Where We Fail

By | February 10, 2019

I believe most of you are becoming more and more aware of how precarious the sport of wrestling is, relative to becoming main stream.

It’s not that we’re not one of the most dynamic sports on the planet or that we somehow fail at building character, discipline and exceptional young men. Those pluses are a given.

But where we fail, in spades, is our inability to get that information out to rest of the country while finding a way to make the sport exciting.

You do know, that you can try and sell a brand new 2019 Mercedes S Class for $2,000.00 and have zero takers if it’s under a large tarp and no one’s aware you have it for sale. It’s not that it’s a bad car, or wouldn’t have people beating down your doors to buy it. It’s that it’s out of sight and no one is aware it’s available.

Welcome to the exact issue wrestling faces.

We have the best sport going, it’s everything you and I know it to be. However, no one knows about it, and that’s the sports fault. Actually, it’s all of our faults because we’ve failed at getting the word out. And if we fix that challenge, we fail again because we don’t have a Mercedes for sale, it’s more of a Studebaker. Basically, it’s not a product that others are interested in buying.

We can put wrestling on television, but that doesn’t help if the only ones who are interested in watching it come from our very limited fan base. I say limited because we have maybe 800,000 fans, and that sounds like a lot. But in a country of 350,000,000, that’s two-tenths of one percent, a cringe worthy number if you ask me.

Let’s think about this for a second. Who makes up the 800,000 fans? I don’t know the exact answer, but if I were to guess, I’d say a vast majority of them either wrestled at one time, or were cajoled somehow to fall in love with wrestling because they were a fraternity brother of someone who wrestled, or a boyfriend, girlfriend, or relative of someone who did.

But for the other 349,200,00 people, 10% of whom we need to become a viable sport, they don’t care what, how or why we do it, or the amazing developmental qualities the sport provides America’s youth. If we aren’t entertaining, and we’re not, no one who could be new to the sport is going to be new.

Again, that’s OUR collective faults.

The sport is boring, period. Don’t argue. The sport is boring with a capital B to all those you can’t ask because they never came to a match to ask.

And the rules are confusing.

Just think what would happen if Jeopardy asked questions that no one at home could answer? They’d be off the air so fast it would make Alex’s head spin. You can’t develop a fan base when you consistently make those at home, or in the stands, feel stupid.

Have you ever sat next to someone who was new to the sport? You spend more time explaining what just happened or answering “what was that call for” than you spend watching the matches.

Simplify things. Like 1 point for a 1 count if someone is on their back, 2 points for a 2nd count, 3 points for a 3rd count etc. Now granted the Rules Committee did get close to that change recently but only after I put a hole in my drum from beating it so hard over the last several years.

It’s things like that which make people scratch their heads. KISS . . . Keep It Simple Stupid. And really, who cares if back points are like that? As long as everyone knows what the rules are before the first whistle, both the athletes and coaches will adjust.

As to a lack of action, in the UFC, you see someone throwing a punch every 2.5 seconds. In wrestling, someone taking a shot every 2.5 minutes. See a difference here? Now, I know those numbers are off some, but they’re closer to being non-fiction than fiction.

We need action, NOT scoring, but action. Don’t get the two words confused. They’re vastly different.

If you try to improve scoring, you’re going to fall on your face. But if you find ways to increase action, then scoring will become a byproduct.

Baseball has relatively little scoring, as does soccer and ice hockey, but there is a lot of action in all three sports and why they’re televised, as well as in every newspaper in the country; and doing well financially. People are addicted to action. NASCAR is another example of a sport where action is king. Golf has action too, yes, golf! That’s because the producers know if you follow someone throughout a full round of golf, most everybody would have their chins on their chests snoring away after 15 minutes. So instead, they have multiple cameras covering the long drives, exciting chip shots and breath-taking putts from each of say 35 different golfers – in real time.

The Penn State – Ohio State dual the other night was great; #1 vs. #2, but only if you knew the sport. The first match at 133 had 0 takedowns with just as many shots, 0 reversals, 0 back points and two “let him go” escapes in regulation. So, approximately 10 minutes of running time with little to no action.

So, if we’re to fix our ills, out of the two dozen or so changes I’ve been espousing for decades it seems, here are what I consider to be the best of the best, and not in order of priority.

  • The team who forfeits a weight class also forfeits any say in the order of bouts for the evening AND the choice of position at the beginning of the second AND third periods. That will get the coaches attention. Forfeits are even worse for the sport than that and should be penalized as such.
  • Simplify scoring for our spectators. Make it easy for everyone to remember while placing a stronger emphasis on takedowns. Bout scoring; 4-3-2-1. 4-point nearfalls (1 point for every hand count of the referee up to 4 points) which was somewhat adopted recently. 3-point takedowns, 2-point reversals and 1-point escapes. Do you see a pattern here? Penalties are the reverse. 1-2-3-4. 1 point for the first offense and I don’t know why you have to warn someone for something he already knows he’s doing? 2 points for the second offense, 3 for the third etc. I don’t know what would happen if an athlete gets hit with a 5th penalty? Maybe we should force him or her to go out for another sport; no one can be that daft. But the point (pun intended) is to KISS, 1-2-3-4 or 4-3-2-1, something even 3rd graders can understand.
  • An athlete can’t be saved by the buzzer if he’s on his back. The match continues until a pin occurs OR the athletes leave the wrestling area OR the official determines a pin isn’t going to happen.

There are 7 more “must do’s” coming in the next two blogs. These are, in my opinion, keys to transitioning the sport from ho-hum status to financially stable.


What people are saying about my newest book of fiction; Jacob’s Cradle. Just out and available at Amazon or your local Barnes and Noble book store.


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3 thoughts on “Where We Fail

  1. Hryhoriy Davydenko

    I have thought about this topic endlessly. I know why someone who knows nothing about wrestling loves to watch Ben Askren while Kyle Dake, Bo Nickel, Cael, are boring as hell. Dave Taylor would be a middle ground. So, yes, it is the action. So, is there a way to make rules to force wrestlers to perform like Ben and sometimes Dave when he is attacking nonstop. Yes, but the traditionalists will not allow it. Thus, it seems to impossible, but I think it can be done.

    1. Hryhoriy Davydenko

      I have thought about this topic endlessly. I know why someone who knows nothing about wrestling loves to watch Ben Askren while Kyle Dake, Bo Nickel, Cael, are boring as hell. Dave Taylor would be a middle ground. So, yes, it is the action. So, is there a way to make rules to force wrestlers to perform like Ben and sometimes Dave when he is attacking nonstop. Yes, but the traditionalists will not allow it. Thus, it seems to impossible, but I think it can be done. I will not go into that as it requires more time than I have right now. I get irritated seeing men like Wade not get the recognition he deserves as a wrestler coupled with the fact that he is doing more to spread these issues while Dan Gable is probably doing some self-promotion or doing another book telling readers the inner dynamics of his coaching that are void of any wrestling instruction. We are going to have to get guys to develop programs and write books explaining the sport and the theories of wrestling in various styles. Brazilian Jui Jitsu is a success because it has an approved program that follows a logical breakdown of wrestling engagement. Kary Kolat has a whole program he made on video that is tremendous. He made it free and just Google his name and it will come up. Hell, Kary has done 40 times that of Gable who provides zero material as it applies to instruction. Frankly, the UFC may have contributed to the decision to still allow wrestling in the 2020 olympics after it was not going to occur in 2013. The UFC helps since wrestling provides a good base for the fighters. But, Greco roman is actually better for UFC because of the clinch and dirty boxing it allows and take downs can be learned quick. We need some good training literature and other tools. I mentioned Kolat and Ben Askren has the best material but it may be too pricey for some. I need to get the training manual used by BJJ so I can see what the are doing to make their sport logical and clear to teach.

  2. Rick S.

    Good for you, Wade!

    You see the difference between action and scoring. Finally, someone who sees.

    Amateur wrestling wants to be as popular as professional football, or at least, be revenue generating enough to survive.

    I worry amateur wrestling wants to emulate football and basketball. I worry the UFC will eventually lose its way and start to emulate all the bad practices from amateur wrestling.

    It wasn’t always a bed of roses for professional football. Take the time to read the following.


    Amateur wrestling, as a sport, is complex, confusing, unnatural.

    Fans don’t want to know about the rules or ways to score. Fans want to see a good fight. Only wrestlers, coaches, former wrestlers, care about the rules and ways to score.

    You need to fix the rules and scoring so fans get a good fight. A good fight does not mean scoring lots of points.

    A good fight means two wrestlers on the mat, are trying to force each other’s shoulder blades to the mat. One takes on the role of predator and one takes on the role of prey.

    A good fight means the predator is working hard to get the pin. A good fight means the prey is working just as hard to get out of the pinning situation to avoid the pin. A good fight means nothing and nobody, no time clock, no referee, will interrupt this struggle that emulates a life-and-death struggle of predator and prey.

    Let me repeat this for emphasis, a good wrestling match emulates the life-and-death struggle of predator and prey.

    The predator must “kill” to eat. Anything less than a pin is a letdown. The predator, in real life, that doesn’t get the kill, goes hungry.

    The prey must give everything in the struggle to survive. It doesn’t matter the odds. Anything less and the prey, in real life, is killed and eaten.

    Wrestling is exciting when wrestling emulates the life-and-death struggle of predator and prey. The UFC is exciting because it emulates the life-and-death struggle of predator and prey.

    The submission is the kill. The pin is the kill.

    Football is a very different genre of sport. Amateur wrestling doesn’t seem to understand what makes football exciting.

    Football is exciting when football meets certain goals.
    1) points can be scored, are scored, are encouraged to be scored, and it’s exciting (not super easy) to score.

    The above URL link is to show football takes great pains to ensure points are scored and it’s exciting to watch points being scored.

    2) point scoring is easy to understand. Most things that happen don’t earn points.

    Football doesn’t give points for first downs or interceptions or fumbles. Football only gives points for things happening in the end-zone. Wrestling, on the other hand, gives points for anything and everything.

    3) it is the point spread, and NOT the total number of points, that makes football exciting. The narrower the point spread, the more exciting the football game.

    You don’t believe me regarding the point spread?

    Take three imaginary football game scenarios:
    1) a very low-scoring football game. One team wins by a score of three to zip. We have a narrow point spread. Why aren’t we happy?

    Fans are livid. My grandmother can play football better than that. What’s wrong with that offensive line? That offensive line should be sent back to grammar school!

    2) a high-scoring football game. It’s the end of the third quarter, with a score of forty-nine to zip.

    Fans are heading to the parking lot to beat the rush. The football game isn’t exciting enough to keep the fans in their seats.

    3) another high-scoring football game. The score is twenty-six to twenty-three.

    I don’t see any fans heading for the parking lot.

    Football does so many things to insure progress is made toward the scoring of points. A team has four downs to get a first down or loses the ball.

    Professional basketball, to insure a team tried to score points, had to implement a shot clock.

    This is why I believe amateur wrestling must not try to emulate football or basketball. We don’t want a shot clock in wrestling.

    We want wrestlers to emulate the life-and-death struggle found between predator and prey in real life.

    Maybe I’m wrong. I’m just a fan who thinks he knows too much.


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