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?