Attendance is Survival

By | January 13, 2021

After you read the following, if you agree with me, or have found what I wrote was interesting, may I ask you to share it with others?

InterMat this past two weeks, did 21 stories on dual meets and triangulars, and listed the results on their home page. But only two of the articles mentioned the number of fans that were in attendance; Iowa State, ranked 7th in the country, with a little over 1100 spectators to watch the Cyclones defeat in state, Division III powerhouse Wartburg. And North Carolina State, ranked 5th in the country, with 60 fans for a home match, with another instate rival, Appalachian State.

Wake up coaches.

With two Top Ten teams, averaging less than 600 fans between them, one must wonder what the numbers were for the other 19 meets that didn’t mention they had any fans at all? 

As would be logical, if someone has something that’s positive in their life, they’ll find a way to get the word out. In the absence of positive, one must assume the opposite is true; and in this case, the numbers were too small to say.

I understand we’re in a pandemic, and we shouldn’t expect a lot of wrestling fans. But, on the positive side of things, if there’s a match to be had, given everyone is itching to get out of their homes, and given that the institutions themselves have said it’s safe to wrestle, then it must be safe to watch as well.

But these lack of spectator numbers, and all mention of numbers, happened last season, the season before that, and the decade before that. So, it’s just not this year.

This is exactly how programs get dropped. It’s a simple question; are we contributing to the athletic departments coffers, or are we helping deplete them?

Programs aren’t going away because of sub-standard academic performances, which we have our share of, it’s not about Title IX, social discord or the number of athletic injuries that’s doing us in, all of which doesn’t help the cause; it’s a lack of revenue production.

If we are ever going to pull our noses out of the tail spin we’re in, we must achieve financial sustainability, and that will only occur with fans that buy tickets.

Nothing else will do it; unless Jeff Bezos suddenly passes and wills his fortune to be evenly distributed between every collegiate wrestling program in the country.

We should demand that every press release that’s sent to InterMat, WIN, Amateur Wrestling News, Trackwrestling and the like; include the number of fans in attendance or the event won’t receive coverage.

Only when this happens, will we begin to see for ourselves, how bad our situation is, and how grossly ineffective our sport is being managed. Only when we see what each Athletic Director sees, and feels; will we have any chance of turning things around.

Think about it, either a) wrestling isn’t a very good spectator sport, or it is, and b) it’s being mismanaged. I’m afraid there isn’t an option c).

The problem is, we’re so use to non-existent numbers that we’ve become oblivious to the pain that the countries athletic departments are feeling.

Yet, when I mention this, those who decide our fate have the temerity to remind everyone how wrong I am . . . “what is he talking about, look how many fans Penn State and Iowa attract for their dual meets. And every year, the NCAA Championships are sold out.”

That may be true, but what of the other 400 colleges that we have left, out of the 900 we once had? What of their bottom lines?  

I know, I beat this drum a lot. But the only way things change is if those who love the sport, begin to openly, not only question leadership, but make their voices be heard.

Every Athletic Director in America, who has a wrestling program, should sit down with their head coach and inform them that starting next season, their salary will be 25K plus 50% of all ticket sales, up to a maximum of 500k.

That’ll get things turned around in a hurry.

Why not, if the sport is important enough to save, then it’s important enough to make those whose decisions effect the sport directly; accountable. Right now, all the wrestling coaches are interested in, is winning matches, and that’s foolish, with a small f.

Every head coach must be the CEO, CIO and CFO of his or her program. That means being responsible for every aspect of the sport. And without fulfilling the responsibilities of the CFO, eventually, there’s no need for a CEO, because the company is out of business.

If I’m off base here, we wouldn’t be one of the fastest declining D-I sport in America.             

*   *   * 

For those who haven’t seen it, this Sports Illustrated article below covers the finances of college sports in today’s market place, and covers why non-revenue sports are disappearing?

To feel the full effect of what wrestling is enduring, when the writer mentions any of the many non-revenue sports, just insert the word wrestling and you’ll quickly understand what we’re facing.

*   *   *

Interestingly, I just received this from one of the sport’s most notable leaders whom I showed this blog to before posting. This was his response:


There’s things that need to be developed from the top down.

There’s things that need to be implemented from the bottom up.

College teams have the most to lose, so are unlikely innovators.

* * *

On a very positive note, my congratulations to Representative Jim Jordan who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump this past Monday in a closed-door ceremony at the White House.

Two wrestlers in one year, so proud to have been a part of the sport.

*   *   *

Recently, we lost wrestling’s legend of legends, the pioneer of everything that’s right about our sport; Danny Hodge.

What a great man; he was iconic and kind, generous and full of life. He was wrestling equivalent of football’s John Heisman, whose name is forever linked to championship performances.

Unfortunately, at the same time of Danny’s passing, two other Hall of Famers, from different sports, passed away. Floyd Little from football, and basketball’s Paul Westphal, both great men, both legends in their own right.

I mention this because the only reason we know about Danny’s passing is the coverage given to it by our sport.

Our leaders and the institutions they represent, either refuse, or they’re unaware of what could be achieved by forming one overarching body of leadership, that oversees the entire sport.

Currently, each organization gets to enjoy the perks of power without any responsibility to, or leadership of, that power.

If I’d blame USAWrestling about their ineffective media department, condemning them for not being able to get any of the national news outlets to mention, even a short blurb about Danny’s passing, they’d say that wasn’t their responsibility. And they’d be right.

If I said the same thing about the NWCA, they’d say it wasn’t their responsibility, and they’d be right.

The same is true for the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the NCWA, the National High School Association, the NCAA Rules Committee etc.; and they’d be right too.

The issue is, once again, our leaders and the institutions they represent, either refuse, or they’re unaware of what could be achieved by forming one overarching body of leadership, that oversees us all.

Every one of the major professional sports have done that, and so has the NCAA; at least for football and basketball.

And this is why, beginning next week, I will post parts of previous blogs that will list my Top 10 Changes the sport needs to seriously consider, that is, if we’re to stabilize the downward trend we’re seeing. 

41 thoughts on “Attendance is Survival

  1. Kirk D Tucker

    ACC Wrestling
    Upcoming Schedule

    Friday, Jan. 29
    Virginia Tech at Duke, 5 p.m.
    Pitt at Virginia, 5 p.m.
    NC State at North Carolina, 6 pm. (ACC Network)

    Saturday, Jan. 30
    #8 Virginia Tech at #14 North Carolina, 3 p.m.

    Friday, Feb. 5
    Duke at Virginia, 6 p.m. (ACC Network)
    North Carolina at Pitt, 6 p.m.
    NC State at Virginia Tech, 8 p.m. (ACC Network)

    Sunday, Feb. 6
    North Carolina at Lehigh, 4 p.m.

  2. Rick S.

    One thing that bugs me is repetition, seeing the same thing happen over and over in a match. I think of wrestling as being goal oriented.

    I think of some sports as being repetitive.
    I think of other sports as not being repetitive.

    Football and basketball, for example, are repetitive.
    One can do the same plays, over and over.
    I believe, in sports where the action is repetitive, the game ends when time runs out. One doesn’t know how many points one will score.

    A marathon, for example, is not repetitive.
    Neither is a bicycle race nor the game of Chess.
    One is striving toward a specific goal.
    I believe, when one is striving toward a specific goal, one doesn’t know how much time it will take to reach that goal.

    Amateur wrestling doesn’t know if it’s oriented toward a specific goal (getting a pin which ends the match), or is repetitive (scoring as many points as possible before time runs out).

    Can amateur wrestling be both and survive?

  3. Kirk D Tucker

    Below are the rule changes I would make:
    1. Get rid of riding time.

    2. Start every period in neutral position, on your feet.

    3. Both wrestlers must try to maintain contact with opponent while in neutral position.

    4. Once a takedown is secured, top wrestler must work for a fall. Failure to turn down wrestler in reasonable time will result in “non-sufficient action”. Referee shall return both wrestlers to neutral position. No wrestler shall be penalized.

    5. A wrestler that initiates a takedown and is successful in a takedown of their opponent will receive 1 additional point. Therefore, a takedown could be worth 3 points.

    6. Three, 2 minute periods, no cumulative scoring. (3) Winer of the match has to win 2 of the 3 periods, similar to amateur boxing.

    7. A pin ends the match, regardless of the score. No rule change here.

    8. Wrestling match shall be stopped after one wrestler is 10 points ahead. Team is awarded 5 points in dual meet. Not sure how many points to award in a tournament, but it should be less than a fall.

    9. Wresters fleeing the mat shall be penalized 1 point for first time, 2 points for second time, disqualified on 3rd time.
    10. No warnings for stalling. Wrestler is penalized 1 point for first time, 2 points for second time, disqualified on 3rd time.

    11. Wrestler successful in takedown of opponent resulting in near fall points shall receive 1 additional point. My example is well executed fireman’s carry.

    That’s all I can think of now. I welcome all comments, suggestions, omissions and better ideas

    1. Rick S.

      Is there any scoring for an escape? Is there any reason a wrestler on the bottom should try to escape instead of waiting for the non-sufficient action call?

      What should happen if a wrestler gets a take down, and then immediately releases the opponent?

      When a wrestler accumulates 10 points in a period, should that end only the period instead of ending the match?

      1. Kirk D Tucker

        1. Is there any scoring for an escape?
        Answer: Yes, an escape is 1 point. No change to the rule.

        2.Is there any reason a wrestler on the bottom should try to escape instead of waiting for the non-sufficient action call? Answer: Yes, he would earn 1 point.

        3. What should happen if a wrestler gets a take down, and then immediately releases the opponent?
        Answer: No change to the rule, wrestler earns 1 point for a escape.

        4. When a wrestler accumulates 10 points in a period, should that end only the period instead of ending the match?
        Answer: Ends the period. Three, 2 minute periods, no cumulative scoring. Winner of the match has to win 2 of the 3 periods.

        1. Rick S.

          Stalling is always an issue.

          When (under what conditions) will the referee call the top man for stalling?

          When (under what conditions) will the referee call the bottom man for stalling?

          How much time should be given for action before non-sufficient action is called?

          If the top man successfully turns the bottom man to score near fall points, even if the top man does not get the pin, does the time before non-sufficient action get reset?

          1. Kirk D Tucker

            1. When (under what conditions) will the referee call the top man for stalling?
            Answer: None. Having “non-sufficient action” rule allows the referee to return the wrestlers to their feet.

            2. When (under what conditions) will the referee call the bottom man for stalling?
            Answer: When the bottom wrestler is not working for a reversal or escape. Basically when he just stops moving and is making no attempt to improve his position.

            3. How much time should be given for action before non-sufficient action is called?
            Answer: Up to discretion of the referee. The referee has to keep the match moving, to determine a winner is the goal.

            4. If the top man successfully turns the bottom man to score near fall points, even if the top man does not get the pin, does the time before non-sufficient action get reset? Answer: No. Return wrestlers to their feet. Top man has earned a takedown and near-fall points.

        2. Ben Bohannon

          So if one wrestler wins the first two periods does the match end? Does this result in more team points than a 2-1 split? Adding that element will help give incentive to wrestle out the third period. I’ll offer two possible approaches:

          Team Points based on overall win:

          2-1 split win: 3 points
          2-0 split win: 5 Points
          Pin Win: 6 Points

          Team Points based on Period Wins:
          Minor decision: 1 Point
          Major Decision: 2 Points
          Technical Finish: 3 Points
          Pin: 10 points total (match ends)
          Match Winner: + 2 point

          In that scenario a pin secures the team 12 points
          in contrast a 2-1 split with all minor victories is worth 3 net points (4-1 team score)

          The danger to any such system is if factors for scoring become too complicated, the average viewer may have a difficult time following what’s happening with the score.

          1. Kirk D Tucker

            1. So if one wrestler wins the first two periods does the match end?
            Answer: Yes.

            2. The danger to any such system is if factors for scoring become too complicated, the average viewer may have a difficult time following what’s happening with the score.

            My comment: Yes, I agree. Keep it simple so the fans understand and can follow the team score.

    2. Kirk D Tucker

      I have given these rule changes some thought and revised rules # 6 and #8 as follows

      6. Two 3 minute periods. Third period is 2 minutes. Wrestler that scores first points wins the 3rd period and match.
      Cumulative scoring of individual match only used to determine a winner if no wrestler can score in 3rd period. Winer of the match has to win 2 of the 3 periods.

      8. Wrestling match shall be stopped after one wrestler is 10 points ahead in any period. Points earned by wrestlers are not carried over from any period, each period starts 0 to 0. Cumulative individual points are only used in tie-breaker situation at the end of 3rd period. Team score is sum of points wrestlers earn in individual matches. A fall would earn 12 team points.

      1. Ben B

        I like the two long periods concept.

        Downside I see to using score as a tie breaker is that the guy up on points might try to stall out in OT.

        I suppose you could award stalling points throughout 3rd period, but a takedown is the only way to end the match early with a win.

        1. Kirk D Tucker

          The rules #9 and #10 apply to the third period too:

          9. Wrestlers fleeing the mat shall be penalized 1 point for first time, 2 points for second time, disqualified on 3rd time.

          10. No warnings for stalling. Wrestler is penalized 1 point for first time, 2 points for second time, disqualified on 3rd time.

          I agree, it is best if takedown wins match in 3rd period.

          1. Rick S.

            Wade, help me out. Do these rules sound similar to a set of Olympic rules?

            Is it a touch fall or a one-second or a two-second count fall?

            Is control necessary to score back points?

      2. Rick S.

        By standing them up after a near-fall situation ends, you eliminate the repetitive near-fall, near-fall, near-fall strategy some wrestlers use.

        Is there a way to eliminate the repetitive take down and release, take down and release, take down and release strategy some wrestlers use?

        Another situation where stalling occurs is the neutral position. How much discretion does the referee have when penalizing stalling in the neutral position?

        I like the idea wrestlers at least try for a near-fall if not a pin, but I’m not sure how this is encouraged. I worry scoring a take down and waiting for them to get stood up is the “safe” way to get one’s hand raised.

        I’m not sure how this encourages pins. Ten points for a pin should have been enough to encourage pins. However, I remember a time when the team scoring was 6-3-2, 6 team points for a pin, 3 team points for a decision, and 2 team points for a draw. One would have assumed this scoring system would encourage pins, but too many wrestlers still played it “safe”.

        Wrestlers can be very aggressive which, I think, makes for excitement. I believe fans want to see predators on the hunt, symbolically killing their prey. For me, the symbolic kill is the pin. With aggression comes risks. Wrestlers may opt to play it “safe” to ensure their hands are raised.

        The Olympic rules, at one time, had a rule, don’t know if they still do, where one was not penalized if one initiated an action and ended up on the bottom. I don’t know how well that rule worked.

  4. Rick S.

    Just a guess, but isn’t one way to generate lots of fans is to have team rivalries, especially team rivalries with teams in the local area (in the case of high school) and the local conference (in the case of colleges)?

    I’m guessing Iowa and Iowa State and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have special rivalries.

    1. Wade

      Yes, that works well for every sport, but it won’t work as well as it does for the other sports until we fix the food.

      1. Rick S.

        Please find out what kind of food people want, Wade.

        When I read the comments, I become convinced every person has a different idea what they want.

        Everyone says, “action”, “excitement”, but does anybody really know what “action” and “excitement” means?

        Some say “action” means more Olympic style, with high amplitude throws and touch falls.

        Some say “action” means more point scoring which the John Smith take down, release strategy or the near fall, near fall, near fall, strategy provides.

        Some say “action” means a “finish” to a pin.

        Even when they decide the “action” they want, they disagree on the means to get there.

        Is take down, release sufficiently exciting, or should we push for near fall, near fall, near fall? If we wish to discourage take down, release, make the take down and the release (escape) both be one point.

        Should riding be allowed to soften up the opponent in preparation for the “pin”? If we change the rules for stalling, riding would again be possible. If scoring points is the goal, should a pin end the match or just count as a large point scoring action?

        It’s easy to “change” the rules and the way the referees interpret the rules and the scoring system to favor any of the above approaches.

        But what do people want?

        People can’t answer the question, what is the “goal” so people give the abstract answer, get your hand raised is the goal.

        If I ask the question, what is the goal for football, ignoring the clever people who give the abstract answer to score more points than your opponent, the goal is to score touchdowns. For basketball, the goal is to score baskets.

        There are many ways, many plays, from passing to running, for scoring touchdowns in football. But, the goal remains the same. Score touchdowns.

        The same is true for basketball. There are many offenses and defenses, but the goal is to score baskets.

        What is the goal for wrestling? Score points? Get pins? People don’t agree, so we give the unhelpful answer, get your hand raised.

  5. Kirk D Tucker

    Regarding attendance at wrestling matches, I feel the best path forward is to drop the dual meets. Instead have 4 teams/2mats or 8 teams/4 mats one time each week. Schedule these on Saturdays, promote throughout the week.
    Have the weigh-ins for the wrestlers on Friday mornings at each of schools. All wrestlers must weigh-in and school principals must certify weigh-ins.
    This will allow a) wrestlers to wrestle more every week; b) reduce the “wear and tear” on the wrestlers by only having to make weight 1 time each week; c) gives coaches the flexibility to pair wrestles of similar age and ability. This will help increase participation and draw parents into the stands. d) Increase attendance, it’s much better to watch 2 or 4 mats than a single mat.
    Other non-revenue sports have track and swim meets, this is the same idea.

    1. Wade

      Kirk . . . some great points, especially like the weigh-in suggestion but the three ring circus effect makes little sense if the matches are going to exceed 2 hours in length. Fans won’t go to the Super Bowl or the NBA Championships if they’re going to last 5 or 6 hours. People are too busy to dedicate that amount of time to watching wrestlers practicing the slow down approach. Again, most of my readers have great ideas, but they continually overlook the BIGGEST, and the ONLY problem we face. Boredom. We have to fix several rules, the most important one is finding a way to not only encourage action and scoring, but put the onus on the coaches. They will alter their coaching philosophies to match their tremendous need to win. Stay tuned to the next three blogs.

  6. Ben Bohannon

    The wrestling matches I’ve enjoyed the most are the ones that involved someone I knew or cared about. If I have any sense of connection with the person out there, it makes the match more exciting when they succeed.

    UFC and WWE both do a lot of promoting of the fighters themselves prior to the match.

    In this digital age, It’s very possible for wrestling to do the same. Create promotional videos of your varsity athletes. Include footage of their wrestling progression leading up to the present. Also include a few interview statements from the wrestler and some details about their life and other interests. MLB does this every time someone steps up to the plate.

    Share these clips on social media and in every other form of online communication you have. Broadcast these clips (30 seconds or 1 minute each) on the jumbotron or another big screen as the wrestlers are walking out on the mat.

    A more personal approach to this is also to have the wrestlers set up a booth at a common space on campus and promote their season. Have them openly engage with people and tell them about wrestling and their story. They can hand out schedules while doing it or ask if they can send the students they engage with email updates. They could do the same thing at public events in the town in which their university resides. This will teach further life skills of sales and promotion.

    Also any team in an area should create many opportunities to engage with the local high school teams / parents. Set up exhibition matches before some of the big meets. Visit practices or other events so the young wrestlers can meet older ones they’d like to come watch and support.

    1. Wade Schalles Post author

      Ben . . . wow! Exactly. This is what the sport needs, it’s not out of the box thinking, it’s admitting that others have some great ideas and you’re not too proud to a) admit it and b) willing to borrow ideas from their successes that are time proven. Thank you, thank you, for writing. You are a breath of fresh air.

      1. Ben Bohannon

        Thank you Wade. I appreciate you starting this and many other conversations.

    2. Kirk D Tucker

      I agree, it’s a very good idea to promote the wrestlers and their story. I advise showing the “human side” of the wrestlers. People can relate to an athlete and their struggles for success.

      1. Rick S.

        I wouldn’t object to the “human side” as long as that doesn’t take away from the sport action.

        I remember, years ago, cursing the coverage of the Olympic Games because the coverage was “up close and person”, showing the background of the athletes and giving the human side, but NOT covering the action of the sport itself.

        I didn’t want to see or hear talking heads and I didn’t want to see personal biographies when I wanted to see sports’ action.

      2. Wade

        Kirk . . . don’t get sidetracked. Promoting athletes is a great idea but advertising a product so few like is a waste of a great idea. Yes, it should be done, but AFTER the product is noticeably desirable. Fix the rules, so athletes are forced to wrestler and not practice the slow down approach to competition.

  7. Nathan Ryan

    Yo Wade. We’re in a pandemic and you’re talking about spectators? Governments are forcibly limiting the amount we can have.

    1. Wade

      Nathan . . . thank you for spending the time to read my blog and contribute. And you’re right, I didn’t do a good job making my point. I tried in paragraphs 6 and 7 to address the issue you brought up. The point is, pandemic or not, we have no fans. We have parents of athletes and relatives and some die-hards, but last year, when we weren’t locked down, the numbers were dismal as well, and the year before that, and the decade before that. I’m trying to get what supporters we have to realize that administrations are not going to continue to carry wrestling’s water forever. Unless we force the issues, when bad things happen, it will be our fault, and of our own doing.

      1. Rick S.

        Weird, Wade.

        I’m confused.

        While searching the Internet for football fan attendance, I found one article glowing saying college football fan attendance couldn’t be better and is increasing every year. This article was 2019.

        I found another article souring saying college football (student) fan attendance is down. Students have to decide where to spend their money with rising tuition costs. Students either can’t afford to shell out for football tickets or don’t want to shell out when most of the college football games are blowouts. This article was also 2019.

        The souring article said athletic directors have to set priorities when their football programs aren’t generating the revenue they use to.

        I don’t know which is true.

        If an AD has less revenue from revenue generating sports and the people in the revenue generating sports are demanding more of the pie, there is probably nothing left for the charity sports.

  8. Rick S.

    Wade…I am trying to identify what unsettles me most about amateur wrestling.

    Could it be amateur wrestling suffers from dissociative personality disorder?

    It’s like there are two separate objectives playing out in the sport of amateur wrestling.

    The first objective seem to be, pin the opponent to get one’s hand raised.

    The second objective seem to be, score more points than the opponent to get one’s hand raised.

    It feels like wrestlers make decisions based on these competing objectives. A wrestler is sometimes told to go for a pin. Other times, a wrestler is told to let the opponent up so you can score more points.

    In one of your previous blog posts, I tried to suggest a way to make pinning the only objective, but it was too radical.

    Perhaps we should try to make earning points the only objective?

    To this end, how about these sets of rule changes:
    1) Adopt Wade’s idea of a point scored is a team point earned

    2) Do not have a pin end the match. Instead, a pin is just another way to score points. I suggest a pin is worth double the number of points of the next high way to score points. After a pin, let the wrestlers rest for one minute to give the pinned wrestler a chance to recover.

    3) Get rid of the concept of a technical fall ending the match. The wrestlers are there to score as many points as possible in the allotted time.

    4) The match ends when time runs out for the match. This means the paying fans get six full minutes of wrestling, per match, in high school, and how many every minutes of wrestling, per match, a college match is these days.

    5) It’s unclear to me whether a match should be divided into periods. My instinct is to say no.

    This will make the scoring for wrestling more similar to football and basketball. This will treat time in a more similar fashion to football and basketball.

    Comments? Is this proposal too radical?

  9. Dale Murdock

    When my father was the Head Wrestling Coach fir Waynesburg College in the 1950’s he promoted the sport of wrestling in Western Pa. by writing his own press releases. He also went into the community to seek sponsorships from the various businesses in the community by way of discounts and coupons for the college students. He took it upon himself to promote the sport rather than rely on others “finding” the sport.

    1. Wade Schalles

      Dale . . . and he was definitely one of the greatest. Hope you’re doing well. The issue today isn’t promotion, actually it’s the opposite. Stop promoting. If your restaurant has terrible food, what happens when you promote your establishment? You think you’re doing the right thing but you not. Because people will come, and they’ll try it, and tell their friends, “don’t go there.” They become instant anti-promoters. They realize they’ve been suckered in and are more than upset. Wrestling has to fix its food first, make the sport spectator friendly, then promote. We’re constantly putting the cart in front of the horse. That works against us.

      1. Rick S.

        Wade…I’m not sure the restaurant example works.

        A restaurant learns what the customer wants.
        In the sport, the cooks want their hands raised.
        What the customer wants comes second or third.

        In a restaurant, the customer orders from a menu.
        Going to a match, the customer has no choice.
        The customer eats what is presented or starves.

        You can argue the rules committee can dictate what is served. You must prove to the rules committee the food is bad and how to fix it.

        Unfortunately, there are conflicting points of view what food should be served.

        It seems people are agreed one doesn’t want the gain a point advantage and nurse the lead strategy.

        It’s unclear whether people want the John Smith or the Wade Schalles strategy.

        You can argue the sport can serve both strategies, the John Smith and the Wade Schalles strategies. If you do, you might want to push for a percentage each strategy is served.

        Just ruminating, but perhaps some tournaments and matches should be focused on the John Smith strategy while other tournaments and matches should be focused on the Wade Schalles strategy.

        Every time you push for a point earned is a point scored, I think that will encourage the John Smith strategy to the detriment of the Wade Schalles strategy.

        I wish there were a list of different strategies.
        There must be more strategies than the John Smith and Wade Schalles strategies.

        In Chess, we have lots of different strategies (openings). We give those openings names.

        1. Wade

          I think the analogy works. It doesn’t matter what the customer orders, if the chefs screw it up, the food is bad. In wrestling, the food is bad but everyone seems to be interested in changing out the plastic forks for silverware, put new carpet down, offer free valet parking and overlook the reason why no one is showing up. The food is bad. People don’t care about freshly painted walls, or linen table cloths, they want tasty food. Sadly, wrestling is burning the steak and undercooking the bread pudding.

          1. Rick S.

            Wade…I see where you are coming from with the restaurant analogy. You are saying we are a vegetarian restaurant and the customer wants seafood.

            This is like arguing some customers want to watch karate while other customers want to watch jujitsu. They will go to the restaurant that serves the food they want.

            Let’s assume wrestling is a steak place.

            First, how do we know customers want steak? You might point to the popularity of the WWE.

            I actually preferred professional wrestling from the 1960s to the modern stuff. I don’t like the modern stuff because of the pretense of violence even if it is fake.

            Second, how do we know if they want their steak burnt or medium rare when we don’t ask them and they don’t tell us?

            I have the impression people who respond here, most often, say they want lots of action. It sounds like they want spectacular moves and spectacular throws. My impression is people who respond here are less interested in a grinding style of wrestling.

            My impression of your style of wrestling, Wade, is your style is more of a grinding style of wrestling.

            How will we know what the customers want if we don’t ask them?

      2. Dale Murdock

        I realized that I was responsible for increasing fan attendance when I became a head wrestling coach. I instituted a variety of promotions that would attract fans both young and old. Example: having the junior high wrestle before the varsity match. Promoting give aways from the local businesses, to name a few. This not only increased interest in our community but also increased interest among the young people in our community. This resulted in increasing not only our attendance at matches but also in the students who were coming out for the team.
        Stay well Wade.

  10. Rick S.

    What is fan “excitement”? Is there a way to get an answer for the “majority” of fans? Can one start comparing things?

    Are high school wrestling matches “more” exciting than college wrestling matches?

    Are college wrestling matches more exciting than Olympic Freestyle wrestling matches? I realize this is harder to compare since college wrestling is “Folkstyle”.

    Do the wrestlers from some high schools have exciting wrestling while wrestlers from other high schools don’t?

    Same question for colleges.

    Is high school wrestling in some states more exciting than high school wrestling in other states?

  11. Rick S.

    I need help in understanding strategies/styles.

    Which strategy/style is favored more in Olympic Freestyle wrestling? Is it the John Smith strategy/style, the Wade Schalles strategy/style, or some other strategy/style?

    Help make a list of strategies/styles. What do you teach? Can’t it be called a strategy/style?

    Why is the question of strategy/style important to me? I believe fans find certain strategies/styles exciting and others boring. I believe what is exciting for one fan may be boring for another fan. You want fans. You need to find what the “majority” of fans like and dislike.

    If I understand the history of wrestling, when wrestlers just rode and didn’t eventually try for the pin, it was boring. I believe that’s why just riding became a stalling call. I believe the length of time one could ride before stalling was called kept getting less and less. It’s now at the point where one has to try to turn one’s opponent immediately.

    Just my two cents.

  12. Kirk D Tucker

    The point of Wade’s article was the lack of attendance at wrestling matches and the corresponding decrease in revenue. Wrestling is not a revenue producing sport for most colleges, that’s why programs get dropped. Athletic Directors will not waste time on sports that don’t produce money.

    My wife and I watch the ACC network. They show dual meet wrestling matches on Friday nights. I’m guessing the Big 10 promotes wrestling on their network too, I’ve seen some matches in the past, but none this year.

    I think it be better for wrestling and TV ratings to show quad matches, 4 teams competing on 2 mats or 8 teams on 4 mats. Wrestling needs to be more exciting. I won’t watch dull matches, where one wrestler rides another for minutes.

    Not everyone lives near a college campus to attend a match in person. Most people don’t have time to travel, but may catch a match on TV.

    My ideas to increase attendance or TV viewers are as follows. (1) Make collegiate wrestling similar to International (Freestyle) Wrestling; (2) Have three, 2 minute periods, no cumulative scoring. (3) Winer of the match has to win 2 of the 3 periods, similar to amateur boxing. (4) A pin ends the match, like a knockout in boxing, regardless of the score.

    We need alternate methods to increase revenue for wrestling. We need more participation, more money producing programs. What are the other non-revenue sports doing?

    I hope wrestling can make a comeback. The combination of COVID-19 + not producing money + Title IX, might just kill it.

    I have not read the Sports Illustrated article that Wade suggested.

    I wish I had a solution to the problem.

    1. Wade Schalles

      Kirk . . . we must ask ourselves why is boxing, the UFC and God help me for mentioning it here, WWE are billion dollar plus spectator activities? And then, not wrestling? It’s easy to explain, but the leadership tells everyone that the problem is riding, stalling, too many stalemates and going out of bounds. As a result, we try and make rules to counteract those issues. That’s like trying to make a pig look good through the use of makeup. We’re tooooooo focused on trying to fix that which aren’t the issues. I will cover that in the coming blogs, and provide logical solutions that if one stops and thinks about it, fixes the one you were mentioning above, in spades. And freestyle isn’t the answer, it is more snooze worthy than collegiate. Thank you for you comments, I appreciate everyone of my readers.

      1. Kirk D Tucker

        I read the SI article. My take from the article is that the AD’s don’t care if the schools have a wrestling team, they are focused on the multi-million dollars that football and basketball produce. That is what the alumni want.

        I checked a Wikipedia. Only 79 D1 schools have wrestling programs for 2021. Two of these school will drop the programs after 2021. Only 61 D2 schools have wrestling for 2021. Sad situation.

        I asked myself why WWE and UFC are billion dollar sports. I don’t have an answer, I don’t follow these sports. My guess is the blood and violence, watching one person beat the sh*t out of another person. To me, this is not sport. Any “sport” where the objective is to physically punish and harm your opponent is not a sport, it’s somethin else. That’s why I like wrestling, the objective is not to harm your opponent. Your objective is to pin or score more points. Shake hands and call it a match. That’s why I enjoyed watching you wrestle. I enjoyed the technique, the pins, watching a great athlete.

        I’m more focused on why wrestling cannot survive at this rate of decline and what I can do to help save it. If I did not participate in wrestling in my younger years, I would not be where I am today. Wrestling taught me many lessons.

        Thanks for your ideas and help, Wade. I don’t have a solution. I’m open to ideas.

  13. Rick S.

    Why should there be fans in the stands? Can you explain the goal of amateur wrestling to the fans? Do the fans find this goal “exciting”?

    The goal is to get your hand raised. It’s pure and simple. How do you get your hand raised? Do fans find the reason you get your hand raised “exciting”?

    There’s different strategies for getting your hand raised. Help me out, Wade. You know more strategies than I because I learn about wrestling reading your blog posts and exchanging comments with you.

    Let me list two three strategies…you love lists. Add more.
    1) score a few points and protect your lead.
    You have to be careful not to get called for stalling. If you succeed, you get your hand raised. Do fans find this “exciting”?

    2) Do take down, release repeatedly, advocated by John Smith. Don’t laugh. It works. If you are ahead on points, you get your hand raised. If you are ahead, on points, by enough for a technical fall, you earn a lot of team points. Do fans find this “exciting”?

    3) go for the pin strategy advocated by Wade Schalles. Legal pain. Is the spladle your favorite pin, Wade? If you get the pin, you get your hand raised. Do fans find this “exciting”?

    All that matters is getting your hand raised. Who cares about the fans if you can’t get your hand raised? Fans like winners, don’t they? Well, don’t they?

    Let’s look again at the different strategies and fan “excitement”. What exactly is fan “excitement”? Nobodies been able to define fan “excitement” to me. Does anybody really know?

    1) Is it exciting to watch a wrestler get a lead and protect it? Maybe, if there’s a real, intense struggle, but usually not. The fans can’t see the intense struggle and jockeying for position.

    2) Is it exciting to watch a wrestler repeatedly get a take down and then do a release? Some people argue fan “excitement” is related to lots of “action” and lots of scoring. This strategy has lots of intense, short bursts of action as the take down is accomplished, followed by a pause in the action as the opponent is released. This style has lots of scoring. Why don’t all fans find this strategy “exciting”? What’s missing?

    3a) Is it “exciting” to watch a wrestler go for a pin? I would say yes, but is going for a pin always possible? That’s why this strategy breaks down. You waste your time trying to go for a pin, burning up valuable time you might be using scoring points doing take down release, and then you don’t get the pin. You have to settle for a decision instead of a technical fall. Oh the pain. What I find exciting risks team points. How often does the coach yell, get your points, and then, if you think you can, go for the pin, and if you think you can’t get the pin, release your opponent?

    3b) Is there lots of action and lots of points scored when a wrestler tries to go for a pin? I suggest not as much “action” and points scored as the take down, release strategy. Sure. You have the “action” of the initial take down. Maybe you are lucky and can take your opponent immediately into a pinning situation if your opponent is less experienced. What if you aren’t so lucky? It becomes a grind. You try to insert legs and get a power-half. A strong, experienced opponent will block your every attempt. Is this lots of “action” and does this score lots of points? The “action” is different from the take down, release strategy “action”, and you don’t score lots of points unless you succeed.

    This is a key point. In the take down, release strategy, you have short, intense bursts of “action” and you score lots of points. In the go for the pin strategy against a strong, experienced opponent, your “action” is a prolonged, intense, grinding, test of wills. You don’t call it a power-half for nothing.

    I suggest the wrestling rules currently encourage short, intense bursts of “action” which score lots of points. This wasn’t always the case.

    Go back to the early 1900s to the 1930s. Look at some of the wrestling manuals from that time. They had a solution to the problem of how to pin a strong, experienced opponent who could block your attempts to get the pin. Say what? Is a solution possible?

    They recommended, before trying to turn and pin a strong, experienced opponent, you rode your opponent to exhaustion first. You made your opponent carry your weight for a few minutes. Say what? How does this work?

    Imagine yourself in boot camp with a full pack on your back. We’re going for a twenty mile forced march. At the beginning, the pack doesn’t seem that heavy because you are strong and fresh. As the miles go by, the pack seems to be getting heavy. You know the pack isn’t getting heavier. You are getting tired. At the end of the march, you can’t wait to get the pack off your back.

    This is the strategy recommended by the manuals of that time period. This sounds boring, at first glance, one wrestler just laying on another wrestler, but it was a strategy that worked. Why would it be “boring” if the fans could see one wrestler slowly weakening, slowly succumbing to the ride? The real “excitement” came when you could turn your exhausted opponent over and get the pin. Sure it would take several minutes, but wasn’t it worth it?

    Why don’t we have this strategy today? Blame the coaches and the wrestlers of that time. Amateur wrestling has three great enemies. The first enemy is time. The second enemy is insistence every match needs a winner and you won’t accept a draw. The third enemy is the ease with which a move or hold can be made dangerous or injurious if not done properly and not defended properly.

    a) Why is time an enemy? Look how dependent amateur wrestling is on time. Time dictates you score quickly and score often with short bursts of highly intense “action”. Both coaches are acutely aware of the time. Resist the pin for just a few more seconds and time will run out. You don’t have time to go for a pin so let your opponent up. Amateur wrestling of the early 1900s had longer matches. When will the length of the modern wrestling match shrink to two minutes? When will the modern wrestling match end when a wrestler scores a single point? This sounds like Sumo where the actual match can be very short.

    b) Why is insisting there must be a winner an enemy? If there isn’t a pin, how do you win? Back in the early 1900s, it was riding time advantage. College wrestling still gives a riding time advantage point which is kind of strange. Riding time advantage was a disaster because a wrestler didn’t need to go for a pin to win. Then the concept of a referee’s decision was tried. The referee decided which wrestler was the most skilled and aggressive. Subjectively letting the referee decide didn’t go over well. Everyone screamed the referee was wrong. Now we have the point system. This is another disaster. The goal, now, is to score points, to score more points than your opponent, to get your hand raised. You don’t even have to try to go for a pin to win under any of these scoring systems.

    c) The ease with which a move or hold can become potentially dangerous or injurious is another enemy. Any move or hold can be made potentially dangerous or injurious. Riding an opponent, when done improperly, can become injurious. Your goal, when riding an opponent is to exhaust the opponent. If you cause a little “acute” pain which might be slightly injurious, you can exhaust your opponent even faster.

    What’s the answer? You tell me. You tell me the goal of wrestling. You tell me the goal isn’t to get your hand raised.

    Of course the goal is to get your hand raised, but what do you do to deserve to get your hand raised? Do you score more points than your opponent? Do you score more points than your opponent to get a technical fall? Do you get the pin?

    Someone explain fan “excitement” to me? Is it watching a wrestler get the wrestler’s hand raised? Is it watching short, intense bursts of energy akin to the take down, release strategy, broken up by periods of calm during the release? Is it watching an intense, prolonged struggle ending in a pin?

    In another reality, I would look for patterns between non-related things to learn about a subject.

    Wrestling is supposed to be made up of predators. A wrestler is either a predator or the prey. What kind of predators are wrestlers?

    I finally hit upon the idea of using snakes.

    What kind of snake scores a few points and protects its lead? I can’t think of any.

    The John Smith strategy of short, intense burst for a take down, followed by a release, reminds me of a venomous snake such as a cottonmouth or copperhead or rattlesnake. The venomous snakes strike, injecting venom, and then try to back away, to let the venom do its work. Further strikes may be necessary to deliver more venom until the prey is finished. Between strikes, the venomous snake keeps a safe distance, waiting for another opportunity to strike.

    The Wade Schalles strategy of “legal” pain, inserting the legs and going for a power-half, reminds me of a constrictor snake such as the python or the king snake. The python or king snake seizes its prey in a short, intense burst attack and immediately holds its prey in its coils. Slowly the prey succumbs until the prey is finished. It could take several minutes, even an hour or more for the prey to succumb.

    What is “exciting” to fans?

    Is it exciting to watch a rattlesnake strike, and then move away to a safe distance? The strike might be exciting, but how exciting is it to watch the snake move away to a safe distance?

    Is it exciting to watch a king snake strike and then begin the constriction process? When does the “action” stop? The “action” only stops when the prey is finished.

    How long does it take the rattlesnake to finish its prey. It takes as long as it takes. Unlike amateur wrestling where the clock is ever present.

    How long does it take the king snake to finish its prey? It takes as long as it takes. Need I say more?

    If you got this far, I’m amazed. Good job reading this to the end.


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