Things that make you go hmmm

By | December 14, 2022

Were you aware; there are 1023 community colleges in America.  62, or 6% of them have a wrestling program. There are 437 Division III colleges in America, 109 have wrestling or 25% of the schools. At the D-II level, there are 303 colleges of which 64 have the sport, or 21%. At the D-I level, there are 363 schools, 78 of which have wrestling. But remember, as I mentioned in my last blog, of those 78, roughly 30 of them are either Mid-Majors, I-AA’s, D-II’s, and one D-III school. So, maybe 20% of all D-I schools in America house a wrestling program. Rounding out the various levels, the NAIA has 250 colleges competing in sports, 68 of which, or 27% have wrestling programs.

Overall, if we combine all the numbers, there are 2376 colleges, universities and junior colleges in America. Of those, 381 have wrestling programs, or 16% of the schools.

I’m wondering, did any of those numbers impress you? They certainly didn’t me unless I was rooting against wrestling. And, they’re definitely not impressing America’s media centers, nor are they exciting any athletic administrator whose school doesn’t have the sport.

Yet, we brag all the time about all the great things that wrestling does for America’s youth, and for the most part, we’re absolutely right! So, why isn’t collegiate wrestling even at the 20th percentile?

In a nutshell, it’s the same reason why people don’t order food at a restaurant based on nutritional content? If they’re going to be shelling out big bucks, they want the ambience and flavor to equal or surpass cost.

Wrestling doesn’t do that . . . instead, we talk about work ethic, sacrifice, and notable goals like teaching our athletes how to overcome life’s adversity. They’re all great points, exceptionally great, but intrinsic values mean nothing to fans.

And even when America’s #1 health issue for those under 30 years of age is obesity, and wrestling pins that crisis in the first period, spectators don’t care, because it has nothing to do with entertainment.

Fans want to be entertained, they expect and demand it for their attendance dollars. They want dual meets, not tri’s and quad’s or all day affairs. They want halftimes instead, concession stands, lights that turn down and focus on the athletes, announcers, music, and a program to read so they know who’s wrestling, the combatants’ records, and maybe a few personal tidbits.

They also demand rules, even though their silence, that are simple to understand, and designed to scuttle our current slow-down approach to winning.

Without fans, the sport is without revenue. Without revenue, administrators aren’t interesting in subsidizing programs that bleed red ink versus black, just as Wall Street investors walk away from underperforming stocks.

Without fans, there’s no reason for sports writers to attend meets.

Without fans, companies aren’t interested in advertising on any media platform that involves wrestling.

Without fans, there is little political clout with administrators to overcome those bad decisions that athletes and coaches in all sports sometimes make.

Without fans, we lose far more athletes, programs, and respect from administrators than we can imagine. If we parallel what we do to an hourly wage that wrestlers receive for the number of fans we have in the stands, it’s why it’s so tough to get any upper weight football players to come out for the sport. They’re not interested in working four times as hard so they can receive a subsistence wage in relation to football. The work to fan imbalance is too extreme.

Basically, without fans; we lose.

Wrestling has to focus on changing what it is we do, and that means our thought processes. We have to focus on the acquisition of those 20 million fans we don’t have, but could have, if the sport was fun to watch. We have to cater to the enjoyment factor of fans.

Our problem isn’t forfeits, ringworm, sub-par academics, singlets, or social misbehaving; just as having more women’s programs, or schools with winning records isn’t going to fix that which ails us.

If we want to win, which it seems we don’t, the coaches have to admit that what we’ve been doing; and they’ve been doing, or not doing for decades, is the reason why we struggle. But, for them to admit that what the sport has been doing could be improved, in their eyes, is to admit they were wrong. That’s not in their DNA, which brings me to the second part of the story.

Wrestling has made some bold moves over the years, just not in recent memory. So, we have a history of taking chances, making changes, it’s just that too many of today’s coaches weren’t around when it happened.

So, was a takedown always worth 2-points, did a pin always end the match, were matches ever determined by a flip of a coin? Let’s see.

The point I’m trying to make is every sport is constantly evolving, that is, if they want to succeed? And the ones who are most successful financially are the ones that consistently add layer upon layer of excitement to their sport. Organizations like the UFC, Major League Baseball, the NFL and NBA are prime examples of sports that are run by businessmen, visionaries, and marketers; and not by coaches.

The bottom line is we simply need to change; and we’ve done it before.

Were you aware that the recommended surface for wrestling rooms in the 1920’s were three inches of sawdust topped off with a canvas cover?

In 1928, when the first NCAA tournament began, there were only seven weight classes; 115, 125, 135, 145, 158, 175, then Unlimited. And, the seeding committee only seeded the top two wrestlers per weight.

For team scoring, only the top three place winners in each weight received medals, and scored team points. And what is known as true second was wrestled. Whoever took third in a weight class got to wrestle the second-place finisher after the finals to see who was going to take home the Silver Medal?

All the matches were 10 minutes in length; and there was no scoring. No 2-point takedowns, 2-point reversals, 1- point escapes, or the term back points didn’t exist. The only thing that counted was a pin. Well, sort of, and I hope you’re sitting down for this.

For all the matches, if a takedown occurred during the first 2 minutes of the 10-minute bout, wrestling continued. If there was no takedown in the first 2 minutes, the match would be stopped and the remaining 8 minutes would be divided into two 4-minute periods, with each wrestler receiving an opportunity to be on top.

Then, if wrestler A scored a pin during the first of those two 4-minute periods, the match wasn’t over! Instead, athlete B was given an opportunity for redemption. If he could pin wrestler A in less time than it took wrestler A to pin him, then B won.

The point is; only a pin, or the quickest of two pins, ended the bout.

Other than that, all matches were referee decisions based on aggressiveness. I love that idea as opposed to the slow down approach to wrestling we see today. In other words; if you backed up, played the edge, took a bunch of half shots, preferred stalemates to fighting your way out of tough spots, or were defensive in any way, you lost!

If the referee couldn’t decide who the better wrestler was at the end of 10 minutes, based on aggressiveness, he’d ask the table to add 2 additional periods of 3-minutes each to the match. At the end of those two periods, if there was no pin, and the referee still couldn’t decide who was the most aggressive, he’d flip a coin!

Yea, you read that right!

Talk about incentivizing athletes. I bet the fans got to watch some amazing action when everything was based on aggressiveness.

Regarding pins, both shoulders had to have been held in contact with the mat for a silent count of 3. Meaning there was far less pinning back in the days, and a lot more action. Consolation bouts consisted of three 2-minute periods.

As I mentioned, if no fall occurred during regulation, the referee would award the bout to the wrestler who he felt showed the greater wrestling ability and aggressiveness, provided that individual had at least one-minute of riding time.

In 1931, the NCAA added one weight class and the length of time for a pin changed from a count of 3, to a count of 2.

Seven years later, the Rules Committee dropped the 1-minute of riding time being criteria in deciding the winner of a bout that didn’t end in a fall. And the length of a match moved from 10 minutes to three, 3-minute periods with two, 2-minute periods of overtime should it become necessary.

Interestingly, in both 1932 and 1936, the NCAA changed their weight classes to accommodate the Amateur Athletic Union who was responsible to select who represented the United States in the Olympics. Those that won the NCAA Championships in those two years became our representative in Los Angeles and Berlin.

As a fun fact; Dick Voliva, the person who started wrestling at Rutgers, and was a national champion in 1936 when he was at Ohio State; his best friend was Jesse Owens. They roomed together on the cruise ship that took the American team to Berlin. There, Jesse won four Gold Medals in Track and Field and Dick the Silver in wrestling. Both met Adolf Hitler.

In 1941, the Rules Committee finally moved away from the referee’s deciding the winner and added a point system similar to what we have today. Also, that year, those that lost in the finals didn’t have to wrestle the 3rd place finisher for true 2nd place. Semi-final losers squared off for 3rd. Team scoring went like this; 6 points for a first-place finish, 4 points for second, 2 points for third and 1 point for fourth. There were no points awarded for advancement, or pins.

The next year, the number of points you could earn for a Near Fall dropped from 4 to 2 and wrestling mats finally replaced the use of an elevated platform with ropes that you see being used today in the WWE.

In 1948, the NCAA returned to the Olympic weight classes: 114, 125, 136, 147, 160, 174, 191, and Unlimited to determine who went to the Games? Scoring for the event used the black mark bracketing system, which included touch falls.

Starting in 1950, overtime was no longer used to decide matches in tournaments. The Rules Committee decided to allow the referee to make the call if the bout ended in a tie.

In 1951 cross bracketing was introduced for the consolation elimination bouts for third and fourth place.

Then in 1954, the sport added the term Predicament to the rule book, which was worth 1 point.

A year later the sport broke the word Near Fall into two parts, a 2-point near fall and a 3-point near fall, depending upon the length of time a wrestler held his opponent on his back.

Over the next 9 years team scoring changed on three different occasions to reflect the number of teams and individuals the event attracted. In 1955 the scoring looked like this; 7, 5, 3 and 1, with an advancement point awarded for championship and consolation bouts. In 1956 the scoring changed to; 10, 7, 4 and 2. Then seven years later the NCAA decided to award six places per weight class and the team scoring changed to; 10, 7, 5, 3, 2 and 1.

In 1957, overtime periods were restored for tournament bouts ending in a tie. They consisted of two 2-minute periods, with each wrestler getting a shot in the top position.

In 1962 the Rules Committee made a radical change. Because Oklahoma State was so dominant on their feet, taking their opponents down mostly as will, and letting them up, the Rules Committee changed the rules to force more down wrestling. The first takedown was worth 2-points and every subsequent takedown was only worth 1-point. The rules committee felt that the excitement of people bridging and being pinned was so important that to ignore it was almost irreverent.

Then two years later, the Rules Committee, still not satisfied with the lack of interest athletes were showing for pinning, they decreased the time necessary to pin someone from 2-seconds to 1 second.

Finally, in 1966, after feeling a lot of pressure by coaches to reinstate the 2-point takedown for every takedown, the rules committee reversed their previous decision. But not before they continued to stress the importance of down wrestling by adding a second point for riding time beyond 2-minutes. They also decided that all overtimes would now mirror regulation matches, and have 3 periods. Each being 1-minute in length.

In 1972 the NCAA created additional incentives for athletes to score more points. If an athlete won his match by more than 10 points, his team was given an extra ½ point in tournament competition or 1 additional point in dual meets.

With that change, the point totals in matches began to increase. So, the rules committee decided to take another step. In 1976, they moved a superior decision up to 12 points and added what we now know as a major decision for those who won by more than 8 points.

In 1985, the rules committee added a Tech Fall to the list of how an athlete could win. Once one individual had a 15-point differential between his score and that of his opponent, the match was terminated.

Then in 1987, the sport of wrestling capped the weight limit for heavyweights from unlimited to 275 pounds, and the Chris Taylor’s and Tab Thacker’s of the world were out.

Of course, there were many other rule changes over the years, far more that I touched on. But the point of this historical journey was to both entertain and educate those who were not aware.

So, given what you just read, is a point earned is a point scored really so draconian?

6 thoughts on “Things that make you go hmmm

  1. Rick S.

    How could this be done? How can you pin your opponent’s shoulders to the mat for 3 ore more seconds?
    They could do it back in 1911 even if you can’t do it now.

    Something has been lost in amateur wrestling.

    They could pin your shoulders to the mat for 3 or more seconds back in 1911.
    People tell me you are lucky if you can pin your opponent’s shoulders to the mat for 1 or 2 seconds in 2022.

    What has wrestling lost between 1911 and 2022?

    I can only assume the idea of getting a fall has been relegated to a forgotten time.

    The goal, now, is to get your hand raised.
    Don’t take chances. Get a small lead, and protect your lead.
    As Wade says, this would be very different if a match were decided on aggressiveness if there were no fall.

    Unfortunately, that has been tried. Before there was a point system, the referee made the decision based on aggressiveness when there was no fall. That was tried, and discarded.

    Some people argue, if we can’t motivate wrestlers to go for falls, let’s have them score lots and lots of points.
    What’s wrong with saying the goal of wrestling is to score as many points as possible? Think of the action.

    Let me offer two examples I will later compare.

    In the first example, I have a professional basketball team in the NBA.
    This team is great at getting a lead and playing keep-away the rest of the game.
    I suggest the fans will not be happy. I suggest the fans will be angry. The fans want baskets.
    The NBA implemented a shot clock to force a team to take shots at the basket.
    This shot clock prevents a team playing keep-away. Why did the NBA do this?

    In the second example, I have the Harlem Globetrotters.
    This team is great at getting a lead and playing keep-away the rest of the game.
    The fans are happy. This is great entertainment.

    Compare these two examples. The EXACT same action is occurring in both examples.
    In one example, the action is unacceptable. In the other example, the action is cheered.

    This is what is wrong with the people who make the decisions for amateur wrestling.
    You don’t understand what action is acceptable and what action is unacceptable to the fans.

    You don’t understand why professional wrestling fans are willing to sit through a 30 minute match while they don’t want to sit through 2 minutes of many of your matches.

    You’re not going to be able to “educate” the fans to like your product.
    First, you can’t define your product. Is your product
    a) get a pin
    b) score as many points as possible
    c) do what is necessary to get your hand raised

    Second, many fans will see your “education” as an attempt to brainwash. Many fans have their own idea what wrestling is or should be.

    Third, even if you do “educate” your fans that your style of wrestling is 1 of the 3 choices above (get a pin, score points, get your hand raised), the fans will be confused when most matches don’t match what you educate.

    Amateur wrestling has four enemies:
    1) an ill-defined goal, you might as well not have a goal
    2) Time – how long does it take to accomplish the goal that is ill-defined.
    It might take an hour to get a pin when two experienced, tough wrestlers go at it.
    3) multiple ways to win a match other than achieving the goal that is ill-defined.
    4) rules that make strategies for accomplishing the goal difficult or impossible.
    In 1911, they could pin tough, experienced opponents. You can’t. Something’s changed.

    I blame the coaches. The coaches want their wrestlers’ hands raised. That’s what they care about.
    Those are the rules the coaches force the rule makers to make.

    So how could They pin your shoulders to the mat for 3 or more seconds back in 1911?
    Look at the early training manuals from that period and find out.

    A big part of wrestling, during that period, was learning how to conserve energy while exhausting your opponent.

    Breaking down and riding an opponent for two to five minutes softened the opponent up.
    A weakened, exhausted opponent could be pinned if you had conserved your energy.
    Do wrestlers of today even know how to wrestle like this? Do they want to?

    If they don’t want to, are they being wimpy?

    Not to worry. The rules of today prevent this style of wrestling. That’s right.
    If you don’t like a strategy, make a rule so it can’t happen.
    Don’t learn how to deal with that strategy on the mat.

    Have the strategy of breaking down and riding an opponent be stalling as if no progress is being made.
    I dare you to tell the wrestler on the bottom, who is slowly weakening, no progress is being made.

    The top man won’t stall if the only way to win is to get the pin. He will find a way to overpower his opponent.
    The bottom man will stall so let the top man use an exhausting ride to make the bottom man squirm.
    The bottom man either squirms out of the hold or becomes too tired to resist getting pinned.

    Another thing you do is having referees constantly interrupting the action and you divide the match into 3 short periods to give the wrestlers plenty of chances to catch their breath.

    It’s only during a near-fall situation that a wrestler can really be pushed to exhaustion without interruption.
    I forgot; a near-fall situation can be interrupted by time running out for the period.

    The referee should be there to prevent injury and acute pain. The referee should call the fall.
    The referee should not deal with stalling. Stalling is a problem for the wrestlers to solve themselves.

    Wrestling should be continuous, with as little referee intervention as possible, until a fall occurs.

    Go back to three second (or longer) falls. Make getting a fall harder so victory is that much sweeter.
    Eliminate all those interruptions. Don’t divide the match into periods. Have the goal be to get the fall.
    Lengthen the time for the bout so the goal, getting the fall, is doable.
    Permit riding so the goal, getting the fall, is doable when the opponent is tough and experienced.

    Excitement is not derived from having mindless, pointless action.
    Excitement is derived from seeing one wrestler overcoming and pinning the other wrestler.
    It’s the thrill of the struggle. It’s the joy of victory. It’s the anguish of defeat.
    These are the emotions a fan can feel. It’s during a near-fall situation, when the fans grow quiet, attentive.

  2. Rick S.

    “Regarding pins, both shoulders had to have been held in contact with the mat for a silent count of 3. Meaning there was far less pinning back in the days, and a lot more action. Consolation bouts consisted of three 2-minute periods.”

    I was curious how much less pinning occurred in 1928 than 2022.

    For the 1928 NCAA Championships I looked at the following:
    By weight class, the following number of matches ended in a fall, out of the total number of matches wrestled:
    115 LB, 1 fall, 5 matches, the fall was by an Oklahoma representative
    125 LB, 0 falls, 9 matches
    135 LB, 3 falls, 6 matches, all falls by the Oklahoma State representative
    145 LB, 2 falls, 9 matches, the Oklahoma State representative and Indiana representative each got a fall
    158 LB, 1 fall, 5 matches, the Iowa representative got the fall in the final
    175 LB, 2 falls, 8 matches, the Oklahoma State and Texas representative each got a fall
    UNL LB, 3 falls, 4 matches, the Oklahoma State representative got 2 falls and the Illinois representative got 1
    Out of 46 matches, there were 12 falls, for a percentage 12/46 or 26% of the matches ended by fall.
    I would be pleased if someone double checked these numbers. I hope I didn’t make a mistake, but I might have.

    For the 2022 NCAA championships, I got the information from
    There were many more matches, and a greater chance I made a mistake, so please double check the numbers.
    By weight class, the following number of matches ended in a fall, out of the total number of matches wrestled:
    125 LB, 5 falls, 0 TF, 64 matches; 133 LB, 6 falls, 3 TF, 64 matches; 141 LB, 4 falls, 2 TF, 64 matches
    149 LB, 9 falls, 0 TF, 64 matches; 157 LB, 6 falls, 1 TF, 64 matches; 165 LB, 5 falls, 2 TF, 64 matches
    174 LB, 10 falls, 0 TF, 64 matches; 184 LB, 4 falls, 1 TF, 64 matches; 197 LB, 4 falls, 1 TF, 64 matches
    285 LB, 6 falls, 2 TF, 64 matches
    There were 59 falls out of 640 matches for a percentage 9% of the matches ended by fall.
    There were 12 technical falls out of 640 matches for a percentage 2% of the matches ended by technical fall.

    While it is true the number of falls is greater in 2022 than 1928, the number of matches is also greater.
    The percentage of matches that ended by fall is much greater in 1928 than 2022…26% compared with 9%.
    In 2022, fans needed to ignore 91% of the matches if all they want to see is falls.
    In 1928, fans needed to ignore 74% of the matches if all they want to see is falls.
    And remember, it took 3 seconds for a fall in 1928, and only 1 second for a fall in 2022.

    These numbers are still terrible if a fan wants to see all matches end by fall.
    I wonder what it would have been like to be a fan at the University of Iowa in 1911.
    I haven’t found the rules they used. The following is from the University of Iowa yearbook 1912.

    The University of Iowa home tournament wrestle-offs, back in 1911, had 5 weight classes.
    Featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, heavyweight.
    They wrestled 2 out of 3 falls. Some of the falls took less than a minute. A few falls took over an hour.
    The results show there were only falls and forfeits. There were no draws or decisions.
    I believe a fan could sit through a match where a fall took over an hour, knowing there would be a fall. If multiple matches were going on simultaneously, as in a 3 ring or 4 ring or 5 ring circus, other matches can be watched until the time the longer match is nearing the end with the eventual winner crushing the eventual loser’s resistance.

    Think of the suspense! You know there’s going to be a fall. How will it be accomplished? Who will win?
    These falls weren’t 1 or 2 second either. I am guessing a fall was 3 or more seconds.

    How could this be done? How can you pin your opponent’s shoulders to the mat for 3 ore more seconds?
    They could do it back in 1911 even if you can’t do it now.

    The same University of Iowa yearbook lists the summary for an Iowa-Nebraska match.
    Three weight classes were wrestled, heavyweight, lightweight, middleweight.
    Again, it was 2 out of 3 falls. The shortest fall took 1.5 minutes and the longest fall took 1 hr. 17 min.
    Nebraska won 3 matches to none for Iowa.

  3. Rick S.

    Hi Wade,

    Please delete my replies. I don’t know enough about marketing to know what I’m talking about.
    What you need is a good marketing person. I was in development, not marketing.

    Searching the internet, I learned there have been a number of attempts to have pro wrestling with amateur rules. Among the attempts were Real Pro Wrestling and Tour ACW.

    Since you participated in Real Pro Wrestling, Wade, can you comment about it please?

    Did they fail because of lack of funding or not enough fans or competition from UFC and MMA?

  4. Rick S.

    “So, given what you just read, is a point earned is a point scored really so draconian?”

    No. A point earned is a point scored is not really so draconian given the current state of amateur wrestling.

    Is that really what fans want and expect? Is that what those who are not fans, but might be, want and expect?

    I feel every rule that was, that is, and that will be, should be tested based on one question.

    How does this rule advance or impede what the fans want and expect?

    Some coaches believe the fans want and expect lots of action and points and point to all the point scoring in basketball.
    Other coaches go to the other extreme and point to the low scoring in soccer.

    Some commenters say another name for folkstyle is stallstyle and even though they are part of the wrestling family, don’t want folkstyle.

    If fans want and expect action and point scoring, and you already have lots of action and point scoring in freestyle, where are the fans? Why does the Olympics keep thinking about dropping wrestling? When will wrestling finally be dropped?

    Point scoring in basketball and soccer are afterthoughts.
    The excitement is seeing if the basketball goes through the basket.
    Can the defense prevent the basket? Can the offense make the basket?
    Can the player make a clutch free-throw?

    Can the team put the soccer ball into the goal?
    Can you feel the electricity and excitement as Andrés Cantor makes one of his legendary goal calls?

    What do the fans want and expect?

  5. Rick S.

    How do we know what the fans want and expect?
    Where are the surveys of those not part of the wrestling family to find out what they want and expect?
    Will they even know what they want and expect until they see what they don’t want and don’t expect?

    “Organizations like the UFC, Major League Baseball, the NFL and NBA are prime examples of sports that are run by businessmen, visionaries, and marketers; and not by coaches.”
    The UFC fans want fights. The UFC delivers what their fans want and expect.

    I don’t want to comment on Major League Baseball. I am not a fan of Major League Baseball.
    I find Major League baseball to be boring. Their fans don’t.
    Major League Baseball delivers what their fans want and expect.

    The NFL fans want touchdowns. NFL football delivers.
    One scores points getting the football into the opponent’s end-zone.
    The NFL delivers what their fans want and expect.

    The NBA is the same. It delivers what their fans want and expect.

    What about the WWE? Yes, it’s entertainment. The WWE delivers what their fans want and expect.

    Every time someone says, all wrestling needs is more action, I cringe.
    Let me explain why by way of comparing two scenarios.

    In the first scenario, we have a professional basketball team.
    It is very good at getting a lead and playing keep away.
    The fans are frustrated and infuriated and booing.
    Professional basketball implemented the shot clock to prevent this unwanted action.

    In the second scenario, we have the Harlem Globetrotters.
    The Harlem Globetrotters are very good at getting a lead and playing keep away.
    The fans are happy and cheering.

    Compare the two scenarios. Everything, but everything, is the same, except one thing.

    The equipment for both scenarios is the same. The playing area is the same.
    The number of players is the same. The rules for dribbling and passing and scoring are the same.

    What is different between the two scenarios is what the fans want and expect.

    It’s not that the sport needs more action, but the sport needs the right action the fans want and expect.
    Having action the fans don’t want and don’t expect is as bad as having no action.

    I can see three responses. Each response has it’s own set of problems.
    1) learn what the fans want and expect and try to deliver. It’s not possible to deliver so compromises are made.
    2) educate the fans to want and expect what the sport offers. You aren’t going to brainwash me.
    3) find a way to survive without fans. Wrestling is doing this now. When will the Olympics drop wrestling?
    My reply is too long to go into the responses in detail and the problems with each response.


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