The domestic wrestling season is approaching quickly. As the new season approaches it reminds me of the same anticipation that I used to have about Christmas. So why not create a wrestling wish list for myself?
I’ve listed out some changes that I’d like to see made to make the sport more entertaining and reward aggressive wrestlers. I’d like to remove the ref judgment from the sport as much as possible. Let the wrestlers determine the match!
1. A 3-point takedown. Why is a takedown worth more than two escapes? It requires more skill and risk and should be rewarded as such. Another option is an escape is .5 points. Not going to work with most scoring devices. The benefit of increasing the differential between a takedown and an escape is to clearly reward the skill and risk of the aggressor from the opening whistle. It doesn’t discriminate against a good defensive wrestler’s counter to a takedown. Incentivize what you want more of. I want more takedowns.
2. Elimination of the tie-breaker ride out. I’m in favor of one overtime period to settle a match. Overtime would be a two minute sudden victory period starting from neutral position, eliminating the ride out. Although it doesn’t happen often, to say that I’m not a fan of the ride out is a serious understatement. Most guys have adapted the Megaludus below the waist ride that is cat and mouse with the ref as to whether he gets a 5 count call for stalling. From the wrestler’s point of view it’s a very effective ride with low risk. Folkstyle is about the controlled scoring of points in pursuit of a pin. Riding for 30 seconds shows control but not scoring real points with an exposure is usually boring when compared to takedowns and pinning combinations and attempts. What’s the benefit? Remove the ref from calling stalling and deciding the match victor and let the wrestlers figure it out themselves. Winning on a stall point isn’t what the sport is about and isn’t good for viewership. Hack-a-Shaq in the NBA was a terrible way to end games. If the wrestlers are scoreless after the 2 minute over time period the last highest score during the match is the winner. Same as freestyle and greco. It’s more in accordance with rewarding the aggressor and creating action plus the extra time wrestling is a great test of cardio and mental strength. Full disclosure I thought the Nick Suranio vs. Daton Fix 28 minute match at Who’s #1 was awesome, so did the crowd at Lehigh. However I’m sure there would be lots of objections to elevating time limits even though those guys do similar things in the practice room. That said I sometimes wonder if wrestling would benefit from removal of time constraints. First person to 15 points or with a fall wins. I know it’s a bridge too far for most and I’m digressing. Another benefit of the tied over time period being scored like international styles is that it prepares many wrestlers for senior level competition. This seems to be a struggle for some wrestlers and coaches and it might be a good progression to understanding and mastery by the time they get to the senior level.
3 . Eliminate riding time unless back points are scored during the riding time. Riding can demonstrate control but in a significant number of cases the top guy isn’t looking to score. Then the ref gets involved with stalling calls and inconsistent referee judgments can decide matches instead of the wrestlers. Riding in and of itself isn’t very exciting for the fans. The benefit of this rule is that it will encourage top wrestlers to fully commit to their pinning combinations. The riding time will also incent aggressive top position wrestling. The fall is the ultimate goal and this gets wrestlers in this mind set. It may also encourage a wrestler in top position to cut the bottom person if they think that there is no chance of a turn or pin. I like Wade Schalles’ idea of 1 back point per ref swipe during exposure up to 5.
4. Eliminate the escape point if the top wrestler cuts the bottom wrestler after a takedown. This will reward the aggressor from neutral. You might say that he’s not working for a pin. I get that but truth be told I love watching aggressive wrestlers from neutral, it’s good for the fans and might change the way takedowns are contested and defended on the mat. Why reward the bottom man for an escape when it only came from the strategy of the top wrestler. Benefit? More action and it rewards the wrestler that finishes the takedown. The wrestler will need to notify the ref from a position of control or on a reset that they are cutting the bottom man. I know that the possibility exists that a wrestler will say this as they are about to give up control via an escape or reversal and this would require a judgement call from the ref. All I can say is a position of control should be an easier and more consistent judgment call than stalling.
5. Edge wrestling: what is there to do about this dastardly tactic? Push out rule? I’m open to this but I don’t like the learning curve that wrestlers go through to understand it and I don’t like that it encourages and rewards wrestlers to try and push a guy out of bounds. What does that have to do with the sport? The push out can eliminate some terrible viewer enjoyment, think Chris Perry walking out of bounds vs. Andrew Howe in the NCAA finals. That said the Iowa style of pushing guys around without attacks isn’t entertaining either. Aggressiveness requires attacks not just shoving out of bounds.
6. Remove the rules against high amplitude throws. These are some of the most exciting techniques in our sport and they are almost all but ruled out in high school and college level folkstyle rules. Try a trapped arm mat return or most any Greco-Roman throw and get hit with a slam call. Get rid of the slam for all but the most malicious moves that aren’t point scorers but intensional attempts at injury or intimidation. It will require that wrestlers learn how to throw and be thrown. This fits right in with the more athletic wrestling that we are seeing at the D1 and senior level right now. It needs to start at the youth level, introducing gymnastic moves that build athleticism.
6. Lastly reward the fall with an extra team point during a dual meet and extra half point during tournaments. These extra points for a pin will also encourage coaches to create and or recruit a team of pinners. It may also discourage coaches from putting a back-up in if they are ducking their top guy from a quality foe. I just like to reward dominance on the mat. I know bonus points are already incented, David Taylor out-scored Kyle Dake at the NCAA tournament while finishing 2nd to Dake. I’d like to see more of it. Reward what you want and discourage what you don’t want.
So there you have it my September wish list for Christmas wrestling.