still think spectators wouldn’t know the difference if a wrestler took a dive or couldn’t struggle out of a pinning situation.

        The coach will know if the last wrestlers to wrestle need to win by pin or near fall advantage to win the dual meet.

        There are disadvantages. It is not possible to use the existing score board to score this approach.

        For an individual match, one would need a score board that counts the number of near falls, the number of take downs, the number of reversals, the number of escapes.

        For a team score, one would need a score board that counts the number of pins, the number of matches ending with a near fall advantage, the number of matches ending with a take down advantage, the number of matches ending with a reversal advantage, the number of matches ending with an escape advantage.

        If a score board existed that could score this approach, it would be obvious to a spectator which team is ahead and what the other team must do to get ahead.

        It is true a dual meet could be decided early if one team got enough pins such that the other team couldn’t catch up in the pin criteria. I assume this happens anyway if one team outclasses the other team to such an extent it can win the dual meet by sixty to zero or seventy to zero using the existing scoring system.

        This is just a thought.

        Please consider it before discarding it.

        In trying to understand wrestling, I came across a video Wade made during some wrestling practice. I was shocked to learn 70% of the time a wrestler escapes a near fall situation by fleeing the mat.

        None of these scoring approaches address this fleeing the mat issue. Perhaps wrestling should borrow an idea from some other martial arts sports and restart the wrestlers in the center of the mat in roughly the same near fall situation.

        I’m probably done posting comments now. I think I’ve stuck my nose in a little too much in stuff I don’t understand.

        Whatever you decide, please examine the decision from the spectator point of view.

        Please tell coaches and athletes not to block the view of spectators, by standing up and getting in the way, when something exciting is happening in a match. There were enough problems telling other fans to stay in their seats so one could see what the kid was doing, or more often, what was being done to him. He was, after all, trying the sport for the first time. Couldn’t get him to stick with wrestling, or any other sport for that matter. Was hoping he would learn, from some sport, to not give up and stick with something even when it got hard.

  2. Rick S.

    Two comments if I may.

    First, from the point of view of a spectator, what can be done to insure spectators can always see the action if a coach is pacing the sidelines or the team is standing? How often has a parent yelled, sit down or move out of the way so the rest of us can see at a tournament?

    For dual meets, you can insure the coaches and the teams don’t block the view of spectators in the stands, but what can be done for tournaments?

    Are tournaments still needed?

    Perhaps, all matches should be videotaped at mat-side and shown on closed monitor TVs or something. Spectators could watch the TVs. In fact, spectators might see more of the action watching the TVs. In the past, videotaping every match would be impossible, but with the current advances in technology, it might become possible in the future.

    You might actually have a source of revenue selling the videos or making the videos available on the Internet. I would suggest not charging until wrestling is popular. If spectators don’t want to come to the match even if you bribe them with fast food, spectators probably won’t pay much for videos until you get them hooked. Spectators need to follow the team and cheer for the team and ….

    Second, this new scoring system idea where a wrestler’s points are automatically added to the team score is novel.

    May I make a few comments to better understand.

    To maximize the number of team points, would it make sense for a wrestler to constantly turn his opponent for a near-fall, followed by letting his opponent back to his stomach, followed by turning his opponent for a near fall, followed by letting his opponent back to his stomach, repeatedly? It seems the wrestler would be encouraged not to pin his opponent until the match has almost run out of time.

    If this becomes a strategy that’s used, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Will spectators get frustrated with near-fall after near-fall just as a number of spectators get frustrated with take-down/release followed by defence, defence, defence.

    It’s an interesting dilemma, if a wrestler scores a pin, but gets his team fewer team points.

    May I suggest a slight modification to the proposed scoring to prevent this? May I suggest, if a match ends by decision, do the scoring as proposed. If the match ends by pin, only the wrestler who got the pin puts points up for his team. The wrestler getting pinned gets no points for his team?

    This slight modification creates a strong incentive to get the pin to deny the other team any team points.

    1. Rick S.

      I wish I could edit the comment above.

      I should not have said,
      “f this becomes a strategy that’s used, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Will spectators get frustrated with near-fall after near-fall just as a number of spectators get frustrated with take-down/release followed by defence, defence, defence.”

      Spectators might find near-fall after near-fall after near-fall exciting. My original comment left the impression near-fall after near-fall after near-fall might be boring. This was not my intent. I honestly don’t know.

      1. Rick S.

        I realized, in the above comment, I took the view of the superior wrestler and examined a way for the superior wrestler to maximize team points by doing near-fall after near-fall after near-fall.

        One should also take the view of the inferior wrestler and examine what an inferior wrestler might do to prevent lots of team points being scored against his team. To minimize team points scored against his team, it might make the most sense for the inferior wrestler to take a dive and get pinned as quickly as possible when wrestling a vastly superior wrestler.

        Upon reflection, I believe your scoring approach makes near-falls more important than getting a pin.

        I believe a vastly superior wrestler will be forced to avoid near-falls to keep the inferior wrestler from taking a dive. I believe the superior wrestler will resort to take down, release, take down, release, giving the inferior wrestler no chance to take a dive.

        One may argue no wrestler should take a dive and I agree. What will a wrestler do for his team? Will a wrestler take a dive if it’s in the best interest of his team?

        I believe one needs to increase the importance of the pin to such an extent a wrestler will work for the pin at every opportunity and a wrestler will struggle as hard as possible to avoid being pinned.

        Perhaps, instead of a pin being worth only 5 points, a pin should be worth 25 points or 50 points, I don’t know the number, as well as saying a wrestler getting pinned gets no points for his team?

  3. Dan Sloan

    I LOVE most of this and would accept ALL of it to get scoring BACK in our sport.
    As I have told you…….We NEED your voice in this sport BADLY. Never think we don’t.

    Dan Sloan


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