Change Wrestling Rules
NCAA wrestling rules committee, NFHS wrestling rules committee
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By Jim Bryan
TO: NATIONAL COLLEGIANT ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION WRESTLING RULES COMMITTEE
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF HIGH SCHOOLS WRESTLING RULES COMMITTEE
SUBJECT: MODIFY THE COLLEGIANT AND HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING RULES
PETITION: We the undersigned are petitioning the National Collegiate Athletic Association Wrestling Rules Committee (NCAARC) and the National Federation Of High Schools Wrestling Rules Committee (NFHSRC) to change from the traditional collegiate rules of wrestling to the rules of the international governing body of Fиdиration Internationale des Luttes Associиes (FILA).
Statement of purpose:
Institutional wrestling in the United States of America (USA) compels USA wrestlers to conform to rules that have been modified from the International tradition. The style used in the USA, hereinafter referred to as folkstyle, is exclusively followed in the schools, colleges and universities throughout the USA.
Most of the world uses the rules of FILA to govern wrestling competition. All countries that are members of FILA compete in worldwide wrestling competitions in age group categories. All FILA tournaments are conducted under FILA rules.
The differences between freestyle and folkstyle are significant, and because of these differences (further explanations follow) we believe USA wrestlers competing in the International arena are at a significant disadvantage. The International arena includes the Olympic games, which is one of the worlds largest media events. We the undersigned ask the NCAARC and NFHSRC to adopt the rules of FILA to level the playing field for our USA wrestling athletes and to coordinate all wrestling in the USA to focus on the Olympic games as the ultimate wrestling event; the Super Bowl for wrestling. We believe a united stand toward the Olympic ideal, one of two great world athletic events, will not only help our wrestling athletes become more competitive, it will command media attention.
Concepts supporting change:
1. Wrestling needs approval from the public to elevate it as a spectator sport. Professional athletes in other sports are making millions of dollars per year. Public apathy toward wrestling has kept demand for TV coverage low. Wrestling needs a media draw such as the Super bowl and the BCS bowl does for football, the big dance and the NBA playoffs does for basketball and World Series and College World Series does for baseball. The NCAA annual wrestling championship tournament has been the major event for universities. Neither the public nor the media have embraced this tournament as a major event. True there is interest in institutional rivalries but still almost no live TV coverage and little public awareness of the event.
2. The rules of folkstyle reward defense and discourage risk taking which results in boring matches that are obviously uninteresting to the media and the public in general.
3. The failure of the wrestling community to offer the public interesting contests has led to the embarrassing development of fake professional wrestling.
4. Wrestlers are in search of public acceptance the results of which is the raise of Cage wrestling, known as Ultimate Fighting Challenge (UFC). The publics need for aggressive, honest fighting seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Ethical less brutal wrestling is needed.
5. Folkstyle rewards control and penalizes risk.
6. A successful folkstyle wrestler takes his opponent down and controls him, as long as possible, to eat up the clock. Restraint wrestling is not interesting.
7. If a wrestler exceeds his opponent in riding time, by one minute, one point is awarded. Riding is not interesting. Many consider riding a form of stalling.
8. Use of the legs is a common to control an opponent leading to boring periods of inactivity.
9. Folkstyle rewards takedowns only after control is established. This priority on control compels the offensive wrestler to focus on takedowns and riding and not the fall (pin). The most exciting part of wrestling is when a fall is eminent. Yet few falls occur in upper level folkstyle wrestling.
10. Folkstyle permits wrestling at the edge of the mat, which enables wrestlers to retreat out-of-bounds for defensive action. Running out of bounds is stalling and not interesting.
11. Edge of the mat wrestling limits action and creates stoppages of action to return to the center causing some matches to drag on.
12. Prior to Title IX good high school wrestlers had abundant opportunities to pay for their college education with athletic scholarships, thus it made sense to prepare for college wrestling by wrestling the same rules in high school. Now wrestling scholarships are rare and few high school wrestlers wrestle at the University level. If wrestling is to grow and flourish club programs will have to take up the slack. Clubs wrestle freestyle so why not start kids off in freestyle as the girls are doing.
1. Freestyle objectives include action wrestling to make the sport a better spectator draw.
2. Freestyle is wrestled in the Olympics, which is one of televisions biggest spectator draws. Wrestlers would benefit by wrestling the same style throughout their careers and not starting over again with a new style in their early 20s.
3. College coaches would be able to add Olympic goals to their college programs without creating an additional coaching burden on themselves.
4. Freestyle rewards risk and daring action and penalizing inactivity.
5. Freestyle rewards exciting throws.
6. When a freestyle wrestler controls his opponent on the mat (par terre position) he must turn him within approximately 10 seconds or be put back in a neutral position (standing).
7. Passivity (stalling) is not tolerated.
8. Freestyle has a one meter zone to compel the wrestlers to stay away from the edge of the mat.
9. Freestyle penalizes a wrestler one point for stepping out of bounds.
10. Any stoppage of the clock (time out) is penalized one point except for bleeding injuries.
11. High school exchange programs in wrestling necessitates the use of international freestyle rules as foreign youth do not know folkstyle, thus our kids are at a significant disadvantage.
Media coverage of wrestling is appalling and attendance is still embarrassingly low at most duel meets and tournaments. The 2001 USA National Freestyle and Greco-Roman Tournament at the beautiful MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas drew poorly. Those in attendance were mostly parents and fans with some connection to a wrestler. The United States has over three million ex-wrestlers*. Where were they? Where was live network television? Surely a good portion of ex-wrestlers and their families care enough about our national wrestling heroes to tune in, or do they? Do they even know who our national heroes are? Is amateur wrestling only exciting to active participants and coaches? Why has our devoted wrestling community failed to capture the interest of the American public? NBC coverage of wrestling at the Athens Olympics showed media bias and ignorance of the size of the USA wrestling community. No doubt we would have had more coverage if our wrestlers had done better.
One explanation the media offers; they print or broadcast what the people want. They claim public interest in real wrestling is low; therefore they usually do not do live event coverage with staff or cameras. Employing reporters and camera crews is costly and their time has to be allocated according to their perception of the public interest.
The problem: how does the public become interested without information? In the few areas of the USA where TV and press cover college wrestling fans are abundant. When people have access to current information, interest and loyalties develop which creates a demand for more coverage. With 10s of millions fans made up of ex-wrestlers, their families, coaches, school rooting sections et al it seems interest would flourish if there were something to read or watch.
Wrestling, as demonstrated in Iowa, Oklahoma and other places, can attract multitudes of fans. Observe the instant sensation Rulon Gardner became when he made it to the Olympic Greco-Roman finals to wrestle Aleksander Kareline, the biggest, meanest Russian ever. Gardners victory was the most publicized Olympic wrestling event in USA wrestling history and it continued through the 2004 Olympics. Millions of proud Americans watched him show the world our youth is as good as the best.
Billions of viewers from most of the countries in the world see their Olympic team as the ultimate level of athletic achievement. Only Soccers World Cup draws comparable television audiences. The media argument, they cover the stories of public interest doesnt pass the test of reasonableness when throngs of fans flock the Olympic venues and TV sets to see all Olympic events. Fifty thousand excited fans showed up to watch archery in the 1984 Los Angeles games and at the Salt Lake City winter games, 20,000 assembled in sub-zero weather to watch ski jumping. Where is the media in off Olympic years? People do have interest. Information is needed to cultivate a fan following.
The Olympic games is a celebration of the human race.
We human beings are the dominant force on planet earth. We have risen from pre-man primates to unbelievable intellectual and physical power. Our specie has unprecedented nobility by being able to create great societies of benevolence. We are a heroic being and it is proper for us to demonstrate it. Once every two years we stop for two weeks to celebrate our greatness by bringing our best athletic performers into the arena of sport for all to see. Audiences from every corner of the world are awed by the greatness of humanities heroes. The peoples of planet earth are left with the feeling all is right in the world and as a fellow human it is proper for us to love and respect others and ourselves. This is what makes the Olympic games the greatest of all media events.
Gold medal winners are instant legends in most countries. All of America was thrilled when Rulon Gardner made it our day in the sun. Rulon was the talk of the world, and in Greco-Roman style yet. A great role model was born for all young American wrestlers to admire.
In the USA however, wrestling coverage is aggravatingly low. Sydney and Athens saw an increase in TV coverage as NBC used both network and cable outlets. Even with this addition most USA wrestling was only highlight coverage or at 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM and there was little or no coverage of wrestlers from outside the USA. With highlights only, we didnt get to see the exciting live action of a match developing or the suspense of watching our American heroes wrestle through the pools and into the brackets and then the gut wrenching experience of watching them make it to the finals and the suspense waiting to see if our wrestlers could claim gold as many other USA athletes were doing. Compare coverage of qualifying wrestling matches with swimming and track and field preliminaries. More promotion of wrestling would increase viewers and airtime could be increased. In many parts of the world, wrestling is a national sport. In contrast however, how many USA high school wrestlers can name any of our wrestlers that won gold medals in Atlanta, Sydney or Athens Olympic games?
Why should the media and the American public be interested in Olympic and International wrestling?
Mankind has been evolving for about 3.5 million years. Our ancestors endured daily life with hardship and danger. They met each challenge with resigned commitment and did whatever was necessary, and as Darwin discovered, the fittest survived. For millions of years the geological record tells us our fore-bearers were nomadic hunters and gatherers dependent on cunning, stamina and physical skills. Defending themselves against animals and other human tribes left us with warrior heritage. Survival by thought and battle is our essence. Competition among human beings is Mother Natures way of leading us to self-improvement. Hand to hand combat was the ultimate test of the fittest.
To nourish the root needs of our warrior psyche, the organizers of the ancient Olympic games featured wrestling as a major event. Wrestling champions were seen as the strongest and most powerful. They were rewarded with riches and hailed forever as national heroes and some as gods.
The modern Olympic games, as resurrected in 1896 in Athens, Greece, continued the ancient tradition by including Greco-Roman wrestling as a major event. Many countries in the world responded realizing the Olympic wrestling venue gave them a chance to show off their warriors and demonstrate the strength and power of their youth. Honest hand-to-hand combat is still the ultimate test of physical superiority.
The world has included wrestling has a major sport for millenniums. The United States has modified the original rules and caused the sport to be seen as a minor sport in most athletic programs and as a result, most sports fans.
The Olympics is an event with a worldwide audience, which includes a tremendous following in the US. It seems reasonable if we want to increase the prestige of wrestling in the USA we should integrate our folkstyle wrestling with the International body. Integration could be as easy as simply changing our high school and college rules to freestyle.
NCAA SHOULD BE A PART OF THE OLYMPIC ASSENT
NCAA football, basketball, baseball, track and field and swimming have athletic programs that develop athletes for professional sport careers. Most college wrestlers do not wrestle beyond college.
International wrestling should be our primary wrestling focus in the USA.
Making the Olympic and World team should be lauded as the ultimate achievement in wrestling. A single focal point would unify the mission of wrestling. Cadet and Junior age groups would become trailblazers for the rest of our youth. The NCAA and other national championship tournaments should be regarded as major steps in making the National team. Each of these tournaments should be a means to an end and not an end in itself. The rulebook that is common to all wrestlers in the world is what our wrestlers need to pique their interest and development.
Changing from collegiate to international rules, as it is now in the midst of a wrestlers career, is divisive resulting in enormous attrition of active wrestlers and a giant step backwards to those who continue. Imagine the frustration of a wrestler that spends 10-15 years learning a style of wrestling only to discover most of his skills are not valued in the international arena.
Most of our national class wrestlers finish a highly competitive college career and have to start over in freestyle and/or Greco-Roman. The great Dan Gable was beaten 4 times (11-4 in 1967-68) while he made the transition from folkstyle to freestyle. It took Cael Sanderson two years to convert to freestyle. Consider the irony of developing a great wrestler like Sanderson and then requiring him to start all over in an unfamiliar style. How much more superior would he have been if he had started in freestyle. Russian wrestlers such as Ivan Yarygin and Aleksander Kareline were able to stay on top for more than a decade. Gable and Sanderson both quit active competition after one Olympic appearance. Burnout is a major problem with college wrestlers. Requiring them to start over is one of the reasons for it. The progress of a wrestler should consist of a crescendo of skill development culminating in peak performance. The contrasting objectives between folkstyle and freestyle prevent such a scenario.
Youth wrestlers that learn the international styles and wish to wrestle in college are frequently required to put freestyle and Greco-Roman competition on hold until their high school or college season ends. Inflexible demands made by aggressive coaches often lead to burn out and alienation. Adversarial situations arise. Adversity in the promotion of wrestling among wrestling advocates is counter productive, producing exactly the opposite of what we all want. I looked for the enemy and it was we. How many of our young wrestlers are discouraged from off-season wrestling so they can reserve their energy to win high school duel meets? How many young formative wrestlers consider this a rebuke of international style wrestling? Some state governing bodies prohibit high school wrestling coaches from coaching folkstyle beyond the regular season. These conditions send the message there is only one approved style of wrestling, one style counts and the other style is not important enough to be considered a high school sport.
Wrestling enthusiasts want our sport to be accepted and recognized for its greatness. Wrestling gives us a chance to display our warriors without going to war. Human beings love tough, able people and wrestlers are the toughest and ablest.
Wrestling fans have to deal with the same confusion. Its bad enough we have to deal with the fraud of the pros and the brutality of cage fighting but the relatively few fans that have bothered to learn the complicated collegiate rules have to adjust to the international styles if and when they can get information. The media treats wrestling like an unwanted child because they are ignorant of the important part wresting has played in the ancient and modern Olympic games and because the collegiate wrestling authorities insist on continuing with a unique folkstyle that isolates the USA from the world wrestling authority with an uninteresting and outmoded style.
Wrestling in the United States should be consistent. We cant expect the world to adopt our style and forego rules that have been used for over 100 years. Consistency demands we exercise the option of adopting the international styles.
Integrating international rules could include honoring all college level medallists by USA Wrestling and be included as Olympic and World team prospects. National champions from all NCAA, NAIA, JCs, CCs, and military tournaments et al, should be invited to the national camps to train with the best. Elaborate press releases and biographical sketches should be posted on the Internet for the entire world to see. Press kits should be sent to the wrestlers hometown local media. Everyone should know of their achievements especially the local high school wrestlers. His/her high school should receive pictures and stories of the athletes heroics. High school wrestlers should know there is more to wrestling than just their high school team.
College coaches would see a new enthusiasm in their wrestlers and would-be-wrestlers if they were considered part of the Olympic movement. Coaches would be able to support and participate in promoting the Olympic ideal within their existing programs.
Our national champions and world team representatives should be honored as national heroes. Wrestlers are the warriors of the arena. They stand alone before all to see and offer us the chance to see our soldiers in battle. Tremendous pride swells within us as pre-battle anticipation grows. For our country there is no greater moment than the sight of our national hero standing on the victory stand while the red, white and blue is being raised to the accompaniment of our national anthem. All of us in the USA wrestling community should be united in this cause. We should all agree on what is the ultimate achievement in wrestling. We should then pursue this ideal without compromise. Fulfillment should be our quest. We should merge our interests and lobby for media coverage. If we show extraordinary interest and energy for our sport the media cannot ignore us. Believe it, if millions of American wrestling fans tune into wrestling events the media will cover it. Their problem is not having too much good material to sell to their sponsors but to little.
UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL.
Aesop Greek slave & fable author (620 BC - 560 BC
We are all familiar with the achievements of Mark McGuire, Joe Montana, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretsky, et al. But how many Americans in general, and high school wrestlers and coaches in particular, can name any of the eight Olympic gold medal winners in wrestling from the last four Olympics. It is time we disseminate information and put our heroes on the pedestal of honor where they belong. If coaches or wrestlers dont appreciate or admire our champions who will?
Make the Olympic Games the focal point
We must do what is best for wrestling. Only a very small percentage of high school wrestlers go on to college level wrestling. There are over 9,000 high school wrestling teams with over 239,000* wrestlers each year in the US, and only 240** four-year college level teams. Beginning wrestlers dont know the difference between freestyle and folkstyle. They comply with whatever is offered. We should provide our kids with a wrestling experience that will be in their best long term interest. Prestige and enthusiasm would skyrocket if beginners saw themselves as an entry-level participant associated with the Olympic movement. How much interest could be developed in Olympic wrestling if USA Wrestling did the following?:
1. Provided a plan where junior (middle) and senior high schools could register as part of the Olympic wrestling development team.
2. Register each wrestling room as an official Olympic training site.
3. Paint the Olympic rings on the walls of the new training sight.
4. Wrestle the international styles.
5. Provide the training sites with pictures of our National Champions and Olympians.
6. Give each wrestler on your team a T-shirt with school logo joined with the Olympic rings inscribed Olympic Wrestling Trainee.
7. Send a media press kit announcing the wrestling room as an official Olympic training site and invite the media, Mayor and school administrators to a ribbon cutting ceremony to confer the appointment.
Surely the media and every kid in the school would have to take notice. If our kids are participants in the greatest show on earth the local media will cover the story. When those of us in the wrestling community offer the public sonmething interesting the media will respond.
1. Promote one final focal point in wrestling, The Olympic Games and World Championships.
2. Create an international league and have duel meets to attract public interest.
3. Include college and university teams in international exhibitions. Imagine the interest and media draw of a local team wrestling a Russian team.
3. Lobby the media to cover wrestling.
4. Lobby sponsors to support national events.
5. Rally all wrestlers, former wrestlers and fans to demand TV coverage of International competition.
6. Include all wrestling in the US as Olympic development programs.
7. Wrestle only International rules.
*National Federation of High Schools web site http://www.nfhs.org
** USA wrestling web site http://www.themat.com/newusaw/presslist.asp